| Dorchester House offers a wide variety of health and social service programs including day-care, after-school care, senior services, a Health Center and recreational activities.
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Dorchester House was established during the Progressive Movement in American history, a period when many conscientious Americans were attempting to cure the ills of the industrial society by improving the social environment in the new urban neighborhoods. The development of Dorchester House into a neighborhood social service agency during the late nineteenth century was evidence of the need for social reform. The answer to this need was expressed in the form of the "settlement house". Dorchester House was called a settlement house because its staff lived in the house or in the surrounding neighborhood in an effort to understand the community's needs. These early efforts of social services eventually led to the modern field of social work.
In the 1880s two Dorchester leaders who were aware of their neighborhoods' needs were the Reverend Christopher R. Eliot of the first Parish Unitarian Church and the Reverend T.J. Volentine of the Fields Corner Congregational Bethany Society Church. Their concern focused on the needs of children. They inspired Caroline S. Callendar and other First Parish members and friends to organize social and educational activities for the youths of Dorchester neighborhoods. Early programs included a morning kindergarten, a boys' reading and game room, and sewing classes for girls. In 1887 these three leaders organized the Fields Corner Industrial School in one room of the Fields Building. Over the next two years, the response to these early efforts was so successful that a decision was made to secure a separate building to accommodate more children.
In the winter of 1889, the founders of the Fields Corner Industrial School rented a small house at No. 7 Gordon Place. Gordon House, as it was popularly called, broadened its programs to serve adults as well as children. Students acquired practical skills through cobbling, cane seating, sewing and knitting instruction. Clubs combining education and play became popular pastimes. Neighborhood residents enjoyed art and music and outings and picnic suppers. In 1907 Gordon House changed its name to Dorchester House, and two years later it became incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth.
In 1914 the first medical clinic was introduced. The Milk and Baby Hygiene Association established a branch station at Dorchester House. Dorchester contributed greatly to the community during the Depression and again during World War II. In May 1941 Dorchester House purchased its new location at 1345-1353 Dorchester Avenue, two acres of land bordering Ellet Street and Leedsville Street near Fields Corner with a tenement building, a junkshop, a laundry, a shoe repair shop and a vacant store. After ten months of extensive cleanup and renovation, the new headquarters opened with twenty-four activity rooms. In the mid 20th century, Dorchester House sponsored five activity centers located throughout the community. They included the Grover Cleveland School gym, a basketball league at the Neponset Recreational Center, an athletic field near Glovers Corner, and a softball league at the Alsen Playground as well as the Charles Hayden Centre for Boys Clubs of Dorchester House in the Neponset neighborhood in 1939.
In May, 1974 the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center moved into a new, modern facility at 1353 Dorchester Avenue, and a second floor was built three years later. Extensive renovations in the late 1990s ensure that the Center's programs continue to be effective.
Dorchester House Multi-Service Center: One Hundred Years of Community Service, 1887-1987. Dorcheser, 1987.
Dorchester House Records, 1909-1983, in the Archives of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
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Created: January 2, 2004 Modified: January 2, 2004