AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated March, 1995 and recorded by Edward W. Gordon.
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the Boston Landmarks Area Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]
Map showing boundaries:
For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of Fields Corner, Click here
Field's Corner is primarily a linear concentration of masonry commercial blocks ranged along Dorchester Avenue between Gibson Street to the south and the Adams/Dorchester Avenue intersection on the north. The elevated tracks of the MBT A Red line run east-west through the northern portion of this area. This area extends northward along Adams Street as far as the New England Telephone Company building at 175 Adams Street, corner of Robinson Road. The northern-most Dorchester Avenue property contained within these boundaries is the Greek Revival cottage at 1428 Dorchester Avenue, a gable fronted center-entry house measuring 3-bays in width. Perhaps the strongest case for a historic district at Field's Corner can be made for the collection of commercial buildings bordering the great X-shaped intersection formed by Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue.
The focal point of this area is the 4-story One Fields Corner Building (also known as thc Lenane and Ligget Building at 1448-1456 Dorchester Avenue) on the south side of Fields Corner. Its great curved facade overlooks the Dorchester/Adams Street intersection. Its triangular form and facades characterized by ornate cast metal oriels and cornice as well as elaborate entrance enframements in the Georgian Revival style make a strong design statement. On the east side of this intersection is the massive 4-story brick Field's Building storage facility. a landmark at Field's Comer since the late 19th century. Otherwise, the Adams/Dorchester intersection is surrounded by low, rectangular one story commercial buildings of moderate design interest with stylistic references to the Art Deco. Classical and Colonial Revival styles (see 195-207 Adams Street, 215-223 Adams Street and 1432 Dorchester Avenue).
To the north side of the Adams/Dorchester intersection is the historic Robinson Block at 1431-1437 Dorchester Avenue. This 2-story rectangular structure exhibits curved corners, smooth stucco surfaces on the upper floors and 2nd floor windows (singles, doubles and tripartite) with cornice headed lintels in the Italianate manner. This building is enclosed by a flat roof with a well molded and fairly deep cornice. This building projects into this intersection and overlooks a triangular, cement paved park. Visible from the Fields Corner intersection, looking northwestward along Adams Street is the architecturally significant, High Victorian Gothic Municipal Building at 1 Arcadia Street and 193 Adams Street. This 3.5 story H-shaped building is constructed of red brick with granite trimmings, its roof line characterized by a series of steeply pitched gables. Built as Police Station #1 ca. 1875, this building is one of the most important landmark buildings in the area.
Continuing southward along Dorchester Avenue, this thoroughfare is lined with primarily 2-story commercial buildings which are rectangular in form and exhibit Classical Revival and Art Deco elements, i.e. 1443-1459 Dorchester Avenue, (with 1921 date plaque), the Howard Building at 1486-1492 Dorchester Avenue with exceptional cast stone Art Deco detail, particularly at the parapet), 1485-1491 Dorchester Avenue shaped commercial block with angled Deco piers and date plaque at Faulkner/Dorchester corner which reads
and 1493-1501 Dorchester Avenue (rectangular Art Deco/Tapestry brick commercial block with cast trimmings).
The Field's Corner historic district should include F.M. Lowe's Theatre at 1524-30 Dorchester Avenue corner of Park Street -- should this be Elias Leow?). Currently housing a furniture store and other commercial concerns with residential upper floors, this stucco-covered, 3-story structure "fans out" from its comer, exhibiting 13- bays on the Park Street wall and 7 bays along Dorchester Avenue. This building blends elements of the Craftsman and Colonial Revival styles and incorporates two earlier houses still extant on this site. Particularly noteworthy is the main entrance at the Park / Dorchester Avenue corner with its broad and wide segmental arch containing leaded glass panels in a sun burst motif.
This area's boundary lines are drawn to include parts of two streets, adjacent to Dorchester Avenue as well as the Dorchester block between Christopher and Gibson Streets. Charles Street, on the north side of the Field's Corner MBTA station contains the Grover Cleveland School (11 Charles Street), a large brick and cast stone trimmed Georgian Revival early 20th century school building noteworthy for its tasteful design. A few yards to the east on Charles Street is 3/5 Charles Street, a double Italianate house which stands with long, 6-bay side oriented perpendicular [parallel?] to the street. Retaining integrity of form and siting, its end wall gables face east and west
On the southern end of this area the boundary is extended east along Christopher Street to include the interesting brick ian structure at 15 Christopher Street (T-shaped, center entrance with Italianate bracketed door hood, center entrance and monitor on hip roof) [note that the building at 15 Christopher did not appear on a map until the 1904 Bromley map. This is not in the same location as the one that lis labeled garbage plant on the 1898 atlas, nor does it have the same orientation -- Earl Taylor]. This Structure may well be the brick building labeled "garbage plant" on the 1898 atlas. The southern boundary for this area might also be extended along Dorchester Avenue to Gibson Street (1566-68 Dorchester A venue)-a streetscape which includes well crafted Queen Anne three deckers and brick commercial/apartment blocks.
The junction of Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue known as Fields Corner, prior to the Civil War, was almost entirely residential in character. Although Adams Street dates back to the 17th century, Dorchester Avenue was set out as a turnpike in 1804. Since the late 18th century, most of the area was owned by the Robinson family. The Robinson House, built in 1787, stood at the corner of Adams and Robinson Street where the Telephone Company building is located today. John H. Robinson (1809-1883) is credited with not only the early development of Field's Comer but of Harrison Square, now known as Clam Point. Robinson was a Selectman for the Town of Dorchester and a Representative to the State Legislature for many years. He was very active in and supportive of the First Parish Church. By rights, Fields Corner should have been named Robinson's Corner but it was, in fact, named in honor of Isaac and Enos Field who kept a general store there. At one point Field's corner was known as Dalrymple Junction. Robinson inherited a large tract of land west of Dalrymple or Field's Corner bounded by Adams, Robinson, Arcadia and Ditson Streets. East of Dorchester Avenue his land "reached down to tidewater." Prior to 1840, he farmed much of this land but during the mid 19th century he began to subdivide his estate for residential development. The introduction of the Old Colony Railroad east of Fields Corner in 1844 evidently had a great deal to do with opening this area up to development. Robinson's Adams Street estate was known for its numerous fruit trees, and indeed, he was a member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. His wife, Elizabeth Clapp, was the sister of Ebenezer Clapp who authored the History of Dorchester in 1859. At the time of annexation to Boston in 1870, Robinson owned $87,000.00 worth of real estate. Although the Robinson house was demolished during the 1920s to make way for the Telephone Company building at 181 Adams Street, the Robinson family connection, however tenuous, lives on in the commercial block situated on the northeast side of Fields Comer in the form of the stucco- covered structure with the Italianate window surrounds that was owned by the Robinson heirs until well into this century (see 1439-1441 Dorchester A venue).
The great architectural treasure and most highly visible, placemaking landmark at Field's Corner is One Fields Corner (1448 Dorchester Avenue, and in more recent years known as the Lenane Building). This National Register [not on the register!] masonry building with its wealth of applied cast stone ornament and copper bays was built in 1906 from designs provided by T. Edward Sheehan, local architect credited with three-decker design at 2 and 8 Montello Road . Originally owned by Bernard J. Devine, this building contained a branch of the Dorchester Trust Company for many years. By the 1930s it contained Sargent's Hat and Cap Store, Louis K. Ligget Drugs (and is still known by some local residents as the Ligget Building) as well as tenants on the upper floors. At the extreme southern end of this area at 1560-1566 Dorchester Avenue and 4 Gibson Street, a building "to be occupied for stores and tenements" was erected in 1912 for Julia Gordon by A.J. Carpenter Jr. of 39 Dunreath Street (together with mechanic Bernard Gordon). By 1933 the commercial enterprises within this building included Solomon Fingerman, clothes presser, Home Owners Plumbing and Heating Co. and Wheeler's Variety Store.
It was during the 1920s, however, that Field's Corner came into its own as a center of modern one- and two-story commercial blocks. Several of these cast stone and tapestry brick flat-roofed structures bear date plaques attesting to their construction during the prosperous 1920s. Built in 1920, 1485-1489 Dorchester Avenue features cast a
stone facade and well-preserved parapet detailing. It replaced a cross-shaped house that had been owned by Jacob Foster and his heirs during the late 19th century. By 1933 this 4-store structure housed the Boston School of Music, Hyman Becovsky Hardware and Samuel M. Maninn 's Jewelry Store. The 5-story, cast-stone-fronted commercial building at 1443A Dorchester Avenue bears a date plaque of 1921. Its owner, Myer Dana hired architect Henry F. Bryant of 334 Washington Street, Brookline, to build this structure. In 1923, what had been the estate of Benjamin Clapp in the late 19th century, succumbed to commercialization in the form of a one- story 6-store brick and cast stone faced building. Gabriel Backer of Haymarket Square, Boston commissioned the architect Arthur O. Bottomley to design this structure. Tenants of this block in 1933 included Staty Hadjiannis, baker, Charles M. Hatch, barber, a Chinese laundry, Frank Panico's shoe repair, Morrs Berkovitz, tailor, Balkin's Variety, a real estate association, and Rodman's meat market. The point of listing all these small businesses is to underline the fact that this was a vital, self sufficient commercial center during the first decades of this century with little need for residents to look to downtown Boston or elsewhere for essential services. The Howard Building at 1490-92 Dorchester Avenue is a brick structure with exceptional cast stone facing exhibiting stylized Art Deco motifs. It was built in 1928 for David Rubin by Eisenberg and Feer, a Comhill, Boston-based firm that was quite prolific in the Dorchester building trades during the first quarter of the 20th century. In 1933, the Howard Building contained an S.S. Kresge Department Store.
Several buildings in this area underline the fact that residential construction around this area was such to warrant a new school (Grover Cleveland School at 11 Charles Street, built in 1925 by O'Connell Shaw. The former Dorchester Theatre complex at 1526-30 Dorchester A venue also speaks to the rapid build up of the area by the time of World War I.
Another influential resident of Field's Corner during the mid-late 19th century was William Taylor Adams a.k.a. ?Oliver Optic," writer of children's stories such as the "the Boat Club Series", "Young Americans Abroad" and The Boat Builder Series". William Taylor Adam's house was an elaborate towered Italianate mansion which stood where the ramps to the Field's Corner T Station are located today (1479 Dorchester Avenue).
Few wood frame residential structures survived the late 19th century commercialization story of Field's Corner. This area includes 3, 5 Charles Street, a late 19th century, Italianate wood frame 6-bay, two pile house which is rectangular in form style and provides a glimpse of what the housing stock along Dorchester A venue must have been like before the onslaught of one and two story commercial blocks built for the street car service and automobile trade in the 1910s and 20s. One of the oldest structures in this area is the former Police Station #1 Building at 1 Arcadia Street. Built ca.1875, this building may represent the work of City architect George Clough. Its High Victorian Gothic surface treatments and steeply pitched gables are reminiscent of the Seaverns Street Police Station of similar vintage in Jamaica Plain and is representative of the City of Boston providing municipal buildings for its newly acquired neighborhoods. In 1874, 20 structures and numerous vacant lots lined Dorchester Avenue from Field's Corner, southward to Park Street. Leavitts, Clapps, Keens, Leonards, Jenkins, Fosters, Whiton's and Harris' lived ong this stretch of Dorchester Avenue. A black smith shop was located a few feet from the west side of Park Street, Metropolitan Railroad Horse car depot stood south of Foster Street and otherwise this area was overwhelmingly residential. 1428 Dorchester Avenue is a Greek Revival cottage which predates 1850 and has survived, albeit adapted for reuse as a commercial property. It may well be the oldest structure in this area. Further study is needed to determine if earlier houses have been absorbed or are encased in early 20th century commercial blocks as is the case at the former Dorchester Theatre and apartments at 1526-1530 Dorchester Avenue where the gable roof of an Italianate house is clearly visible on the Park Street side of the Theatre/commercial/residential building.
Fields Comer experienced an extensive building boom during the first quarter of the 20th century which swept away forever the residential character of Dorchester Avenue's streetscapes. Something of the pre -1900 Dorchester Avenue streetscape is in evidence at 1484 Dorchester Avenue. Presently containing the Boston Fish Market, this 1890's wood frame, wood shingle 3-story structure with double bowed oriels stands in marked contrast with the sleeker more stream-lined commercial blocks of the 1920s. During the 1920s and 30s 1484 Dorchester Avenue contained the "Spic and Span Deli"; Max Levenbaums's Mens' Furnishings; Hyman Levenbaum Insurance; as well asCornelius J. Doherty, Chauffer and Charles H. MacKay, tailor. Since the 1890s Patrick O'Hearn's Field's Building has been a major Field's Comer Landmark at 1444 Dorchester Avenue. This very large brick structure seems to have been utilized primarily as a storage facility and is labeled as such on the 1933 Boston/Dorchester Atlas. It occupies the former site of Enos Field's store shown on the 1874 Atlas. By the early 1930's, Patrick O'Hearns Fields Building ( at street level) contained Peter T. Vallas, Baker, Field's Chain Department Store and a hairdressing salon.
Statement of Significance
Considered eligible as a primarily linear concentration of late 19th to mid 20th century commercial blocks bordering Dorchester Avenue between Adams and Gibson Streets. Perhaps the strongest case for a historic district at Field's Comer can be made for the collection of commercial buildings bordering the great X-shaped intersection formed by Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue. The focal point of this area is the 4-story One Fields Corner Building (also known as the Lenane and Ligget Building at 1448-1456 Dorchester Avenue) on the south side of Fields Corner. Its great curved facade overlooks the Dorchester/Adams Street intersection. Its triangular form and facades characterized by ornate cast metal oriels and cornice as well as elaborate entrance enframements in the Georgian Revival style make a strong design statement. On the east side of this intersection is the massive 4-story brick Field's Building storage facility, a landmark at Field's Corner since the late 19th century. Otherwise, the Adams/Dorchester intersection is surrounded by low, rectangular, one story commercial buildings of moderate design interest with stylistic references to the Art Deco, Classical and Colonial Revival styles. John H. Robinson (1809-1883) is credited with the early development of Field's Corner. Robinson was a Selectman for the Town of Dorchester and a Representative to the State Legislature for many years. The Robinson House stood on the site of the present Telephone Company Building at 175 Adams Street. By rights, Fields Corner should have been named Robinson's Comer but it was, in fact, named in honor of Isaac and Enos Field who kept a general store there. This area satisfies criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places. Field's Corner is also recommended as an architectural conservation district.
Bibliography and/or References
Boston and Dorchester Maps/Atlases-1794, 1830, 1850, 1874, 1884, 1894, 1898, 1910, 1918, 1933
Boston Directories: 1870-1945
Dorchester Community News 1/7/l994-"Field's Corner: Commercial Hub Has Residential Roots" by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco.
Dorchester Community News 9/7/1993- "History: William Taylor Adams was author, teacher, statesman" by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco
Warner, Sam Bass. The Streetcar Suburbs
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Created: July 18, 2005 Modified: February 22, 2012