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St. Angela's/Babson Street
 St. Angela?s / Babson Street

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]

For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of St. Angela's/Babson Street, Click here

Architectural Description

For the purposes of this survey, the St. Angela's/Babson Street area is a roughly triangular area bounded by Blue Hill Avenue on the west, Cookson Terrace on the north, the back lot lines Faunce Road on the east and the side lot lines of 129 and 130 Babson Street on the south, almost to Babson Street's intersection with Blue Hill Avenue. This area is architecturally significant for two reasons: first, the housing bordering Babson and Fremont Streets as well as Faunce Road and Cookson Terrace provide a glimpse of the mid 19th century Mattapan Square area when it still had the appearance of a rural village---before extensive development during the early 20th c3ntury; secondly, St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church complex encompasses well designed examples of early 20th century Romanesque Revival, Tudor/Georgian and Georgian Revival architecture. The building most in need of adaptive re-use in the area is the currently vacant, Classical Revival Edward P. Tileston Elementary School at 108 Babson Street. Visually it is the modestly-scaled, predominantly Italianate mid-19th century housing that is most characteristic feature of this area. Gable-fronted houses, measuring 3 bays in width and 2 piles in depth, stand fairly close together on small lots, some situated close to the street, while others like 101 Babson Street are set back facing relatively ample front yards. 95, 97 and 99 Babson Street stand close to the street in a memorable regimental row. This row is distinguished by polygonal bay windows, intact Italianate, saw cut door hoods and facade gable returns. Although covered in modern siding, the form, siting and few surviving saw cut elements are of interest in this grouping.

Considerably more intact and worth noting is the Italianate, clapboard-clad house at 103 Babson Street, with its boldly rendered corner quoins, and bay windows on the front and side walls exhibiting apron panels beneath their windows and dentil courses at their cornices. Also noteworthy at 103 Babson is the open front porch with its chamfered posts and curvilinear bracing. This house culminates in a fairly steeply pitched gable roof with return eaves exhibiting paired brackets. Much smaller brackets accent the roof?s eaves. More substantial Italianate housing is located closer to the Mattapan Square commercial district at 127 / 129 Babson Street, a Greek Revival Italianate duplex with a heavy granite block foundation, paired entries, pedimented dormer, and wide Doric corner boards. 130 Babson blends a Stick Style front porch, with Italianate form and elements.

Two houses at 45 and 47 Fremont Street, behind St. Angela's School, represent interesting, very intact examples of the Carpenter Gothic and Greek Revival/Italianate styles, respectively. #45 is a cottage scale residence, now owned by St Angela's that is characterized by an irregular form and distinctive, arched attic windows at its main facade's gables. Its Tuscan columned, Colonial Revival porch appears to be a turn of the century addition. #47 Fremont Street is the most stylish example of Greek Revival/Italianate domestic architecture in the area with its encircling verandah (two dimensional punched and cut columns, scalloped barge boarding), paneled pilasters, broad frieze and side boards as well as a pedimented attic.

Mid 19th century housing in various states of preservation border two narrow ways?Cookson Terrace and Faunce Road which retain much of their rural, Victorian-era character. For example, 11 Faunce Road, although altered by synthetic siding and possibly later additions, retains integrity of siting, (deep set back from Faunce Road). Cookson Terrace, at the northern edge, retains a rustic character by virtue of rock outcroppings and heavy tree cover on its north side. Here, 15 and 21 stand as more or less intact, modestly scaled, side hall plan Italianate houses with polygonal bays and gable roofs with return eaves.

Italianate Mansard style housing of the 1860s and early 70s is scattered about the area, perhaps most memorably at 98 and 100 Babson Street, corner of Cookson Terrace. Here twin towered 3-bay x 2-bay cottage scale houses exhibit polygonal bays which flank a center, towered, mansardic entrance bay. #98 is the more intact of the pair, retaining its clapboards, heavy Italianate door hood, and slate shingles. Slightly more substantial mansards are extant it 15 and 17/19 Faunce Road.

The Queen Anne style is not well represented here, owing to the fact that this area was substantially built-up by 1875--just prior to the Queen Anne's appearance within the realm of Boston suburban house construction. A very plain and somewhat altered Queen Anne house appears at 20 Faunce Road.

The red brick and cast stone-trimmed Edmund P. Tileston Elementary School at 108 Babson Street is a large, H-shaped building situated on an 83,640 square foot lot. Architecturally, this school, represents a competent foray into the early 20th century Classical Revival style--the classicism being most evident at the entrances and center cornice treatments of the main fa?ade.

Built in 1911, this 2.5 story school consists of three components: 4-bay x 3-bay wings flanking a recessed segment lit by 5 tall double windows. Its entrances are marked by console bracketed door hoods with antefix ornamentation at the pediments. Still extant at the center of the main facade's cornice is a sculptural figure of an eagle atop a circular wreath bordered date plaque which reads "1911". Beneath the date plaque, inscribed in the cast ston.e entablature is "EDMUND P. TILESTON SCHOOL".

Finally, the most highly visible landmark in this area is the Romanesque Revival St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church (1909) by virtue of its tall, distinctive octagonal spire. Together with its Tudor/Georgian rectory (1546 Blue Hill Avenue) and Georgian Revival School (124 Babson Street ), St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church, although much younger than its residential neighbors, reinforces the village-like sensibility of this area. Constructed of brick, with limestone trimmings, this church, with its successful blending of angled and rounded forms, is as much a work of sculpture as it is architecture. Its walls are pierced by round, Romanesque arches, divided into a series of rectangular and recessed brick work bays, interspersed by Doric pilasters while its intersecting gable roofs retain slate shingles and copper cresting. On an adjacent parcel stands the brick and cast stone trimmed rectory with its center entrance set within a broad, segmental, keystone arch. The three story bays of the main facade culminate in stepped, Tudoresque gables. This building is enclosed by a low hip roof which appears to be covered with slate shingles.

Historical Narrative

The St Angela's / Babson Street area is situated just to the north of the Mattapan Square commercial district and the Neponset River. The earliest surviving structures in this area date to the mid 19th century. The oldest roads in the area are Babson Street and Blue Hill Avenue. The former was originally a segment of Norfolk Street, an early 9th century road which ran northwestward, linking Mattapan Square with Codman Square. The latter was an early 19th century toll road known as the Brush Hill Turnpike which was called Blue Hill Avenue by c. 1870. This area still has visual aspects of a rural mid 19th century village, with narrow tree shaded ways like Cookson Terrace and Faunce Road and houses situated without any regular set backs to the streets. The Greek Revival Edward Stern house at 47 Fremont Street may be the oldest house in the area. In 1869, Stern's property encompassed a house valued at $3,000 land a stable ($400.00). Also dating to the mid 19th century is the Carpenter-Gothic house at # 45 Fremont Street which originally stood on the adjacent parcel now occupied by St Angela's School. For many years it was associated with the George L. and Fannie E. Fisher whose real estate holdings according to the 1869 Taxable Valuation of the Town of Dorchester encompassed a house, stable and two double houses. During the mid 9th century much of the land including St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church complex was owned and farmed by William Tavener. Traversing Tavener's land and running from southeast to northwest was an open stream. Tavener's 66,340 square foot tract between Blue Hill Avenue and Norfolk St. (Babson Street) contained a stable house and a "henery" in the 1860s. Another important family in this area in terms of land ownership were the Thompsons whose properties bordered Blue Hill Avenue (Brush Hill Turnpike from the early 1800s to c.1870). The Greek Revival Charles H. Thompson House at 127/129 Babson Street appears to date to the 1840s. The Italianate/Stick style Asa Thompson House at 130 Thompson Street was extant by 1874. 127/129 was owned by the Thompson family until at 1east 1918. #130 Babson Street was the property of an Anna C. Burgess from the 1880s until at least the early 1930s. The group of Italianate houses numbered 95, 97, 99 , 101, 103 Babson street were built c. l880 and their original addresses were in the #730's section of what was then called Norfolk Street. George Curtis, painter was an early owner of #95 (by 1884) while another member of the building trades, George F. Fenno, lived at #101 (with a C.L Fenno listed here as late as 1933). Additionally, an M.B. Wells and an S.R Vose owned 97 and 99 respectively. Interestingly # 95 served briefly (c. 1884-93) as the Mattapan Methodist Episcopal Church before returning to use as a private house owned by an E. O'Keefe. #103 Babson Street was evidently built for a John D Scannell, blacksmith, who owned this property until c. 1920. Abigail A. Scannell, Master Assistant at the Solomon Lewenberg School on nearby Wellington Hill, lived here until at least the 1930s. Further research is needed on the interesting pair of towered houses at 98 and 100 Babson Street which were extant by 1874. #98 was owned by a J.A. Johnson in the 1870s later passing to the Hebard family in whose possession it remained until c. 1918. Also of similar vintage to the Babson Street Italianate houses is the Italianate house at 11 Faunce Street. Built between 1874 and 1884, it was originally occupied by Isaac C. Atkinson, salesman, Joseph P. Atkinson, clerk, H.E. Atkinson, painter and Harriet L. Atkinson, librarian. Atkinsons owned this house until c.1920; by the early 1930s, Thomas F. Power, barber. lived here. Faunce Street was originally called Fremont Place.

Further research is needed on the residents of the narrow lane known as Cookson Terrace which runs between Babson and Faunce Streets. 21 Cookson Terr. was extant by 1874 and owned by an S.H. Rathburn. The socio-economic "snap shot" that emerges of the St Angela's/Babson area during the firdst half of the 19th century is that of agricultural workers mixed with heads of households and other family members earning livings from trades and living in relatively modest, middle class housing.

The construction of St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church, the major landmark in his area, was begun in 1909 under the leadership of Rev. Francis J. Ryan. The church had been organized the year before and initially worshipped in an Oakland Hall (?). The groundbreaking for the church occurred in May, 1909 and the cornerstone was laid on October 17 of that same year. The lower church was completed in time for Christmas Day services in 1909. Initially the New York-based firm of Keely and Houghton (F.F. Houghton) was hired to design the church. They were the successor firm to the prolific architect Patrick C. Keeley, architect of numerous Boston area Catholic churches ranging from the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the South End (1860s) to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Char1estown (mid 1890s). The upper church dates to 1916-1919 and represents the work of the Boston-based architectural firm of MacGinnis and Walsh. It was dedicated by Cardinal O'Connell on June 1, 1919. The upper church provides a seating capacity for 1100 people, while the lower church or basement can hold 900 for a total capacity of 2,000. By 1928, St. Angela's Parish numbered about 4,000 people. Also under Father Ryan's pastorate, the rectory next door at 1548 Blue Hill Avenue was completed in 1926 ?in keeping with the appearance of the church.? The construction of the rectory necessitated the destruction of the old cross-shaped William Tavener farm house and stable which had been a familiar sight along Blue Hill Avenue (back then it was called Brush Hill Turnpike) since at 1east the 1860s. In 1927, the Archdiocese of Boston purchased a 50,000 square foot lot behind the church at the corner of Babson and Fremont for the purposes of a church school. St. Angela's Roman Catholic Church at 124 Babson Street was built in 1935 (in 1934 there were 6 wooden structures on this lot, representing the remains of the Fisher estate). It should be noted that as early as 1868, a public school had been located in this area on the site of the present (but vacant) Edmund D. Tileston School at 110 Babson Street. From the very start it was named the Edmund P. Tileston School after the foremost paper manufacturer in Dorchester. He was also the first president of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society that was founded in 1843. The present school dates to 1911 and was designed by Charles K. Cummings.

Bibliography and/or References

Boston and Dorchester Maps/Atlases-1794, 1830, 1850, 1874, 1884,1894, 1898, 1910, 1918, 1933

Boston Directories: 1870-1945

The Gothic Churches of Dorchester, Douglas Shand Tucci, 1972

Metropolitan Boston. A Modem History V.5 , 1929

Taxable Valuation of the Town of Dorchester, 1869

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Saint Angela's Roman Catholic ChurchSt. Angela's Church interior
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Created: July 18, 2005   Modified: March 14, 2012