Cedar Grove / Richfield Street

Cedar Grove / Richfield Street

The following is from the 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]

The Cedar Grovc/Richview area consists of a small enclave of well-designed, relatively substantial turn-of-the century residences situated between extensive green space in the form of Dorchester Park on the north and west and Cedar Grove Cemetery to the east and south. This residential enclave is situated off of the northwest side of Adams Street and consists of a cul de sac called Hillsdale Street and a U-shaped street off of Hilllsdale called Richview Street. In addition to open space, this area’s residential section is further isolated by the MBTA Red Line tracks on the cast. Cedar Grove cemetery encompasses [blank in the original] square feet.  It is bounded by Milton Street on the north, the back lot lines of houses bordering Granite Avenue on the east, the Neponset River on the south and Adams Street on the west. This cemetery features a system of meandering paths that are so characteristic of rural garden cemeteries. This cemetery ‘s main entrance is at the corner of Milton and Adams streets. This entrance is marked by four heavy, Italianate granite posts with arched and recessed panels. Further research is needed on the ornamental iron gates which may date to the late 19th century. Adjacent to the main gates is a small, brick, one -story Queen Anne cemetery office with granite trimmings and hip and conical roof components. This roof is covered with slate shingles and is edged with copper. Its dormers exhibit Jacobethan Revival stucco and half timbering. Projecting from near the center of the roof is a well crafted, corbelled chimney. Just beyond the cemetery office is a small, rectangular chapel which is constructed of granite blocks and is enclosed by a broad, slate shingle-covered gable roof. This cemetery contains a fine collection of Victorian era markers and memorials, representing a variety of materials including granite, polished marble, sandstone etc.Its grounds slope down to the wetlands of the Neponset River, interrupted only by the MBTA tracks.

Dorchester Park , which forms the northwestern segment of this area is a roughly z-shaped , 1,324,395 square foot area of playing fields, wood land and tennis courts which is bordered by Dorchester Avenue and Carney Hospital on the west, the back lot lines of Brookvale street and MBTA property on the north and the Richview residential area on the east. Dorchester Park is devoid of structures, antique or otherwise and is remarkable primarily as green space which provides a glimpse of “unbuilt” southern Dorchester prior to the proliferation of housing in this area during the mid-late 19th century.

The Richview residential section of this area is a show case for moderate to substantial housing which exhibits combinations of 1890s / ear1y1900s Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival styles along with some Craftsman housing dating from the 1910s. By far the most architecturally significant house in the area is 35 Richview which anchors the far northwest corner of this area. Situated on a rise above two sides of Dorchester Park, this Queen Anne/Shingle Style house is noteworthy for its encircling verandah with bowed corner segment, rustic rock- faced entrance bay, variety of window shapes and sash treatments and complex roof configuration of gambrel and pedimented gables. Other robust, well – crafted examples of the Queen Anne include the towered house at 64 Richview with its distinctive, “candle snuffer” roof cap and ball finial and the clapboard and shingle clad house at 54 Richview with its highly complex form, encircling verandah with turned posts and balusters and engaged and modified corner tower–all in all a house with pleasing sculptural qualities and a rich sense of the important role verandahs played during warm weather in the late Victorian era as informal out door parlors. 50 to 68 Richview Street constitute a streetscape which summarizes the housing in this area. The double Queen Anne/Shingle style house at 51/53 Hillside Street once again testifies to the pleasing sculptural qualities inherent in some of the houses of this area. It stands with north-south facing end wall gables as well as an off center, fully enframed gambrel on its main facade. Its lower floors are dominated by a full length Tuscan – columned front porch with slat work railings. The small, compact house at 28 Richview Street, with its rustic wood shingle covering and sweeping roof lines, represents a rather modest foray into the Shingle Style.

The most full- blown example of the Colonial Revival style in this area is the clapboard clad 11 Richview Street, which together with its stable provides a glimpse of Dorchester on the eve of the Automobile Age. Here, the main facade is characterized by a pedimented center pavillion with encircling Ionic columned front porch. Elaborate swansneck scroll lintels are in evidence on the first floor windows. This house’s edges are accented by fluted ionic pilasters. The southeast wall exhibits a bowed segment. This house is enclosed by a hip roof with pairs of pedimented dormers on the side slopes. Other noteworthy example of the Colonial Revival style is the boxy, hip roofed house at 60 Richview Street and the nearly 4-square 63 Richview Street (note unusually wide Doric pilasters on enclosed front porch and windows with lattice work sash.)

Craftsman style houses in this enclave represent a second wave of construction in this area that occurred during the 1910’s. Good examples of Craftsman houses exhibiting compact, rectangular forms, rubble stone basements, low slung gable roofs with exposed rafters etc. include 33 and 45 Hillsdale Street and 28 and 69 Richview Street.


The Cedar Grove/Richview area is comprised of three components: cemetery, small residential enclave and a large public park. This area is located in the extreme south central rtion of Dorchester bordering the Neponset River. Historically, the settlement and development of Dorchester was a north to south enterprise with the early settlement beginning in the 1630s based in the Aliens Plain (Pleasant Street) section. Overtime, a gradual shift to the south occurred as the meetinghouse was removed from Fast Cottage Street to Meeting House Hill in 1674. A further southward movement occurred in 1806 when the Second Church in Dorchester was established in Codman Square, while a Third Church was built at the junction of Richmond and Dorchester Avenue in Lower Mills in 1813. All of the above church history is meant to set the stage for the creation of the Cedar Grove Cemetery at the extreme southern end of the town, where land was still plentiful well into the late 19th century. Dorchester had long since outgrown its Old North Burying Ground (1634) at Upham’s Corner by the time of the Civil War. In the Dorchester Town Report for 1864, it was reported that “we would call the attention of the Town to the nec essity of furnishing additional ground for burial purposes, as the lots in the present cemeteries are all nearly taken up.” It was not until 1868, that it was finally voted to establish a cemetery at Cedar Grove.

In 1868 Cedar Grove’s land was owned by a handful of old Dorchester families including the Bakers of chocolate fame, Thayers, Codmans, Prestons, Paysons, Newhalls and the Manning Brothers, early settlers from Ireland. Cedar Grove’s land bordering the Neponset with its low- lying hills, marshland and wooded areas constituted a text book-perfect location for a rural garden cemetery of the type pioneered by Dr. Jacob Bigelow, General Dearborn and others at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge/Watertown in the 1830’s. The peace and charm of this place was apparent to fashionable strollers of the mid 19th century. Cedar Grove cost the town an initial outlay of $17,648.83. Cedar Grove was laid out by the noted Dorchester architect Luther Briggs Jr. who had laid out street grids in Commercial Point, Harrison Square and Port Norfolk. Cedar Grove was fortuitously established on the eve of Dorchester’s annexation to Boston on January 3, 1870. Henceforth, housing, industrial and commercial development would accelerate in south Dorchester and assembling the tracts necessary to create a new cemetery would have been difficult and costs prohibitive.

Turning to the development called Richview for the purposes of this study, it is time to consider a discrete residential enclave of moderate to substantial residences which enjoys the benefits of being surrounded by ample green space and having excellent access to public transportation.

This area’s small residential enclave was part of the old John Preston farm which dated back to at least 1850 . The Preston farm house is still extant at # 1001 Adams Street but has been altered by the application of vinyl siding and does not readily fall within the recommended boundaries of this area By the 1860’s this farm was owned by Persis Preston. By c.1890, real estate developer J. Frank Howland owned six vacant lots in the area that would contain Richview and Hillside Street. This enclave off Adams Street would be built up with moderate to substantial housing around the turn- of- the -century. The small street system was set out c.1890. A solid middle/upper middle class put down roots here in the 1890’s and early 1900’s. A sampling taken from business directories of early homeowners reveals that ; Charles F. Archer, druggist lived at 5 Richview, corner of Hillside by 1894, J. Frank Howland the principle developer of this area owned 64 and 68 Richview by 1894; with a William B. Brook Jr. owning #50 Richview by 1898. Additionally, a later Craftsman Style house at #69 Richview was owned by Richard L. Applegate, plasterer, by 1918. John Stuart Ring, auditor owned #28 Richview, another Craftsman style house during the 1920’s. The double house at 51 and 53 Hillside was not built until as late as c.1915 and its residents included Fiodor Szum, an employee of K & S Lunch and Joseph J. Thomas , Linotype operator.

Richview / Hillside was surrounded on two sides by Dorchester Park which stretches westward to Dorchester Avenue and Carney Hospital and was set out in It provides a glimpse of the Preston Farm before late 19th century development.


Posted on

June 13, 2022

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