No. 1300 Postcard: Police Station, Court House and Library, circa 1910.Report prepared 1981.
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the National Register Nomination Form may have typographical errors; therefore 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 Fields Corner Municipal building is located in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood, at the corner of Adams and Arcadia Streets. It is situated on a small, sparsely landscaped lot near the intersection of the main thoroughfares of Dorchester Avenue and Adams Street.
The Municipal Building is a 2 ½-story brick structure, erected in 1874 and most probably designed by city Architect George A. Clough. The building is H-shaped in plan, with gabled wings and High Victorian Gothic styling. Limestone trim is used extensively in window lintels and stringcourses. Unifying the various masses of the structure are fenestration detailing, an arcaded brick stringcourse at the cornice, parapeted dormers, and a slate tiled roof. Paired windows emphasize the symmetry of the building. The first and attic floors have pointed arch windows, while the second story has strictly rectangular openings; bold limestone architraves ornament both types.
The Adams Street facade of the Municipal Building is three bays long, with a three-Story central pavilion featuring a parapeted gable and a pointed arch entrance. The corresponding western wing of the building is disguised by a cupola with its original weathervane. A decorative cast iron fence runs along the perimeter of the lot and up the high flight of stairs to the facade entrance.
The Fields Corner Municipal Building retains integrity of location, design, materials and workmanship. It is significant as a fine example of the High Victorian Gothic style and is a unique example of this style in the Dorchester area. Additionally, the building is an example of the work of Boston’s first City Architect, George A. Clough, and is significant for its role in community development. The property thus meets Criteria A and C of the National Register.
Although the building permits and records no longer exist for the Municipal Building, it is generally thought that Clough (l843-ca. 1916) – who began designing schools for the City in 1872 and became the first City Architect in 1873 – is the building’s architect. Clough learned drafting from his father, who was a Maine shipbuilder, and studied under George Snell of the Boston firm of Snell & Gregerson. He opened his own firm in 1869.
Clough’s most prominent buildings are the Suffolk County Courthouse in Pemberton Square 1888-89) and Boston Latin and English High School (l877). He worked in a number of eclectic styles and is credited with introducing “the German system, which provides for constructing the building around open courts, thus affording ample light and ventilation to all parts of it…” Although not built around an open court as were the Courthouse and High School, the Municipal Building does provide generous 1ight and ventilation through its H-p1an and paired fenestration. Symmetry and balance — of plan, scale, and massing — also characterize most of Clough’s work. George Clough is credited with designing over 25 schools for the City of Boston, several local churches, and numerous other municipal buildings and public charitable institutions in the Boston area.
Besides being significant for its architectural merit and association with the first City Architect, the Municipal Building is important for its strong community identity and for its contribution to the civic and cultural history of Dorchester. The building was originally constructed as a replacement for the old District 11 Police Station that was located on Hancock Street. The eastern wing of the Municipal Building, facing Adams Street, housed the new police station, with jail cells (still remaining) in the basement. The rear (western) wing was designed as the Dorchester branch of the Boston Public Library, the first such branch system in the United States. The building also served for a time as a district court.
The Municipal Building is also significant for its visual impact on the neighborhood, and its preservation is seen by the City of Boston as a key to the revitalization of Fields Corner.
Herndon, Richard. Boston of Today. Boston, Boston Post Publishing Co., 1892, p. 186.
King, Moses. King’s Handbook of Boston. Boston, 1878, p. 118-119.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography. James T. White & Co., 1892, Vol. 7, p. 480.
“Proceedings at the Dedication of the Dorchester Branch Library.” January 18, 1875, City Document #24, City of Boston.
Whitehill, Walter M. Boston Public Library: A Centennial History, Cambridge, MA, 1956, p. 134-138.
Withey, Henry F. & Elsie R. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased). Los Angeles, 1956, p. 127.
Who Was Who in America, THE A.N. Marquis Co., Chicago, 1943, Vol. 1, Copy 3, p. 232.