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Lower Mills West
 Lower Mills West


AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated May, 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]


For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of Lower Mills West, Click here


Architectural Description

Despite alterations to form and fabric, the disappearance of historic structures along major thoroughfares and the addition of a modern suburban subdivision (i.e.) Caddy Road, Lower Mills West retains the visual image of an early-mid 19th century industrial vi1lage. The boundaries of Lower Mills West area more or less adhere to the inhabited extent of this area shown on the 1850 map of Dorchester. The bulk or two thirds of this area's historic resources are located southwest of Morton Street. The remaining third is located east of Morton street bordering Washington Street in a linear configuration between Grant Place and Valley Road and along Washington Street between Richmond and River Streets. For the purposes of this survey, the Lower Mills West boundaries are as follows: on the north the boundary runs between 190 Manchester Street and Idaho Street as well as by the back lot lines of 49-63 Sanford Street. The northern boundary then jogs northward to Temple Place, across Temple and Morton streets and turns northward again to include 1023 to 1075 Washington Street. The eastern boundary follows the back lot lines of buildings bordering the east side of Washington Street between 1008 and 1070 Washington Street and also includes #12 Rugdale Road and 18-38 Avondale Street. This area does not include the node of modern buildings (and a parking lot) on the north and north east side of the Morton / Washington / Richmond intersection. South of this intersection, this area's eastern boundary resumes to include the section of Washington Street between the former Blue Hills Bank (1871) and 1126 Washington Street. The southern boundary commences at the side lot line of 1133 Washington Street, jogs around a parking area and extends south to include 13 and 15 River Street.

This area's southern boundary follows an irregular path along both sides of River Street, excluding parking lots, vacant house lots and undistinguished modern commercial structures. River Street has suffered serious structural losses and alterations to its existing historic resources over time. No longer extant are the old wooden factories and shops that once lined parts of this street as well as the Village Church which stood at the corner of Temple and River Streets. Nevertheless the south side of this thoroughfare, between #'s 38 and 58 River Street, with its housing dating from the mid 18th-mid 19th century, old stone walls, ample lawns and mature trees still manages to capture the flavor of an old, pre-Civil War river road in an industrial community. The western boundary of this area follows the back lot lines of housing bordering Idaho Street between River Street and Manchester Street.

Considering this area from east to west, Washington Street, between Valley Road and Grant Place retains the feeling and appearance of an "approach to" or "the out skirts of "a village that will become ever more built up as one nears the Neponset River and the industrial core of the area. In other words, this section of Washington Street represents the outer limits of what was comfortable walking distance from the old 18th and 19th century factories and businesses that bordered the river to residential quarters on the fringes of the main settlement. Along this stretch of Washington Street is a highly varied collection of historic structures. The highlights of this major traffic artery include: 1) a c. late 18th century farm house at 1027 Washington Street (asphalt shingle clad, L-shaped, 5-bay x 2-bay main block with rubble stone foundation, center entrance flanked by pilasters and surmounted by a modillion block-edged Georgian pediment). Its overall condition is poor. This building's front yard is enclosed by a rubble stone retaining wall. 2) a quartet of L-shaped, end wall-gable-to-street Italianate houses at 1020, 1028, 1030 and 1040 Washington Street (also note the L-shaped Italianate cottage at 12 Rugdale Road). 3) The substantial, L-shaped residence at 1061-1063 Washington Street provides fascinating structural clues to its evolution. It ranks among the most architectura1ly significant buildings in the Lower Mills West area but may well contain earlier components. Its 7-bay x 4-bay main block appears to have started out as a Federal, hip roofed 5-bay x 2-bay house (northern portion) which later received a 2-bay x 4-bay Greek Revival addition to its original main block. Located at the southern end of this building, this addition is enclosed by a flush board-covered and pedimented attic. The entire length of its main facade's first floor exhibits flush boarding. Additionally, an encircling verandah composed of square Italianate porch posts rises from the ground rather than a wooden platform. Its upper floors are clad with clapboards. In general, its windows exhibit raised wooden surrounds and contain 6/6 wood sash. Its multi-panel front door appears to date to the early 19th century and it is flanked by sidelights with leaded glass and is topped by a transom. Granite gate posts are located in front of the house. 4) Across the street at # 1070 Washington Street is a Federal/Greek Revival house composed of a 5-bay x 2-bay main block and a rear ell. The main block is enclosed by a gable roof. At the center of the main facade are paired entrances with side lights and rectangular transoms above the doors. Together with its high rubble stone retaining wall and picket fence, this house provides a glimpse of Lower Mills before street widenings, parking lots, insensitive alterations to structural fabric, modern infill structures, etc., robbed the area of some of its unique early 19th century factory village charms.

Continuing southward through a section of Washington Street that suffers from several of the above mentioned problems, this area once again takes in Washington Street and the highlights of this thoroughfare continue with the former Blue Hills Bank Building at the southeast corner of Richmond and Washington Streets. This former bank and library is one of the few brick buildings in this area. Although not a large structure, it is a true, ?place making? building by virtue of its siting on a corner lot as well as its masonry materials. Built in 1871, this building is difficult to categorize stylistically.

Continuing southward along Washington Street are Greek Revival houses that are decidedly more stylish and substantial than the smaller and less ornate versions located west of Washington Street. Lower Washington Street's houses proclaim the importance of this thoroughfare, just before it reaches the commercial/industrial district at Pierce Square.

Substantial housing along this major artery includes the Federal/Greek Revival transitional house at 1127/1129 Washington Street-basically a 5-bay x 2-bay main block with rear ell and an unusual monitor roof (presumably a later addition). Also noteworthy is the L-shaped hip roofed Federal house next door at 1133 Washington Street and the altered (by vinyl siding) Greek Revival, L-shaped houses with narrow, end wall gables sited perpendicular the street at 1120 and 1126 Washington Street.

Turning to the district west of lower Washington are streets, lanes, ways, and cul de sacs which to a remarkable degree capture the flavor of an early-mid 19th century mill village. Streets such as Old Morton, Temple and Sanford Streets and to a slightly lesser degree, Cedar, Sturbridge and Idaho Streets are lined with modest Federal, Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic and Italianate houses which in many cases have sustained alterations to form, fabric and fenestration, although the siting remains intact. In terms of form, houses tend to be rectangular, L-shaped, T-shaped or cross-shaped. The area around the intersection of Temple and Sanford Street is particularly rich in well-preserved housing dating from the first half of the 19th century. In this area within the larger Lower Mills West area is the type of authentic feeling that living history museums strive for in order to capture the authentic siting, scale, form, overall ambiance etc. This residential district is too important to allow to casually continue to evolve in terms of modernizations, further commercial inroads along River Street, installation of more parking facilities etc. Much more time needs to be allotted to the study of this area than what has been budgeted for within the parameters of this survey project

Briefly, highlights of this area include the Federal / Greek Revival house at #17 Temple Street. Built ca. 1830 as rectory of the Village Church (demolished) this residence is composed of a boxy 5-bay, double pile main block and rear ell which are sited perpendicular and parallel to the street, respectively. Its center entry is marked by an enclosed, pedimented and projecting porch; the front door is flanked by narrow sidelights and Doric pilasters. This house has an extensive rear wing with open porch noteworthy for its square Doric posts. It stands with its main block's narrow end wall to the street and faces a still-ample side garden. This siting speaks to the typically Federal tendency to position a house in such a way that there is minimal wall contact with the street and maximum, preferably south-facing frontage overlooking a garden.

# 36 Temple Street is a Greek Revival house that retains its deep set back from the street. Granite posts mark the entrance to the old carriage way. Essentially T-shaped in form, its 3-bay main facade culminates in a pedimented attic. The front porch with its champfered posts strikes an Italianate note. 50 Temple Street is a double, 5-bay, double pile, late Federal house with paired entrances set within a scroll bracketed door hood. Windows are fully enframed and contain 6/6 wood sash. This house is enclosed by a shallow gable roof with small return eaves.

Illustrating a good example of a hybrid Greek Revival / ItaIianate house is 36 Old Morton Street which stands with 3-bay pedimented gable facing the street. Essentially L-shaped in form this house's edges are crisply accented by wide and paneled Doric corner boards. This house appears to have a side hall interior plan. Its main entrance is approached via a flight of well-worn granite steps and is flanked by narrow, multi pane sidelights. The use of brackets to enliven the encircling verandah and pedimented attic are truly noteworthy features. The verandah also features Italianate posts with open panels. Spanning the space between posts are ogee arches of a type seen occasionally in Lower Mills East and West (i.e. 1056 Adams Street). Also noteworthy is 52 Old Morton Street with its 3-bay x 4-bay main block. Standing with gable end to the street (return eaves and arched attic window) its edges are accented by Greek Revival Doric pilasters. Tall, typically Greek Revival windows with 6/9 wood sash open on to a front porch with square, probably replacement posts.

Multi- family workers? housing is situated here and there in this area but never in great concentrations. Good, relatively intact examples include Italianate workers? housing (with rear ells, bracketed door hoods) at 38, 40, 42 and 44 Sanford Street; 8,10, 12,14 Temple Street, and 23,25,27 Cedar Street.

Double houses with a bit more style and substance are located along northern Cedar Street at 58/60, 52/50 and 55/57 Cedar Street. These 2.5 stay Greek Revival / Italianate dwellings stand with 6-bay facades facing the street and exhibit broad end wall gables with return eaves.

Idaho Street, the western most street in this area. is lined with later front gable Queen Anne single- and two-family houses as well as three-deckers which tend to be restrained, porchless and very vernacular, unlike housing of this type in neighborhoods elsewhere in Dorchester.

A typical housing for this area is the large Queen Anne/Shingle Style house at 63 Sanford Street. This wooden, shingle-clad house exhibits an unusual design. Rising from the center of the main facade's broad end wall gable is a bowed oriel which is surmounted by a polygonal, pyramidally capped component which imparts a towered look to the front of this house. The main facade features a front porch with round and segmental arches which spring from Tuscan columns. This house rises 2.5 stories and possesses asymmetrical massing which may incorporate an earlier 5-bay, double pile Federal house which now serves as a rear wing. Next door at 59 Sanford Street is an interesting commercial survivor from the l920s which started out in the teens as a wooden store. It was operated as a ?Mom and Pop? grocery store by Leon and Marie Manfredi.




Historical Narrative

The residential area of Lower Mills West has significant historical associations with industries operating along the Dorchester and Milton shores of the Neponset River from ca.1780-1900. This area deserves the kind of in depth search that is beyond the scope of a cultural resources survey. Many of its surviving structures have sustained extensive alterations and modernizations over time, and it may well be that that there are more buildings still standing from ca.l780-1830, than those that have already been identified. River Street, the oldest thoroughfare in the area, had been a Native American trail centuries before English settlement. Washington Street, a north-south thoroughfare linking Milton/Dorchester Lower Mills with Roxbury was in place by the mid 17th century. Lower Mills' identity as a manufacturing district had already emerged by the close of the eighteenth century. By 1830, Lower Mills was the most densely settled area in the town of Dorchester. A cursory investigation of deeds for housing in this area indicates that a number of dwellings at Lower Mills were built during the 1840s and 50s. At the present time, this area is almost exclusively residential in terms of surviving structures. It is important to keep in mind, however, that from the late 18th century until at least the mid-19th century, this was a diverse area of industrial/commercial buildings as well as residences. The inset showing Lower Mills on the 1850 Map of Dorchester and Milton shows streets like Washington, Old Morton, Temple and Sanford streets lined with planing mills, cabinet shops, and stores as well as residences. Before considering individual houses representative of various phases of this area's development, the industrial history of Lower Mills should be briefly set forth.

In 1829, the Village Church was built at the comer of River and Temple streets. This Congregational church was an off-shoot of the Second Church at Codman Square and, unlike the Third Religious Society, was closely allied with the Orthodox Congregationalism of Dr. Codman. Although this church has been demolished, the c. 1830 rectory of its first minister, Rev. David Sanford, is still extant at 19 Temple Street. By 1850 it was owned by an F. Temple and in 1874, Ai Page, peddler, lived here. This late Federal house passed from Page to Walter F. Cushing during the mid-1890s. During the Depression, it was inhabited by Mrs. Annie E. Dillon, widow of Patrick, and Patrick McBride.

Between 1830 and 1850, the residential community of Dorchester Lower Mills increased considerably. Several new streets bounded by Washington and River were cut through loosely forming a grid including Neponset Street (now Old Morton), Church Street (now Temple Street), and Sanford and Cedar Streets. Cui de sacs cut through in the l850s later became Monson and Sturbridge Streets. Feeding directly into Old Morton, Forest Hills Avenue (today's Morton Street) was laid out between 1850 and 1858 and was constructed as a major road linking Jamaica P1ain, Mattapan and Lower Mills.

During the 1840s and 50s, this new residential area became a community of furniture and building trades workers who operated shops behind or alongside their houses. Some of these residents were employed in the larger cabinet and carpentry shops along Sanford and Washington streets. As early as 1798, Benjamin Crehore of Milton, designer of theatre set machinery, manufactured the first bass viol in the country at Milton Lower Mills. Additionally, the first piano in America was produced by Crehore in Milton as well as the first artificial leg ever made in this country. Crehore's brother Thomas also figured prominently in the annals of early 19th century industrial history at Lower Mills. He is best known for his partnership with Jabaz Ford in the first playing card manufactory in the United States. This playing card factory (demolished) was located on the Dorchester side of the Neponset on River Street in the vicinity of Temple Street. Also located on River Street was the extensive cabinet shop of Stephen Badlam (1751-1815) who was turning out exquisite pieces of furniture at Dorchester Lower Mills by 1790. He was a skillful cabinet maker who also produced cases for tall clocks for the great Willard clockmakers of Roxbury. The residence of one of Badlam's most prolific apprentices, Edward Hutchinson Robbins Ruggles is still extant at 1061/1063 Washington Street. Built ca. 1800, Ruggles owned this house from the 1830s to the 1880s. Undoubtedly this house was furnished with examples of the-rich Empire mahogony veneer furniture for which Ruggles was widely known. Additionally, Ruggles was a prominent Lower Mills businessman, Representative to the General Court and owner of extensive Dorchester real estate.

During the early 1850s, Ruggles was the developer of Rugdale Street, then a cul -de- sac off of Washington Street called Ruggles Street. Built in 1853, 12 Rugdale Street's lot was sold by Ruggles to Benjamin W. Adams, cabinet maker for $626.00 (Norfolk Deeds, Vol. 220, pg. 274).

For many years, Ruggles was a town selectman and director of both the Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad and the Dorchester Mutual Fire Insurance Company. 1061/1063 Washington Street was owned by the Morse heirs until the mid-1890s. From the late 1890s until the early 1900s, this house was owned by Frederick S. Morse. By the early 1930s, Francis L. Murdock, truckman, resided here.

One measure of the growth in population at Lower Mills was the construction of St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Church which is discussed at length in the Lower Mills East area. In 1847, Dorchester was still almost exclusively Protestant. However, by 1863, Dorchester contained a large Catholic community, made up primarily of middle class Irish and their families. In 1865 1,647 out of 10.717 or 20% of the residents of Dorchester were born in Ireland. In addition, new residential development was encouraged by the annexation of the town of Dorchester to Boston in 1870 and by an increasing number of factory jobs in the Lower Mills area.

By the early 1870s, Washington, Old Morton, Temple, Sanford, Monson, and Cedar Streets were extensively built up. West of Washington Street, Sturbridge and Monson Streets were formed from earlier cul de sacs. In general, the new residents between 0ld Morton and Cedar were locally employed furniture makers, carpenters and factory workers. For example, James Barrett, stone mason, moved into the Italianate house at 19 Sturbridge Street between 1875 and 1883. In the 1884 Boston business directory, Sturbridge Street is listed as "new street off River". Barrett owned this house until the early 1900s. By the early 1930s, John Lehan, chauffer lived here. Commuters who worked in clerical, civil service, sales and management jobs in downtown Boston lived on Richmond or Butler or on Adams Street in the Lower Mills East area (see MHC area form).

Between 1865 and 1880, numerous Italianate double houses and a few multi-unit rows were built in the Lower Mills West area. On Cedar Street, several double houses were built as rental income properties for local businessmen and carpenters, presumably for mill workers. The ownership pattern that emerges is that of Yankee Protestants who have these houses built and live elsewhere in the area or in Milton, fol1owed by Irish owners who may live in one of the units. By the 1930s these houses seem to have been occupied largely by Irish and Italian families.

# 50/52 Cedar Street was built ca. 1865-70 and was originally owned by William Ripley, cabinetmaker who lived on Temple Street near River Street. He owned this property until the early 1900s. By the Depression era Anthony Luiselli, laborer and Ralph Delmarco (occupation?), lived at 50 and 52, respectively. 54/56 Cedar Street was built late as c. 1885 and was originally owned by Bridget McConnell. By the early 1930s, 54 Cedar Street was occupied by Arthur E. Parrow, Frederick V. Pettenati and Daniel Shea. 56 Cedar Street was occupied by James J. Collins, Wilfred Forbes and Albert E. Maitland. Built by 1874, 58/60 Cedar Street was owned by Thomas Cox, gardener, during the 1870s. Between c. l880 and the turn-of-the-century, this house was owned by Daniel D. Scott, blacksmith, who lived at "River near Cedar". By the early 1930s, this house was inhabited by Domenic De Naples and Marcello Balbossi, laborers in 58 and 60 Cedar Street, respectively.

Numbers 8/10/12/14 Temple Street is a wooden, 4-unit Italianate row that was built by 1874. During the 1870s and 80s it was owned by Milton resident J.E Twombly, a boot and shoe dealer whose store was located on Washington Street, opposite River Street at Dorchester Lower Mills. From the 1890s until the early 1900s, John Cottle owned this row. By the early 1930s, this row was occupied by Nellie and Annie Donnelly, dressmaker (8), Katherine Hunt and John A. Dorothy, laborer (10), William A. Plummer (12) and Augustus Harquist (14).

Non-residential buildings dating from this period include the Blue Hill Bank at the corner of Washington and Richmond Streets. Built in 1871, this bank rubbed elbows with the homes of some of the area's most influential businessmen. After the bank moved to Milton in the 1880s, the City of Boston acquired the building for use as a library and police Station. A branch of the Boston Public Library was located in this building until the mid 1970s, and in more recent years housed a travel agency. Currently vacant, the former bank building awaits a new use.

The first water powered mill in New England was built by Israel Stoughton at Dorchester Lower Mills in 1634. Stoughton built a dam and a grist mill which supplied both the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Pilgrims of Plymouth with ground corn or maise as it was called.

During King Phillip's Indian Wars, the manufacture of gun powder at Lower Mills was attempted in 1675. This was the first powder mill in the country. The first paper-mill in America commenced operations at Lower Mills in 1750 by Thomas Hancock and others, of Boston. This venture was not a success bur was profitably revived in 1760 as the Boies and Mc Lean Paper Mill. More important for the long term prosperity of this area was the establishment of a chocolate manufactory on the Dorchester shores of the Neponset River in 1765 by Dr. James Baker of Dorchester and James Hannon. The latter was a penniless Irish immigrant, who was a chocolate-maker by trade. The company that evolved from this partnership was officially incorporated as ?Baker's Chocolate? in 1780.

Between 1770 and 1830, residential development was concentrated along the arms of the village's early roads, and a stretch of impressive houses lined Washington Street from River Street to the foot of Codman Hill. In 1805, the South Boston Turnpike (Dorchester A venue) was added to the area's street system. By 1830, industrial activity at Lower Mills included a cluster of paper, chocolate, grist and fulling mills at the upper and lower dams.

The earliest extant housing at Dorchester Lower Mills dates to the late eighteenth century, the time when chocolate-making was first becoming established as a local industry. The Tileston House at 13 River Street was built ca. 1770 and ranks among the oldest houses in the Lower Mills West area. Although altered by vinyl siding, this house's distinctive 5-bay, 2-pile, gambrel roof form provides clues to its early origins. During the 19th century, this building was owned and occupied by Charles Tileston whose stove, heating, and plumbing store was next door on the very busy corner of River and Washington Streets. Another c. 1770s residence, disguised by Greek Revival additions, is the Haynes House at 1126 Washington Street, now the Milton Funeral Home. It is named for George Haynes who lived here during the mid to late 19th- century. Haynes owned at least three other buildings near the intersection of Washington and River Streets, including the George Haynes and Sons Stove Store.

Across the street at 1133 Washington Street (ca. 1800) was the home of Henry L. Pierce (1825-1896). Mr. Pierce was the manager and eventual owner of The Baker Chocolate Company. Pierce's parents, Jessie and Elizabeth Lillie Pierce sold their farm in Stoughton and purchased 1113 [1133?] Washington Street in 1849. Jesse Pierce taught at Milton Academy and later served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. At the time the Pierces purchased this house, their sons Edward and Henry L. were students at Brown University and the Bridgewater Normal School, respectively. Walter Baker, the owner of the Baker Chocolate Company was a relative of Henry L. Pierce's mother. Baker hired Henry to work as a clerk in his company for a salary of $3.00 per week. By 1860 Pierce had purchased the mill of the rival "Preston Chocolate Company." Under Pierce, the Baker complex ultimately expanded from three buildings to thirteen. According to Dorchester historian Anthony Sammarco, ?it was so extensive that Lower Mills became known as Chocolate Village." Henry L. Pierce was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives during the 1860s. After Dorchester was annexed to the city in 1870, Pierce was nominated and elected mayor of Boston, serving from 1872 to 1877. Henry L. Pierce died at 1133 Washington Street in 1875. By the time of his death, Pierce had increased the company's annual income 40-fold from the time he started as a manager in 1854.

By the late 1850s, the streets of this neighborhood were lined with houses, sheds and stores for carpentry and cabinet-making; some of these shops may survive in the guise of ells or wings of houses. At this time Lower Mills was a major cabinet-making district within the town; half of the cabinetmakers listed in the 1850 Dorchester business directory lived and worked in Lower Mills.

Dating from this early phase of Lower Mills West?s development is the c. 1845 Greek Revival house at 36 Temple Street. Evidently representative of the work of Samuel H. Paine, carpenter, this property was sold to Paine and his wife Margaret Susannah Paine in May, 1845. Although buildings are not mentioned in this deed, (Norfolk Deeds vol. 142, pg. l18 and Vol. 155, pg. 150) the sale price of $3,000.00 suggests that Paine had already built this house. References to a deed dated July 4, 1843 indicate that Philo Sanford sold this land to Zachariah Cain , laborer, who in turn sold it to the Paines. Two years later, the Paines sold this land "with dwelling house and shop" for $2,000.00 to Ezra Hibbard of Dorchester, cabinet maker. Ezra Hibbard sold this property to Sylvester H. Hibbard of Dorchester, cabinet maker, for $3,000.00 in 1852. This house remained in Sylvester Hibbard's family until at least 1898. By the early 1930s, Robert A. Burgess, roofer owned this property.

Number 50 Temple Street, corner of Sanford Street was built in 1844 (Norfolk Deeds, Vol. 147, pg.216), its land was sold by Philo Sanford of Hallowell, Maine, to George Dickerman of Dorchester, varnisher, for $125.00. Sanford Street is referred to in this deed as "a contemplated new street". 50 Temple Street remained in the Dickerman family until at least 1898. By the early 1930s, Dennis J. Driscoll, ?assistant registrar at City Hall annex? lived here. It should be noted that Dickerman built rental property at 38/40/42/44 Sanford Street. This Italianate row was extant by 1874 and its early residents may have been associated with a particular factory or store. Later owners included a J. Hall (1880s), Lorenzo Ripley (1890s-1910s) and J. M. and N. H. Hansbury (late 1910s-30s).

The Gothic Revival cottage at 71 Temple Street was built ca. 1847 on land that already had a cabinet makers shop. On December 3, 1846, Henry J. Packard, cabinet maker, sold this land "together with the cabinet makers shop" to Robert Hall (Norfolk Deeds Vol. 17, pg.284). Later owners included Reuben F. Haley, cabinet maker (late 40s-early 1850s), Sarah Clark, widow of Paul Clark and Nathan S. Clark, cabinet maker (1854-1865) and Mrs. Alvah Plummer (late 19th century). By the early 1930s, Peter Kennedy (occupation?) lived here.

Old Morton Street, originally called Neponset Street, was called Forest Hills Street during the late 19th century. It was built up with houses dating to the 1840s-1860s. Built c. 1845, 31 Old Morton Street is a Greek Revival dwelling whose owner's name is illegible on the 1850 map. By 1874, William Melville, piano maker lived here. From c. 1890 until at least the early 1930's, an Alfred G. Boynton owned this property.

The Greek Revival / Italianate 36 Old Morton Street was built during the 1840s for John J. Clapp. He was a Lower Mills furniture [maker] who also owned rental property in this area, including the triple house at 23/25/27 Cedar Street. By 1874 it was owned by S.L Ruggles. From ca.1880 until the early 1900s it was the property of John P. . By the early 1930s, its residents included Benjamin H. Thayer, superintendent and Sylvester W. Gross, chocolate maker.

Number 52 Old Morton Street is an Italianate house built during the 1840s, presumably for John K Wright who is listed as this house's owner on the 1850 inset map of Dorchester Lower Mills. B.F. and J.A. Wright are listed as this house?s owners during the 1890s. By the early 1930s, Gladys and Herbert H. Hughs lived here.

Number 1195 Morton Street, originally oriented towards Old Morton Street, was moved a short distance to the northeast when Morton Street was set out through Lower Mills during the 1910s. Built c. 1849, this Greek Revival house's land was purchased by Zimri Burgess, cabinet maker from Ebenezer D. Fowler for $550.00 (Norfolk Deeds, vol.189, pg.74). Owned by Edward H.R. Reynolds of 1061/1063 Washington Street during the early 1850s, it was sold to William Gaskins, cabinet maker. Gaskins was a mortgagee to another William Gaskins, whose trade is listed as "silk fringe manufacturer." By c.1870, Rufus French, cabinet maker owned this property. This house was owned by his widow until at least 1884. By the early 1930s, Wallace P. Muir, physician and John R. Muir, foreman resided in this house.

Further research is needed on 18 Sanford Street, a building that has the look of a rural Italianate grange hall that was, in fact, built c.1855 as American Hall and used for meetings, assemblies and entertainments.

Development along River Street between 1830 and 1850 included a mix of commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential uses. Remaining from this period is the early Greek Revival house dating from c. 1830 at 58 River Street. Owned by the proprietors and agents of the Dorchester Cotton Company, this house was sited at a bend in the road on rising ground that overlooked their mills. This house was occupied by E. Baldwin manager/agent of the Dorchester Cotton Company from the 1830s to the 1850s. From the 1860s until c. 1895, this house was owned by Spencer W. Johnson, "boots and shoes." This house remained in the Johnson family until at least 1933 when it was occupied by Lydia D. Johnson, a teacher at the Gilbert Stuart School.

Built much later, on land that had been owned by playing card manufacturer Thomas Crehore, is a c. 1868, Italianate house at 40 River Street. On January 22, 1868, its land was sold for $800.00 by Mary A. Weston, daughter of Eunice Crehore Vincent, daughter of Thomas Crehore to John Durrell, occupation unspecified (vol. 363, pg.178). Durrell owned this house until the early 1900s. By 1933, Isadore J. Ochs and Frederick J. Ochs, plumber, are listed his address.

Underlining the mixed use of River Street is the much-altered Stoughton School building at 36 River Street, used in recent years as a Knights of Columbus Hall. This institutional building was built in 1855, and was originally called the Washington School. A schoolhouse is said to have been located on River Street, at Lower Mills, as early as 1825. By 1874, this school was called the Stoughton School after the 17th century governor and Dorchester resident. By the early 1890s the school had eleven ?regular instructors? and fifty-six students in the Stoughton district.

During the 1850s and 1860s, Lower Mills West continued to experience considerable growth as a residential community. Encouraging development of the village was the laying of iron tracks down Dorchester Avenue in 1856-57 for horsecar lines which provided frequent and comparatively inexpensive travel between Lower Mills and other Dorchester centers. Although the trip lasted at least an hour, the Lower Mills commuter, for considerably less than rail fare, could travel on to Boston after changing horses at Field's Corner. Improvements in horsecar service during the sixties and seventies and the construction of the Shawmut Branch of the Old Colony Railroad further stimulated the growth of the village.

The Joshua Pierce House at 1027 Washington Street may be the oldest of the Federal houses on Washington Street, possibly dating to the 1790s. When originally built, this house was situated on the outskirts of town, surrounded by extensive farm land. By 1850, it was still occupied by Mrs. Joshua Pierce. During the late 19th century, Walter H. Pierce, clerk lived here. By the early 1930s, Clarence J. Power lived here along with John and Frank D. Sheils.

One measure of the growth of the Lower Mills section of Dorchester during the early 19th century was the establishment of churches. The Third Religious Society (Unitarian) was established at Lower Mills in 1813 in a building which still stands at 1111/1113 Washington Street. After 1840, it was converted into Richmond Hall, meeting hall where Congressman Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in 1848. By the 1860s, it had been converted into double residence and currently bears little resemblance to a house of worship. By 1874, it was owned by George A. Haynes of George A. Haynes & Co. cotton buyers, 131 Devonshire Street, Boston. This house remained in the Haynes family until c.1890 when it was purchased by Charlotte Morgan. By the early 1930s, its occupants included Henry A. Barry of the Enterprise Paint Company in 1111 and Joseph T. Maloney, salesman at 1113.

After vacating 1111/1113 Washington Street, The Third Religious Society moved into a beautiful Greek Revival church that was designed by the distinguished and influential architect Asher Benjamin. This church faced Richmond Street, near Dorchester Avenue until it was torn down in the early 1960s to accommodate a convenience store and parking lot. Richmond Street, between Dorchester Avenue and Washington Street was set out at the time of the Benjamin-designed church's construction and was named for Rev. Edward Richmond, the Society's first minister.

The First Church, Methodist Episcopal, was established on Washington Street, just north of Richmond Street in 1816. Although this church is no longer standing, the house where its first services were held stands at 1066 Washington Street. Built c.1805, this house ranks among the oldest structures at Lower Mills. It was evidently built for Abel Wheelock ?of Boston, gentleman,? who purchased this house's land from noted furniture-maker Stephen Badlam in 1805. Anthony Otherman, a Frenchman, bought this house for $2000.00 in 1815. As late as the 1890s Dorchester senior citizens remembered Otherman as ?being one of the last to put aside the old-fashioned dress, consisting of the cocked hat and short clothes.? He opened his home for Methodist worship, later converting a carpenter shop on his property into a chapel in 1818. This chapel was replaced by a larger edifice in 1829, and yet again by another church building in 1874 (demolished). In any event, it should be noted that Otherman sold 1066 Washington Street to cabinet maker Edward Hutchinson Robbins Ruggles in 1833 for #2,200.00. At the time of this transaction, Washington Street was still called "the Upper Road from Milton Bridge". In 1846, Ruggles sold 1066 Washington Street to another cabinet maker, George P. Oliver who paid Ruggles $1,550 for ?a parcel of land with a dwelling house known as the Otherman House." By 1860, when Oliver sold this house, he was working as a piano forte manufacturer and living in Burlington, MA; a change of address which may reflect small cabinet-making operations succumbing to the competition of large, mechanized Boston-area furniture making enterprises by the time he Civil War. Oliver sold this house for $2,000.00 to Dorchester housewright William H. Fairfield. Fairfield, listed as a "sawyer" during the 1870s lived here until well into the late 19th century. By the early 1930s, Edward P. Carpenter, wool sorter and John H. Casey, carpenter, lived here.

Set out over the Capen estate between 1885 and 1889, Idaho Street, represents a late addition to Lower Mills West's Street grid. By the turn-of-the-century, Idaho Street was almost completely built up with front gable Queen Anne single family houses.

During the last decades of the nineteenth century, furniture making continued as an important local industry at Lower Mills. Furniture factories remaining along Sanford Street and in the vicinity of today's Manchester Street were owned by Lower Mills West residents William Norcross, Zelotes Kenney and Manley Cain. The furniture business of the Hutchinson family which previously operated out of stores scattered along Sanford Street and near their homes on Old Morton Street was consolidated into a factory on Codman Street near Dorchester Avenue. Manley W. Cain's operation specialized in the manufacture of tables and desks and by the 1870s was working out of the furniture district developing around Canal and Merrimac streets in the North Station section of Boston as well as at Lower Mills. That Lower Mills West's status as an important center for furniture was on the wane by ca. 1890, is illustrated by the substantial Queen Anne house at 63 Sanford Street. Built ca. 1885-93, this house was built on the site of the William Norcross Furniture factory shown on the 1874 Atlas. Norcross' Furniture Factory had disappeared by 1884 with only a small rectangular wooden building shown at the back of this property. Still in business next door to the east was H.B. Simpson's Saw Mill. 63 Sanford Street was standing on the former Norcross Furniture Factory lot by 1894. Owned by Mariann F. Rose. this house rubbed elbows with the Waterman Refrigerator Manufacturing Co. that stood on the saw mill?s lot. By 1918, Sanford Street was almost completely residential. By that time Leon and Marie Manfredi owned 63 Sanford Street as well as a small, one-story, wooden grocery store next door on the saw mill's former site. By 1933 the Manfredi's still owned 63 Sanford Street and their wooden grocery store had been replaced by the current brick commercial structure at 59 Sanford Street (vacant).

By the 1930s, the Lower Mills area's population was largely Italian and Irish. The focus of community life continued be St Gregory's Roman Catholic Church which had been extensively rebuilt in 1895 to accommodate its rapidly growing congregation. Protestant denominations experienced dwindling numbers between the 1930s and 1960s, as the old Baptist and Congregational families moved into Boston Proper or further out into the suburbs south and west the city. Today, Lower Mills West is a vital, racially and ethnically mixed area within the south central portion of Dorchester.


Statement of Significance

Lower Mills West

Lower Mills West qualifies as a remarkably intact area of Federal, Greek Revival and Italianate houses that were built for cabinet makers, varnishers, planers and others associated with the furniture manufacturing and building trades. Additionally, a number of this neighborhood?s residents were employees of the Bakers Chocolate Co., Stephen Badlam furniture manufactory, Crehore Playing Card manufactory and other commercial concerns bordering the Neponset River. Although the small shops of these workers have disappeared from house lots, modest dwellings with landscape features such as mature trees, ample lawns and granite gate posts provide a glimpse of a middle class artisan/factory workers quarter which evolved between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Architectural/historical highlights of this area include the c. late 18th century Pierce farm house at 1027 Washington Street; the Federal style 1066 Washington Street (c. 1805), home to Anthony Otherman, founder of Methodism at Lower Mills, the early 19th residence Federal/Greek Revival double house at 1061/1063 Washington Street, home of Edward Hutchinson Robbins Reynolds, an apprentice of the well-known cabinet maker Stephen Badlam and talented maker of Empire style furniture in his own right; the c. 1800 residence at 1133 Washington Street of Henry L. Pierce, owner of the Baker Chocolate Company; the Italianate cottage at 12 Rugdale Street, home to cabinet maker Benjamin Adams and the Panel Brick Blue Hills Bank (1871) at Washington and Richmond Streets.

Bibliography and/or References

Maps/Atlases-1830, 1850, 1874, 1884, 1894, 1898, 1910, 1918 and 1933

Boston Directories

Norfolk Deeds

Pollan, Rosalind, "Lower Mills Study Report", 1979, BLC files

Orcutt, William Dana, Good Old Dorchester. 1893

Sammarco.Anthony M., "Lower Mills square named after chocolate company owner, mayor" 4/20/1990; ?Dorchester Lower Mills: From Unquety to birthplace of the Industrial Revolution" ; "First Irish Immigrants in Dorchester worked in Lower Mills factories, met some resistance", 3/4/1994 Dorchester Community News-20 January, 1995

Various authors, The Dorchester Book Illustrated, 1899



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Created: July 18, 2005   Modified: March 14, 2012