St. Margaret's / Boston Street
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]
Map showing boundaries:
For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of St Margarets Boston Street, Click here
St. Margaret's / Boston Street is located at the extreme northeast corner of Dorchester. It is an area that lends itself to both strict and loose definitions of historic area boundaries. It has dense concentrations of historic resources along its southern (Columbia Road) and western (Boston Street) edges. More debatable is the cohesiveness of historic fabric at the northern and eastern ends of this area. It would seem that the design quality of historic streetscapes "holds up" as far north as Harvest Street and as far east as Buttonwood Street (one block east of Dorchester Avenue). This area's resources range from the Dorchester Historical Society properties of the early 18th and early 19th century on Boston Street (The Blake House, another DHS property has been included in the Pleasant Street North area), through the Greek Revival and Italianate dwellings of Mayhew street, through some well-designed single- and two- family homes bordering Columbia Road to some of the finest examples of three decker housing in Dorchester bordering Boston Street and Columbia Road. The major landmark on this area's "skyline" is the distinctive tower of St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church, which may be seen from a considerable distance around the area and serves to lend a European, old world village sensibility to the area that is quite compelling and together with the church's school and rectory provides this area with a strong architectural identity. It serves as a focal point looking east along St. Margaret's street. Boston Street is the oldest thoroughfare in the area and hence its historic resources span a considerable sweep of time and represent the most diverse collection of housing types - both in terms of form and style - in the area. Dorchester Avenue was set out as a turnpike as early as 1804.
Boston Street, by far, has the most diverse collection of buildings of any street in this area. In addition to the DHS (Dorchester Historical Society) buildings, this ?ancient" thoroughfare encompasses the double, 6-bay, two pile Greek Revival house at 221/223 Boston Street, an astylistic late 1890s brick commercial/residential block at 224 Boston Street and an important early 1900s group of three-deckers at 180-196 Boston Street .
Mayhew Street is an important repository for simple, minimally ornamented Late Federal / Greek Revival dwellings. Set out as early as Clapp Place as early as 1830, Mayhew Street's north side is built-up with wooden 1830s and 40s dwellings which are characterized by distinctive, horizontally massed structural components consisting of a main block and one or two lateral wings. 16 Mayhew Street is reputed to be the earliest house on the street, dating to c. 1828.
Mt. Vernon Street has an important collection of early 1870s Italianate / Mansard residences. 8 Mt. Vernon Street is a ca. 1870 double house whose ample side yard and carriage house survive to illustrate the character of this street's initial development. 57 Mt. Vernon Street is a charming Italianate / Mansard cottage which retains its bracketed door hood and polygonal bay at the main facade.
St. Margaret's Street and Harvest Street were cut through the former Clapp orchards during the 1890s and are lined with a diverse collection of Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and three-decker housing. Particularly noteworthy is the Willliam H. Besarick-designed Roger Clapp School at 35 Harvest Street.
Columbia Road is architecturally noteworthy for its cohesive, well-designed collection of three- decker houses (757 to 799 Columbia Road) and the St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church complex at 802 Columbia Road. The spire of St Margaret's R.C. Church is the major landmark and "place maker" building in this area, providing a strong sense of place from a number of vantage points in this area (perhaps most memorably looking south down Mayhew Street with St Margaret's steeple rising above the Queen Anne houses of Roseclaire Street.) Built in 899-1904, St Margaret's was designed by Keeley and Houghton. Additionally, the William E. Russell School was built in 1903 from designs provided by James Mulchaey
The Dorchester Historical Society houses at 195 Boston Street are the oldest dwellings in the St Margaret's / Boston Street area and are illustrative of mid-18th century and early-19th century architecture in Dorchester. The Roger Clap or Lemuel Clap House is a two-storey, wood frame, gambrel-roof building. The plan is that of an L. The main block is a five bays, single pile dwelling and the left rear ell is three bays wide by one bay deep. A one-story, gable-roof service addition forms a continuation of the ell. The building contains two brick chimneys, one situated in the right rear of the main block, the other located in the center of the ell. The roof trim of the SE and SW elevations is a boxed cornice and decorated frieze. The raking trim consists of fascia board. This house?s SE, SW and NE elevations are covered with clapboard, while the remaining elevations are covered with wood shingles .The center entry exhibits a six-paneled door which is surmounted by a simple pediment with pilasters while the eight-paneled central door of the SW elevation has a simple pediment. Three early twelve over twelve pane windows are still intact. The building stands on a poured concrete foundation with full basement, having been moved approximately 200 feet south of its original location in 1957.
The William Clapp House, next door, is a two-story, hip roof building. It has a square plan facing SE to Boston Street, five bays wide by five bays deep with a later rear two-story, gable roof, wood frame, wing and lean-to. The main building contains four brick corner chimneys and central gable dormers on the SE and NW elevations. The SW and NW elevations of the main building are common bond brick. The SE and NE elevations and all elevations of the rear wing are clapboard. The windows of the main block are sash type with six over six arrangement. Those of the SE and NE elevations have moulded trim and slipsills. The main entrance consists of an open porch and vestibule with double doors containing large translucent upper panels. The SW elevation has a central recessed single door and fanlight facing a large concrete terrace. The building stands on a stone block foundation. Additionally, a large one-story, gable roof, wood frame, rectangular barn is located on this property.
Explain historical development of the area. Discuss how this area relates to the historical development of the community.
The St Margaret's / Boston Street's area encompasses part of the original 1630s settlement of Dorchester. This area has significant historical associations with the Clapp family who were tanners and gentlemen farmers and spinster descendants in this area from 1630 to 1872. Two historic house museums operated by the Dorchester Historical Society located at #195 Boston Street provide a physical link with this prominent family. This area is also significant for its role in the growth of Catholicism in Dorchester during the late 19th century as symbolized by St Margaret's Roman Catholic Church and related buildings. Additionally, this area is an important repository for fine examples of triple deckers and other types of multi family housing.
This area has significant historical associations with the prominent Clap family. Roger Clap, born in England in 1609, came to Dorchester on the Mary and John in 1630 and subsequently married Johanna Ford in 1633. This couple's fourteen children included Experience, Waitstill, Preserved, Hopestill, Wait, Thanks, Desire, Unite and Supply. Seven of the Clap children lived to be adults. Part of "The Roger Clap House" which shares the same lot as the William Clap House at 195 Boston Street, is said to date to 1665 but architectural historian Elizabeth Amadon and others think this house was essentially rebuilt in 1765 for Lemuel Clap, a fifth generation descendant Roger's cousin Nicholas. Lemuel Clapp was a tanner by trade: his tanyard was located on the opposite corner of Willow Court. Lemuel also served as a Captain during the Revolutionary War. and in the early part of the war some of his men were stationed in the house. Lemuel died in 1819 and two unmarried daughters continued to live the house. In 1872, the last of Lemuel?s daughters, Miss Catherine Clap died at the age of 90 and the house became rental property with a tenant named William Trask living here in the late 19th century. Trask investigated the history of this venerable structure and to the degree that was possible helped to preserve it. The Dorchester Historical Society acquired the house in 1946 and moved it from Willow Court to its present site.
By 1920, the St. Margaret's / Boston Street section was almost completely developed. By that time the population was primarily Irish with a few of the old Protestant families still living in the area. Further research is needed on the origins of the Polish community which has been an important component of this area's population for most of the 20th century.
After World War II, the Dorchester Historical Society acquired two historic houses associated with Dorchester?s Clapp family. The Roger Clapp or Captain Lemuel Clapp House was acquired by the DHS in 1946 and moved from Willow Court (Enterprise Street) to its present location, next door to the William Clapp House, 195 Boston Street, in 1957. Moved due to property taxes, its relocation was supervised by Harry Gulesian, the architect who executed HABS drawings of the house in 1935. The contracts specified that as much of the existing fabric as possible be saved including chimneys and chimney foundations. The 1806 William Clapp House, on this property was lived in by Clapp descendants until as late as the mid-1940s. Also acquired by the DHS in 1946, the William Clapp House is situated on its original site. The Dorchester Historical Society continues to serve the community as a venue for historical programs and as a repository for Dorchester furnishings, books, manuscripts and other memorabilia.
Situated on the east side of Boston Street, opposite the William Clapp House, 180 to 196 Boston Street stands a 18,262 square foot tract that was part of the Henry Humphrey's holdings in 1874. Remaining undeveloped and owned by the Humphreys and Clapp familys throughout the 1880s, this parcel contained the first St. Margaret's Church by 1894. This wooden church structure was replaced by the present group of three-deckers numbered 180-196 Boston Street by 1910. The occupants of 180 during the 1930s, included Thomas J. Franey, foreman, Mrs. Christina McDonald and William F. Reber, chauffer.
Occasionally, well designed two-family residences of considerable size and substance appear in this area. For example, the Queen Anne residence at 718 Columbia Road, was built on part of the Edward Everett house lot c. 1895-97 for Sarah C. Murray. By the early 1930s, this house's occupants included William F. Hodges, president of Hodges Badge Company and John W. Kent, watchman. The ornate but altered Queen Anne house at 871 Dorchester Avenue, corner of Columbia Road was built c. 1900 on part of the William T. Andrews estate. Further research is needed to identify the original owner. By the Depression era, Dr. Ivan C. R Amesbury is listed at this address along with Mrs. Anne M. Lavery, treasurer of J. W. Lavery & Son, Inc.
Anchoring the northwest comer of this area, the large, full blown 2-family Queen Anne residence at 58 Dorset Street, corner of Boston Street was built c. 1880. A fairly early example of multi-family housing in this area., this house was built for the estate of the L.H. Jones heirs. By 1894, it was owned by L. and M. A. Darrigan. The Darrigans owned this property until at least the early 1900s. By the early 19308, Charles A. Cartland, painter, is listed at this address.
This area is host to several major ecclesiastical and institutional buildings whose design and massing has imparted a remarkably strong sense of place to this area. St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of its tall, distinctive spire, is the major landmark in the area. St. Margaret's was built in 1899-1904 at 802 Columbia Road from designs provided by Keeley and Houghton. St Margaret's parish was set off from the older parish of St. Peter's, June 10, 1893. The first services of the new parish were conducted in a hall on Cottage Street on July 16, 1893. From November of 1893 until 1900, the congregation worshipped in a wooden church on Boston Street, now the site of 180 to 190 Boston Street. In the mean time, the present 16-room rectory at 800 Columbia Road was completed in 1898. The church and its buildings were built under the tireless leadership of Rev. William A. Ryan who was born in Lawrence, MA, in 1856 and was later educated at St John's College, at Fordham, New York. Father Ryan was assigned to St Peter's R.C. Church in Cambridge. He was also associated with churches in Newburyport and Brookline before coming to St. Margaret's in 1893 to undertake the work of nurturing a growing parish and overseeing the construction of its buildings. The cornerstone of St. Margaret's Parochial School was laid in 1909. Containing eighteen class rooms, this school was completed in 1910 and is located at 790 Columbia Road. In 1923, the 12- room St. Rita's Parochial School was built by St Margaret's parish at the corner of Mayhew and Boston streets. By 1929, St Margaret's parish encompassed a student body of thirteen hundred children in the primary, grammar and high school grades, presided over by thirty-four Sisters of Charity, of Halifax, Nova Scotia. St. Margaret's Convent at 17 Mayhew Street was built in 1914 with accommodations for forty sisters. At the time of its construction it was one of the largest and most lavishly appointed structures of its type in the City of Boston.
Despite the St. Margaret's / Boston Street area's proximity to Boston, the only example of masonry row housing in his area is the red brick Queen Anne row numbered 231 to 247 Boston Street. In 1874, this row's 6,600 square foot parcel was undeveloped and owned by George W. Tuxbury. Built c. 1885, 231-247 Boston Street's residents in l894, included real estate agent Albert L. Jewell (235) who bad an office in the Rogers Building, 209 Washington Street and lived in Brookline; Mary L. Richards (237); Thomas A. Johnston, real estate broker, 31 1/2 Fanieul Hall Square (239); Seth Weston (241 and 243) and Thomas A. Johnston (245). By the 1930s, a "snapshot? of this group's occupants included Antonio Fasano, shoe repair, Nicola Fasone, chauffer and James W. Sharpless (all at 235), Mrs Florence Doran (237); Craven Burris, machinist (241), Mrs. Ellen C. Lydon (243), Charles E. Devereaux, chauffer (245) and Frank Kelly, waste disposal (247).
During the late l890s, the introduction of the Columbia Road Parkway radically changed St. Margaret's / Boston Street and adjoining areas. Linking Franklin Park with the South Boston waterfront, Columbia Road was originally part of American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace system of Boston parks. Columbia Road originally encompassed a landscaped- median park strip as well as planted areas bordering this thoroughfare. The parklike character of this important artery was destroyed in the 1950s in favor of more traffic lanes. Columbia Road's construction cut through the William Andrews estate and resulted in the construction of Roseclair Street during the late 1890s; Roseclair Street runs parallel to and follows the great bend in Columbia Road as it sweeps past the St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church complex. As early as 1884, Roseclair Street is shown on the atlas of that year as a proposed street named Compton Street. The Andrews estate bordered Dorchester Avenue between East Cottage and Mount Vernon Streets, before the coming of the Columbia Road Parkway. Also carved from the William T. Andrews estate, Roseclair Street is noteworthy for several well-sited c. late 1890s ensembles of two family housing, including the Queen Anne trio at 70; 72; 74 Roseclair Street and the towered, mirror image houses at 61 and 63 Roseclair Street. In 1898, 70 and 72 Roseclair Street were owned by John P. Leahy, probably the lawyer listed at 24 Thornley Street. 74 Roseclair Street was owned by Timothy Lellard, a member of the Police force at Station 9. By the Depression era the occupants of these houses included Thomas C. Mc Mahon, chauffer, and Andrew Slavin, carrier (70); Frederick E. Miller, insurance agent and Mrs. Sarah A. Shea (72); William Tooze, painter, John W. Ochs, watchman and Joseph Ochs, floor layer (74).
61 and 63 Roseclair Street were extant by 1898. Originally owned by Edward Reardon. these houses were occupied during the early 1930s by Albert J. Riley, stereotyper and Paul Sheehan, pa1rolman (61); Joseph F. Murphy, foreman and John F. Regan, horse shoer (63).
The new Columbia Road parkway during and after its construction became lined with a relatively new residential building type: the three decker; few Dorchester sections offer a better opportunity to study the turn-of-the-century phase of three-decker development than St. Margaret's / Boston Street. Particularly noteworthy for their fine designs and ample set backs from the street are the three-deckers located between 757 and 797 Columbia Road, built between 1897 to 1915. Further research is needed on this group's occupants during the first half of the twentieth century. Three deckers were also built on the side yards of pre-l890 houses in this area. For example, the handsome three-decker duo at 31 and 33 Mt.Vernon Street was built by W.T. Henderson in 1906 for Margaret E. Holland from designs provided by William Duff. Arthur Krim notes that Duff often worked with W.H. Besarick on three-deckers. Examples of their work are said to extend from Jones Hill to Melville Avenue. Arthur Krim cites the three-decker with the broad, bowed corner at 257-261 Dorchester Avenue as "one of the finest corner storeblocks in Dorchester." This beautifully preserved example of what Krim calls the Early Classic Period development of three-decker development was built in 1898 from designs provided by T. Edward Sheehan.
Mayhew Street, originally called Clapp Place, was set out as a cul-de-sac c. 1830. This street provides a fascinating opportunity to study a suburban subdivision that pre-dates the introduction of the railroad to Dorchester by more than a decade. Clapp Place seems to have been developed as a compound for the family and friends of the William Clapps. Its early residents were engaged primarily in agricultural pursuits. According to Dorchester Historian Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, the first house on Mayhew Street was the William Channing Clapp House at 16 Mayhew Street. Built in 1828, Mayhew Street a.k.a. Clapp Place evidently started out as a driveway leading to the William Channing Clapp farm house. 16 Mayhew Street remained under Clapp ownership until at least the early 1900s. By 1850, nine houses bordered this dirt-covered country lane. In addition to Clapps, Lanes and Trasks owned houses on Clapp Place. Further research is needed to determine the origins of the following Clapp Place houses: 31 Mayhew Street, an Italianate house owned by A.H. Clapp during the late 9th century; 32 Mayhew Street, a sparely ornamented Greek Revival house owned by Alfred H. Clapp and his heirs until the early 20th century. This house was the residence of "EEl" Company employee George Caldwell by the early 1930s; 38 Mayhew Street was occupied by Frederick Weiss from the 1860s until at least the turn-of-the century. By the Depression era, this house was inhabited by Francis E. Birmingham, optomologist; from at least the 1850s until the early 1900s, 42 Mayhew Street was owned by William Blake Trask. His family operated the Trask Pottery Co. at Commercial Point and he married into the Clapp family. A carpenter by trade, further research may show that he was involved as a builder in the development of Mt Vernon Street c.1870. He was for many years active in the New England Historical Genealogical Society and the Dorchester Historical Society. During the early 1900s he lived in the Capt. Lemuel Clap House, the early 18th century house that is part of the Dorchester Historical Society property. By the early 1930s, Rocco DiLoreto, peddler, John B. Driscoll and Margaret Townsend lived in this house.
Although not located on Mayhew Street, 50 St. Margaret's Street is related to Mayhew's development judging by its massing and Greek Revival characteristics. It is difficult to ascertain if it is one of the houses shown on the 1850 map. By 1874, Mary C. Weiss, presumably a relation of Frederick Weiss of 38 Mayhew owned this house. The 1874 Atlas shows that access to this house was gained via a narrow way labeled ?court" which survives as an alley and ran from Mt Vernon Street. This house was surrounded on three sides by the William T. Andrews estate and on the west side by the heirs of Richard Clapp. The Weiss family owned this house until at least the turn-of-the-century. By that time, St Margaret's Street, originally called Orchard Street had been set out. By the Depression era, Anthony J. Cannatta, janitor of the John Marshall School lived here.
221/223 Boston Street is another survivor from the mid-nineteenth century. This double Greek Revival house was owned but not occupied by Charles O. Dillaway of South Boston and James Buckner, machinist and resident of Dorchester A venue, near Crescent Avenue. By 1894, Martha Clapp, widow of Frederick and daughter-in-law of William Clapp, the tanner who built 195 Boston Street in 1806, lived here. Martha Clapp owned this house until the early 1900s. By 1933 Mary and John R Furfey lived in 221 while HaroldG. Mitten, Lieutenant Division 4, resided in 223.
Mt. Vernon Street was developed c. 1870 over part of the Clapp orchard and was a harbinger of more intensive street construction. Further research is needed on this street's Italianate / Mansard houses, most notably numbers 8, 19, 26 and 27/29. 57 Mt Vernon Street is an Italianate / Mansard cottage that was built during the early 1870s. During the 1870s and 80s, J.A. Crotty, clerk, owned this house. At the turn of the century, James J. Graham lived here. By 1933, Bartholomew Mahoney is listed at this address. The setting out of Mt Vernon Street coincided with annexation of Dorchester to Boston, an event that triggered Dorchester-wide housing development, only to be curtailed by the Financial Panic of 1873. St Margaret's Street (originally Orchard Street) and Harvest Street were extant by the late 1890s. The Roger Clapp School at 35 Harvest Street was built in 1896 from Classical Revival designs provided by William H. Besarick on land given to the city by the Clapp family. Besarick, together with builder William Duff built fine examples of three decker houses from Jones Hill to Melville Park.
Boston Street was part of a system of roads that dated back to the mid-17th century. It was originally known as "the Causeway" or the "way to the Great Neck" (South Boston). It was called the Causeway because its route passed over the marshland of Little Neck, an area bounded by South Cove on the west and Old Harbor (Pleasure Bay) on the east. Boston Street was linked with Columbia Street, now Columbia Road, which in turn, was connected with Stoughton and Hancock Streets. Although not included in this area, Enterprise Street which extends northwestward from Boston Street, is an early 18th century street called Willow Court which led to the Clapp family's grist mill and and the swamp land associated with South Cove (South Bay).
This area borders the eastern side of the important Edward Everett Square cross roads; the intersection of Boston St., East Cottage Street and Columbia Road known as "Five Corners" since the 17th century. When Massachusetts Avenue was extended to Edward Everett Square c.1890, it passed directly by the house, cutting off one corner of the estate. As early as the 1760s, the Robert Oliver House, a great 5-bay x 5-bay, quoin-edged and hip-roofed Georgian mansion stood at the northeast corner of Columbia Street (Columbia Road) and Boston Street. Oliver was a wealthy sugar plantation owner from the West Indies. Socially prominent and well-connected, Oliver was related to the Royalls of Medford and the Lechmeres of East Cambridge. The Olivers were Loyalists who returned to England during the Siege of Boston; after the Revolution, their estate was purchased by the Rev. Oliver Everett, who had been pastor of the New South Church in Boston. The American statesman, educator and diplomat, Edward Everett (1794-1865) was born in the Oliver House. After graduation from Harvard, Everett taught Greek and Latin at his alma mater. Everett's extraordinary oratorical skills propelled his career far beyond Harvard Yard. His most famous address, now almost forgotten, was the principal oration delivered at Gettysburg on the same occasion that called forth Abraham Lincoln's enduring Gettysburg Address. Over time, he served as a state senator and representative, as well as Congressman, Governor (1835-39) and Senator. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain from 1841-1845. Succeeding Josiah Quincy to the presidency of Harvard, Everett was president of Harvard College from 1846 to 1849. In any event, the Oliver-Everett house was purchased in 1830 by John Richardson who developed a garden on the Everett estate that became well-known in horticultural circles. His greatest success was the "Festiva Maxima", a "double white peony with a pink blush at its throat.? By the late 19th century, this house was owned by Dr. William Stevens. Sadly, despite efforts by the Dorchester Historical Society and others, the Edward Everett House was demolished in 1908.
John Richardson of the Edward Everett House was not alone in his forays into rarified horticultural pursuits. The Clapp family, associated with this area since the 17th century, were involved in the hybridization of apples and pears; the creation of the "Clapp's Favorite Pear" in 1840 was a local marvel that proved profitable for the Clapps. Although the Everett House is long gone, the William Clapp House at 195 Boston Street (1806) provides physical evidence of a tanner and gentleman farmer's Federal mansion house estate. It was built by local carpenter Samuel Everett. Only two years earlier, Dorchester A venue, located one block to the east, had been cut through this area as a turnpike or toll road linking Dorchester Lower Mills with Boston. The lands north of the Clapp House were cultivated as a fruit orchard as early as 1810. This house was built on land deeded to William Clapp by his father Lemuel. During the early 19th century, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society was supported by the local gentry of Dorchester and other Boston area towns. William Clapp and his sons, Lemuel, Frederick and Thaddeus, all joined the new society and submitted their fruits for the annual award ceremony. The Clapp's Favorite Pear was the hybridization of the Flemish Beauty Pear and the Bartlett Pear. The fact that it was an early ripening pear made the fruit available in mid to late August, at a time when fruits were thought to have medicinal qualities and relatively short periods of shelf life. Several of the streets in the St Margaret's /Boston Street area were named for Clapp-developed pears including, Mount Vernon, Harvest, and Dorset streets.
Statement of Significance
St. Margaret's/Boston Street Qualifies as area with a diverse collection of historic resources ranging from the Dorchester Historical Society's mid-18th and early 19th century Clapp Houses at 195 Boston Street, through the c. 1828-1850 modestly scaled, minimally ornamented wooden houses on Mayhew Street (i.e. 16, 32, 38 Mayhew Street) to the mansard roofed houses of Mount Vernon Street and the Queen Anne 2-family houses of Roseclair Street (i.e. the memorable ensemble at 70, 72, 74 Roseclair Street). Additionally, an impressive and cohesive group of three-deckers survives at 757 to 759 Columbia Road. Particularly noteworthy is the Classical Revival Roger Clapp School at 35 Harvest Street (1896, William H. Besarick, architect) and the Gothic Revival, Keeley and Houghton-designed St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church (1899-1904) at 802 Columbia Road, St. Margaret's spire is the major landmark on this area's "skyline". This area satisfies criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places. St. Margaret?s / Boston Street 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
Langtry. Albert P. Metropolitan Boston. A History. Vol. V. 1929
Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester (1893)
Taxable Valuation of Dorchester. 1869
Tercentenary Committee. "Dorchester Old and New. 1630-1930"
From: Frank Montegani, January, 2009
Thank you for posting the Boston Landmarks Commission area form for St. Margaret?s/Boston Street. It?s nice to know that the area in which I grew up is of historical interest that is well documented. For me, it was simply the place where I lived, although I always did think of it as kind of special. Virtually all the streets, houses, and landmarks that were discussed in the area form were well-known to me.
I grew from infancy to adulthood on Mt. Vernon Street, one over from St. Margaret?s. I spent my pre-teens living at number 5 in the 1940?s, near Boston Street, and my teens at number 33 in the 1950?s, near Dorchester Avenue.
Looking at the picture of St Margaret's School, around the left corner in the back just past the entry steps is a window well with a wide sill comfortable for sitting. I spent many an evening there with my good friend Winnie Lukeman from St Margaret's street, kissing and hugging. She is the first girl I ever did that with and I had a severe case of puppy love. I can't recall how old we were. (I went to that school for grades 5 - 8.)
Number 8 is mentioned in the area form as being characteristic of the street's initial development. The house was across from number 5 where I lived and I remember it well. In the 1940's it was occupied by the Janigan family. The carriage house--'the barn' to us--was at the back of the "ample side yard." It had a big sign on it that said Janigan Bros. The Janigan's used the upper floor--the loft--to manufacture flat canvas products like tarps and sails. I would go up there from time to time where there were often big sheets of canvas spread on the floor while a workman sewed on a machine in the fresh air and sunshine of the open loft door. The side yard had a tree growing close to the street at about a 45 degree angle. It was my favorite tree because it was easy to climb and it was perfect for playing cowboy. For what it's worth, I also remember the Janigan's had a gravel driveway that was unique in the neighborhood.
Local lore referred to the "Orchie" west of Boston Street. I see now that the name came from the Clapp orchards of a much earlier time.
During my pre-teens, my universe extended approximately from Bellflower Street southward to Columbia Road and from Boston Street east to Dorchester Avenue. Within that area (like most other kids, especially boys) I knew almost every back yard, every fence opening, every hiding place, and every climbable tree. Moreover, the collection of kids on Mt. Vernon Street was very special compared with other streets in the area. We were boys and girls of all ages who all knew each other well and constantly played together in spite of our age and sex differences. We were very much like Our Gang of the movies. In late afternoon, when supper was ready, parents would yell from their windows to get their kids home. At least once that I remember, we put on a substantial play and entertainment, with seating, in a neighborhood garage that even attracted adults (it was the Thurston?s garage at number 17). Life was good. I am surprised that, with the exception of my sister and one retained childhood friend, I have never come across anyone familiar with that special time in that special place. Of course, this was just before television. When television appeared, kids playing in the streets disappeared almost overnight, never to return again.
I was in Troop 7 of The Boy Scouts of America at the Stoughton Street Baptist Church in the late 1940's, early 1950's time frame. I remember the scoutmaster was Frank Adams, an old, experienced Maine woodsman who made sure you knew your stuff. Advancement was neither automatic nor easy with him, but I learned to love the woods. The Troop had a cabin in the woods about 14 miles away, but I don't remember where.
Cogitating about my Dorchester roots keeps bringing long-forgotten vignettes to mind. If you look from the Dorchester Historical Society southeast across Boston Street at the far corner of Mt. Vernon Street, you will see that the sidewalk inclines downward to the corner. A favorite pastime of mine was coasting my tricycle, feet free, down the hill and free-wheeling around the corner in front of the variety store there at the time. Once I crashed into the sign pole on the corner. I remember starting at the top of the hill and then waking up to the sound of the Lone Ranger playing on the radio in another room, on my mother's bed, and surrounded by my concerned mother and sisters. I got a concussion and knocked out when I hit the pole.
My sister rebelled against parochial school, which she would normally be expected to attend. She went to William E. Russell School instead. For us neighborhood kids, Halloween was a serious event. One year, my sister dressed as a Gypsy with impressive clothing borrowed from our downstairs neighbor who had been a vaudeville performer. The William E. Russell school held a Halloween event in their auditorium at which people from the audience were invited to perform. My sister drew attention with her Gypsy costume and soon was on stage dancing for the audience. She drew applause as I recall. The interesting thing is, she had absolutely no dance training, had never performed for anybody, and was just being a fearless, adventurous kid.
The tracks in one of the photos reimind me of streetcars on Boston Street when I was small. It must have been the in early 1940's. The line began at Andrew Square and ran down the middle of Boston Street through Edward Everett Square and then along Columbia Road to Franklin Park. Boston Street was paved with cobblestones. At some point, the streetcars were removed and replaced with trackless trolleys and Boston Street was paved with asphalt.
I recall Edward Everett Square being redone to improve traffic flow and getting a new dividing strip. The strip prevented straight-line access by westbound traffic from Columbia Road to East Cottage Street. I had an uncle from Randolph who didn't come this way very often and was unaware of the new traffic pattern. When he drove west on Columbia Road towards Edward Everett Square intending to go down East Cottage Street, he got confused by the new traffic pattern and went the only way he knew, which was straight over the dividing strip. He later laughed about it to my father, which I how I learned the story.
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Created: July 18, 2005 Modified: February 22, 2012