Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church, 378A-380 Washington Street


No. 1708 Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church, Photograph February, 2002.


[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.]


Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church survives as a well-preserved and Romantic rendition of the gable-fronted, corner tower church, and early 20th-century. ecclesiastic form common to the New England region. Built between 1900 and 1901 by John A. Dodge from designs provided by Boston architect Walter J. Paine, the church occupies a 16,700 square-foot lot at 378A-380 Washington Street in Dorchester.

                The lot is comprised of two parcels: a 10,000 sq. ft. parcel (No. 2429, Ward 17) occupied by the     church, and a 6687 sq. ft. parcel (No. 2442, Ward 17) occupied by the parsonage and garage.

 This wooden church is comprised of representative Shingle-style elements, including a  Weymouth granite foundation, a flared pyramidal roof on an asymmetrically-placed entry tower, and a central stained-glass window in the gable end, as well as such unusual features as lancet-arched openings with tracery and trefoil enframements, a polygonal tower, and a polygonal corner bay. The adjoining Shingle-style parsonage, also built in 1900, was designed and built by John and William Kellar, members of the congregation.

Greenwood Memorial Church is situated on a gently sloping rectangular plot, with a building footprint covering 5,900 square feet at the southeast corner of Washington and Dakota Streets. The church is located one block form the intersection of Washington, Mount Bowdoin, and Harvard Streets; and approximately three miles [not true] from Codman Square. Both areas survive, to varying degrees, as commercial centers that developed along commuter streetcar lines during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The surrounding neighborhood is characterized by two- and three-story frame houses from the turn of the century to ca. 1920, with a few municipal and commercial structures dating to later in the 20th century just outside of the church’s immediate vicinity. Bordering the church’s property to the east, facing Claybourne Street, are a series of two-story early 20th century, wood-frame residences that share a Queen Anne design with typical two-family houses in Dorchester and many of Boston’s suburbs. To the north, across Dakota Street, is a four-story, mixed-use, brick structure with a store occupying the ground floor and apartments on the remaining floors, dating to the turn of the century. A similar five-story building, with copper-sheathed bow windows, stands just northwest of the church, at the northwest corner of Gaylord and Washington Streets, and a late 20th-century, single-story commercial structure occupies the lot at 373-375A Washington Street, directly across from the church. A two-story, wood-frame Colonial Revival residence, constructed during the early 20th century and later altered for use as a funeral home by the Bullock family, stands just southwest of the church at 380 Washington Street. The church’s southern facade overlooks the parsonage, and a double-story residence at the northern boundary of William Corbett Park.

Greenwood Memorial Church exhibits the Shingle style’s-complex shape and profile; its towered, asymmetrical form and dark-brown wood shingle sheathing echo the form and materials favored in many of the late 19th-century residential and ecclesiastical structures of the nearby Codman Square Historic District and Ashmont Hill neighborhoods, as well as in the vernacular architecture of the surrounding neighborhood now known as the “Four Corners” area of Mount Bowdoin/Fields Corner West neighborhoods.

The church building consists of three main structural components: (1) a large rectangular sanctuary enclosed by a gable roof with a floor area of 3,900 sq. ft.; (2) a corner square bell tower, capped by a pyramidal roof and flanked by a polygonal chimney-like tower at the northwestern corner of the main mass of the sanctuary; and (3) an octagonal corner bay with flared pyramidal roof, occupied by the pastor’s office. (photo # 1)

The main body of the church is approximately 85′ wide and 90′ deep. The foundation, built of Weymouth seam-faced granite, rises approximately 5′ above grade. Additionally, Weymouth granite encases the lower third of the 300-foot-square entrance vestibule/bell tower that rises approximately 85′ above grade at the church’s northwest elevation, as well as the lower portion of the octagonal bay projecting from the southwest elevation. The balance of the building is of frame construction, with walls and roof sheathed in wood shingles. The pyramidal roof of the tower splays out at the eaves, and is supported by Italianate scrolled brackets.

West Elevation

Reading from north to south, the west (or main) elevation of the church is asymmetrically divided into the corner square bell tower, flanked by a chimney-like polygonal tower, the main sanctuary, and the octagonal corner bay housing the pastor’s office. (photo #1) A short set of concrete steps leads to the square tower’s double-entrance doors, topped by a half-round transom that gives access to the main-level vestibule. A small, double-rectangular glazed window, surmounted by a lancet-arched trefoil, louvered double “window” opening at the second level bell-house completes the fenestration of the tower’s west elevation. A large bay window, comprised of a central panel and two sets of narrow flanking panels, and two adjoining side windows of leaded stained glass pierce the street-level wall of the gabled sanctuary. A large tracery leaded glass window is situated in the gallery of the front gable, directly above the bay window. Another set of concrete steps, and a newly-constructed concrete ramp provide access through the southwest lobby entry door between the sanctuary and the octagonal bay.

Three sets of lancet-arched windows surmount the granite foundation, and a copper finial tops the pyramidal roof.

South Elevation

Both the south and east elevations are less formally finished than the street-facing- facades. A single-story gabled component projects from the octagonal bay at the western end of the south elevation. The main component of this elevation exhibits a pattern of alternating single and double leaded glass rectangular windows (topped by leaded glass transoms), the last set of which is located in the church office, in the former Ladies’ Parlor/Spaulding Guild Room at the southeast comer of the building. A wooden stairway leads to the single-door entrance to the church office, and a row of windows is situated at foundation level, directly below those in the sanctuary. (photo #5)

East Elevation

A small door and two windows situated directly below the altar, as well as a small window overlooking the northeast lobby, comprise the foundation-level fenestration of the east elevation. A rectangular window open onto the church offices at the southern comer of the main component; and a lancet-arched double window, replicating the fenestration of the west elevation, pierces the comer square tower. (photo #6)

North Elevation

Fenestration along the auditorium portion of the north elevation complements that of the south elevation; a pair of rectangular leader-glass windows flank a similar double window on the sanctuary level, with a corresponding pattern of glass windows at the foundation level. A gabled component projects from the eastern end of the north elevation, a space that formerly housed the sacristy and is now the music room. There are two narrow, rectangular leaded glass windows in the main level of this component, and a small, narrower rectangular window pierces the gable above the music room. A transom comprised of two square glass panels surmounts the door, at grade, leading into the northeast lobby. Two adjoining square windows flank this entry. The corner square tower exhibits a pattern of fenestration similar to that of the west elevation, with the exception of a triple-paneled square window on the main level. (photo #8)

Interior Features: First Floor

The church’s first floor consists of a large; rectangular sanctuary with the square corner tower projecting from the northwest corner, and the octagonal bay – housing the pastor.’s office – projecting from the southwest corner, both of which house vestibules providing access to Washington Street. Entrance to the front gallery is made by stairway from either vestibule, or directly into the side aisles of the auditorium. Between the vestibules and directly beneath the front gallery is the narthex, a wide passageway used as a reception hall and waiting room, and separated by a series of arches and two aisle openings from the main sanctuary. A narrative panel, entitled “Christ the Shepherd,” occupies the large central panel of the bay window of the narthex. Fabricated using a combination of handmade mouth-blown antique, machine- rolled cathedral and American opalescent glasses, this window is the church’s only traditional figurative design. (photo #3)

The sanctuary is a large auditorium-like space that is characterized by an openness typical of the Shingle style. This effect is achieved through the loftiness of the vaulted ceiling, and an exposed wooden truss system that forms an arch rising with the pitch of the gable. (photo #2) Cypress and hardwood are used for the finish of the interior. Arcades divide the auditorium into the nave and outer aisles. The woodwork in the sanctuary and throughout the building – including doors, paneling, casings, trim, and window sash, is darkly stained. The leaded stained glass windows are predominantly geometric design and appear to’ be original, with the exception of the aisle windows in the sanctuary. The walls are a textured plaster finish, painted blue. There are two double-candled electric sconces on each side wall, and six electric lights suspended from the ceiling braces, none of which appear to be original. Six ceiling fans hang in two rows, alternating with the light fixtures, in the ceiling trusswork. The original wooden pews are arranged in three rows; the central aisle of 14 pews squarely faces the altar, while the two side rows consist of 13 slightly-curved pews oriented towards the central pulpit. The carpet covering the wood floors in the aisles and on the altar is not original to the building. A lancet-arched reveal above the simple altar houses both the Hook & Hastings organ and organ pipes, constructed an installed in 1901. The curved paneled pulpit platform is backed by a high panel wainscoting that extends across the entire width of the nave, and forms the folding-door fronts of the sacristy and church office. Original paneling covers the lower portion of the walls; the remainder is of blue painted plaster. Two sacred paintings (Christ the Good Shepherd and Christ in the Garden) adorn either side of the arch. The choir loft remains, but with an added glazed enclosure. (photo #4) ,

The Lower Level

The Dakota Street entrance to the northeast lobby gives on to the vestry at the foundation level. A large lecture room with platform/stage (the original altar rail has been removed) occupies half of the vestry. Fixed walls have replaced the original multifold sliding doors that partitioned the three classrooms/offices on both the north and south elevations. Furnace rooms occupy the northwest and southeast corners of this level, and a modern kitchen and bathrooms line the western wall.

Upper Level: Gallery and Classroom

The staircase in the southwest lobby leads up to the gallery, a large open space above the narthex now used as classroom space. A large tracery-leaded stained glass window is situated in the exterior wall, mimicking the geometric designs and earth-toned color schemes evident in the sanctuary windows. Glazed doors rise to the gabled ceiling, separating the gallery from the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary. A doorway at the north end of the gallery gives way to classroom space in the corner square tower, above the northwest lobby.

Landscape. Two narrow strips of grass and shrubbery border the Washington Street (west) and Dakota Street (north) elevations. A concrete path leads from Washington Street to the short concrete stairway that gives access to the northwest lobby. A similar path extends from the street to a concrete ramp, constructed in 1999, at the entrance to the southwest lobby.

The Parsonage:

The adjoining parsonage was designed by John and William Kellar and constructed in 1900. The three-story parsonage, another interpretation of the Shingle style, faces west onto Washington Street. A concrete walkway extends 30′ easterly from Washington Street, traversing the front lawn, to the main entry of the parsonage. The simple, gable shape of the building is set off with an octagonal tower. A large porch, with solid railings and short, exaggerated entasis columns supporting its shallow-pitched roof, fronts the west elevation along Washington Street. Window casings, barge boards, and other trim resemble their counterparts on the north, east, and south faces of the church building. A nondescript garage of undetermined age (NC) sits behind the parsonage.


Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church in Dorchester is eligible for listing on the National register of Historic Places, meeting criteria A and C at the local level. Although the name and location have changed, the congregation has a longstanding Dorchester and Roxbury heritage dating to 1838.  In 1900, the members of the Mt. Bowdoin Methodist Episcopal Church joined with those of the Boston Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church to form the Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1913 the name Greenwood Memorial Church was officially adopted at the request of benefactor Charles Henry Greenwood, in memory of his mother Sarah Greenwood. Built between 1900 and 1901, the current structure represents the work of Boston architect Walter J. Paine and is a fine, somewhat restrained, and relatively unaltered example of Shingle-style ecclesiastical architecture. Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church retains integrity of location, design, siting, materials, feeling, association, and workmanship, and is of local significance, thereby fulfilling criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places.

The cornerstone of the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston was laid in the North End in 1795, nearly thirty years after the reorganization of the American Church that resulted in the new denomination. During the next 25 years the church enjoyed a period of relatively steady growth, erecting a second edifice on Bromfield Street in 1806 and organizing churches in neighboring towns, including the first Methodist church in Dorchester in 1817. Two periods of church colonizing ensued during the middle decades of the 19th century. The first, from 1834 to 1853, saw the creation of 14 new churches, including the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Roxbury and the Second Methodist Episcopal Church in Dorchester in 1839 and 1850, respectively. The years 1869 to 1878 marked a second colonizing period in which ten churches were organized, including Roxbury’s Highlands Church in 1869.

                Footnote: Daniel Dorchester, “The Methodist Episcopal Church: Its Origins, Growth, and Offshoots in Suffolk County, ” in Justin Winsor’s Memorial History of Boston (Boston: James                Osgood & Co., 1881), 438, 440-441.

Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church has its early roots in Roxbury, where Methqdism initially encountered much resistance. The first record of a successful movement to organize was a meeting held in the home of Varnum Ball, a Bromfield Street Church member, on April 24, 1838. The following month a sermon was preached in a former Baptist hall on Washington Street, near Dudley Street in Roxbury. In 1852 the society removed its place of worship to the corner of Warren and Cliff Streets, where

it has relocated to the wooden church purchased from the Dudley Square Baptist Society. In 1869, a group of eighty members withdrew from the First M.E. Church (which had relocated to Winthrop Street in the previous year, after a fire had destroyed the Warren Street structure).  At a meeting on June 25,1869, a board of trustees was appointed and the Boston Highland Methodist Episcopal Church was declared legally incorporated. under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

                Footnote: The church adopted the name of the district in which it was located, known as “Boston Highlands” following Boston’s annexation of Roxbury in 1868. Lawrence Perry, 13-14, 22.

The congregation purchased a lot on Warren Street, and. dedicated the main church builaing the following year. Over the course of the next two decades, the Boston Highlands congregation grew rapidly. “Praying bands'” were formed in 1871, conducting meetings in various locations, and by the following year the church had welcomed 234 members into its fellowship.

                Footnote: William Worth, “Historical. Sketch,” Greenwood Memorial Church records.

In 1896 during the pastorate of George H. Perkins, the Quarterly Conference decided that the First Methodist and Boston Highlands M.E.churches were located in such close proximity that their missions were somewhat redundant. After several years of discussion, the Boston Highlands M.E. Church determined to sell its Warren Street property, and joined with Mt. Bowdoin M.E. Church in 1898. The two groups, known as the Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church, continued to meet in separate structures until October 1898, after which joint services were held in Norfolk Hall at 328 Washington Street in Dorchester, where many of the Highlands Church members were living.

                Footnote: Norfolk Hall is no longer extant. Lawrence F. Perry, Greenwood Memorial Church,          Dorchester, Massachusetts: Its ancestry and Growth with the Neighborhood (Roxbury: The     Warren Press, 1936), 32; “Church is to be Dedicated,” The Dorchester Beacon, March 15, 1919, 1;             and Sanborn Maps, Boston, Massachusetts, v. 8 (1981), 875.

A small group from an independent “Grove Hall Church,” located on Washington Street at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue, joined with the new organization.

The relocation not only reflected the residential patterns of the church’s members, but also the demographic and physical transformation of Boston’s outlying neighborhoods. In his letter of September 21, 1898, to the members of the Highlands M.E. Church, Rev. Charles Tilton enjoined the congregation to look for a new property on which to erect an edifice for the joint churches and proposed that the “opportunity for growth and the future success of [the] church, in the vicinity of the junction of Washington, Harvard, and Bowdoin Streets, Dorchester.” Describing the move from Warren Street as “true self-sacrificing service” for the future and “interests of Methodism in Roxbury and Dorchester,” Tilton presented two potential areas. Tilton described the Grove Hall area of Roxbury as a “great railroad center,” a location “prominent and convenient to all lines of street cars,” but noted that the church’s opportunity for expansion was already circumscribed within an established community. Fifteen churches already serviced the Grove Hall neighborhood, a fact that Tilton observed would force the Highlands congregation to “enter upon a campaign of intense competition with other churches, and among a people whose church relations are already established, thus imperiling its success if it did not assume its ultimate failure.” By contrast, Dorchester’s Mount Bowdoin area, located at a “junction of important street car lines” and just a five-minute ride beyond Grove Hall, was “in the heart of a community of great natural attractiveness, adorned with many beautiful homes, and occupied by a fine class of residents, largely protestant [sic] and favorable to evangelical Christianity.” Tilton observed that real estate in this rapidly-growing community could be acquired for one- half the price of Grove Hall property, and that the single church in this area left the “field” open, and offered “the most flattering prospects of a magnificent future for Methodism.” In conclusion, Tilton predicted that the Highlands M.E. Church would be received by the residents of the Mt. Bowdoin area as a “much needed and welcome institution, benefiting their homes, increasing the value of their property, and commanding their respect and support.”

                Footnote: Charles Tilton, “Letter to Highlands M.E. Church,” September 21, 1898.

The congregation selected a lot just southeast of the central Mt. Bowdoin area, near Norfolk Hall in the “Five Corners” district of Dorchester; citing the “rapid growth of Dorchester homes beyond Grove Hall” and “due consideration being given to increasingly Catholic districts and land values.

                Footnote: Perry 33.

Within a 3/4-mile radius of the Warren Street edifice were 18 churches of various denominations, while only the Harvard Congregational Church was within a similar radius of Highlands M.E. Church’s new location. The group’s “considerations” represented significant trends in Boston’s cultural geography, as revealed in Tilton’s observation that the old located hugged the “”edge of the protestant [sic] population, from the city side, while the finest section from which to draw a Methodist congregation extends a mile or so beyond [the] new location.

            Footnote: Tilton.

Highlands M.E. Church’s decision reflected the increasingly economic, religious, and ethnic segregation of the city and its enduring physical and demographic transformation during the second half of the 19th century. In this dynamic transition from merchant city to industrial metropolis immigrant workers – mostly German Jews and Irish, German, and French-Canadian Catholics – occupied the mixed-use industrial core of the city, while middle-class residential neighborhoods gravitated toward peripheral settlements. The introduction of the street railway facilitated and accelerated this pattern, extending suburbanization along the rail corridor into the neighboring towns of Roxbury, West Roxbury, and Dorchester between 1870-1900.

            Footnote: Sam Bass Warner, Street Car Suburbs, the Process of Growth (1870-1900) (Cambridge:                 Harvard U.P., 1978), 1-42.

Dorchester had supported a high percentage of agricultural land use from the town’s establishment in 1630 until as late as the 1880s. As a result of Dorchester’s annexation in 1869 and the advent of improved public transportation, Dorchester was transformed from a rural district of village clusters with a population of 8,000 in 1850 to a middle- class suburb of residential enclaves with a population of 150,000 by 1900. Streetcars, initially horse-drawn in the 1870s and then electrified in the following decade, ran along a north-south route from Codman Square to the Mt. Bowdoin area, and then on into downtown Boston, producing a pattern of commercial strip development along major streets, providing goods and services within walking distance of most residential neighborhoods. As a result of these improvements, enclaves of large, stylish houses (realized in the Italianate, Queen Anne, Shingle, and Colonial Revival styles) were constructed on Ashmont Hill beginning in the 1870s, and later in other Dorchester neighborhoods. Later, a new building code stimulated construction of three-family houses known as the “three decker.”

The introduction of the electric trolley along Washington Street during the late 1880s spurred further development of residential enclaves, including Dorchester’s “Four Corners” area. In an article extolling “Dorchester’s Phenomenal Growth,” a local newspaper reported that the rate of construction in Ward 20 exceeded those of neighboring Wards 16 and 24 during 1898, and that the large number “substantial high cost dwellings” in this rapidly-growing residential community made Dorchester “a banner suburb.”

            Footnote: “Dorchester’s Phenomenal Growth,” September 1898 (?).

Development around the Four Corners intersection of Washington, Bowdoin, and Harvard Streets and Bowdoin Avenue illustrates this transition. An article entitled “Passing of An Old Landmark” relates the fate of the Edmund P. Tileston property, a six- acre estate purchased by the local mill owner around 1840. The mansion, surrounded by an ornamental iron fence and grounds that included an orchard, terraced gardens, artificial pond, stables, and a conservatory, “ranked among the finest in Dorchester, a town which forty years ago was as attractive a place of residence to wealthy Boston business men desirous of rest as Milton and Brookline are now.”

            Footnote: “Passing of An Old Landmark.”

The house remained vacant from Tileston’s death in 1872 until the 1890s, when a developer purchased the property along with the adjoining estate of Roswell Gleason, razed the mansion, and traversed its ornamental grounds with the newly-laid Greenbrier, Claybourne, Dakota, Bloomfield, and Tonawanda Streets. Commercial structures, including the Maspero Block and Norfolk Hall, were constructed along Washington Street, older buildings were torn down, and local farms, including that of Charles H. Greenwood, were given over to real estate development.

            Footnote: Ibid, 35, 57.

Constructed at the turn of the century, Highlands M.E. Church followed the residential construction boom in Dorchester’s streetcar-accessible neighborhoods.

In May 1900 ground was broken at the corner of Washington and Dakota Streets for a new building to house the newly-formed congregation.

            Footnote: Highlands M.E. Church’s purchase of this portion of the Tileston estate was recorded in                 the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, Book 253, page 201, on 12 December 1898.

The congregation engaged architect Walter J. Paine and contractor John A. Dodge. Little biographical data exists for Paine. The Boston City Directory identifies him as part of the firm of Lewis & Paine from 1891 to 1893, and independently from 1894 to 1903.

            Footnote: The Boston City Directory for 1895 lists Paine at 6 Beacon Street. Directories identify    G. Wilton Lewis as an independent architect between 1878 and 1890, and again between 1894 and      1916.

Projects realized during the firm’s brief existence. include several residential structures in the Back Bay’ and Roxbury, in Dorchester, as well as a design for the church and parsonage of the Centre Street Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain.

            Footnote: Designs produced by the firm of Lewis & Paine include: G.W. Brown residence on           Brent Street, Dorchester (ca. 1891); William Shaw residence on Har9,d. Street, Roxbury (ca.               1891); G.W. Gregory residence on Townsend Street, Roxbury (1892); Centre Street Baptist            Church, Jamaica Plain (ca. 1892, extant) and an associated parsonage at the comer of Centre and                 Myrtle Streets (erroneously dated to 1858); and the L.W. Merrill residence at 174 Commonwealth                 Avenue, Back Bay (1892).

Contemporary articles in the American Architect and Building News praise two of Paine’s early, independent ecclesiastical designs. The First Congregational Church in Brockton (1897) realized an elaborate Gothic design in stone. Paine’s more subdued design for the 1898 First Baptist Church in Randolph, completed for the more modest price of $18,000, created a Shingle-style structure that shared his design vocabulary with his later design for the Highlands M.E. Church.

            Footnote: Common design elements included the square tower, although centrally placed in the     Randplph structure, Weymouth granite foundations, and shingles facing the building’s wooden                 balance, and the large tracery leaded glass window in the main gable. “The First Church,    Brockton, Mass.,” American Architect and Building News, 18 December 1897, v. 58, p. 1147, p.     58; and “First Baptist Church,” Randolph, Mass., ibid, 14 May 1898, vol. 60, pI. 1168, p. 25.

In Dorchester Paine’s first set of plans for a more elaborate stone structure were discarded, and a more modest design prepared for Highlands M.E. Church that illustrated many characteristics of the Shingle style ecclesiastical architecture that prevailed at the time. Paine’s design of shingled surfaces, asymmetrical forms, and a stone lower story reflected the contemporaneous design vocabulary that informed the nearby Dorchester Temple Baptist Church in Codman Square and some of the stylish, substantial residences in the Five Corners area.

Excavation was completed by June, and the cornerstone laid on December 3, 1900. Opening service was held in the unfinished structure the following Easter, April 21, 1901 and the local pastors of the Dorchester Temple Baptist Church and the Second Congregational Church (Dorchester) participated.

            Footnote: “Opening of the Boston Highlands Church, Mt. Bowdoin,” Zion’s Herald, June 26,           1901.

John and William Kellar, members of the congregation and builders, designed and built the parsonage in November 1900.

            Footnote: The current structure cost approximately $27,000 upon completion in 1902, excluding the $10;5000 paid for the lot. Perry, 39.

A mortgage of $23,000 remained on the property in 1901, and a public appeal for the building fund was made in December of that year. The mortgage was reduced to $14,000 during the first five years of Rev. George A. Phinney’s pastorate (1902-08). Church records report that arsonists attempted to damage the building, placing oil-soaked rags in several parts of the vestry on December 28, 1906. Janitor Samuel W. Wotton discovered the plot before any serious damage was done. A more harmonious portrait of the church revealed it to be in a “flourishing business center” and “most rapidly growing section of residential development” whose population placed demands upon the pastor. Dr. Phinney’s pastoral work in the community – including funerals, weddings, and visits to nearby institutions – together with services conducted with the Harvard Congregational Church extended the influence of the church outside its congregation and, according to its own records, established “its reputation as a powerful force in the community.” Dr. Phinney also cultivated the friendship of Charles H. Greenwood, who bequeathed $15,000 to the church upon his death in 1913. On September 23, 1913, the church officially adopted the name Greenwood Memorial Methodist church in memory of the benefactor’s mother, Sarah Greenwood.

Early in the winter of 1913-14 the church roof was reshingled and single ceiling lights replaced the chandeliers in the vestry. In January 1917 a fire in the rear church chimney tower caused damage to the Guild room, auditorium, and roof. Later in that same year, upon declaration of war by the United States, the use of the church was offered for any needed purpose during the war and the Greenwood Red Cross unit organized in an early demonstration of the congregation’s commitment to the greater community

            Footnote: Ibid, 52, 59.

Extensive repairs were made on the church roof valleys, low side roofs, and tower in 1920. A modern electric bellows pump replaced the organ’s water power motor in 1923, and another rear chimney fire the following year necessitated repairs, including replacement of the chimney lining. Lightning struck the church tower in August 1925, tearing off shingles and splintering boards.

            Footnote: Ibid, 63-64, 68.

A 9,064 sq. ft., lot of land south of the parsonage was purchased for $4800 in 1920 (Suffolk Deeds 4228, p. 629). This site, 384-386 Washington Street, was formerly, occupied by the Edwin T. Booth house, a Dorchester landmark razed in 1916. While tentative sketches were made and estimates secured for the erection of a small one- story wooden structure for the social activities of the church, construction was postponed due to financial constraints. In May 1928 the land site was deeded by the church to the Community House Corporation and ground broken for the structure during the following month. The Community House, a 45′ x 100′ brick veneer structure, was dedicated in December 1928, and thereafter housed Sunday School classes, church, forums, and other social and recreational activities for more than two decades. Designed by Thorley Mutch, the two-story Colonial Revival fronted Washington Street; a triangular pediment surmounted the Doric columns of the entryway of an exterior ornamented with brick buttresses, stucco, finish, and an asphalt-shingled pitched roof. A strip of land 15′ x 16′ wide was deeded back to the church to accommodate the parsonage’s driveway and garage in 1928

            Footnote: Ibid, 113-16, and Suffolk Deeds, 8 October 1928, Book 5046, page 479.

Though a new Communion rail was dedicated in 1933, few improvements were made during the lean years of the Depression. During 1935 fund-raising efforts financed’ extensive repairs to the church edifice, including replacement of the roof with asphalt shingles, boarding in the old choir loft skylight, installing new electric lights above the choir loft arch, and refinishing the church parlor on the foundation level.

            Footnote: Ibid, 76-78.

After World War II enormous changes in patterns of urban development resulted from new highway construction and widespread automobile ownership, accelerating suburbanization trends that had begun in the 1920s. Rapid suburban expansion into

South Shore towns like Milton, Randolph, and others drained many of the upper and middle-income residents from the residential neighborhoods of Dorchester. As Dorchester became increasingly Irish-Catholic, many parishioners moved to the suburbs and the church’s attendance began to fall, a trend which continued into the early 1970s. In a 1947 report to the Fourth Quarterly Conference, Rev. Raymond A. Withey reported “great changes” in the congregation that reflected changes in the general Dorchester population. While 364 new members replaced the 109 who transferred out of the congregation during Withey’s pastorate, this quantitative portrait of the church intimated the state of demographic flux that characterized Dorchester, beginning in earnest in the post-war era.

During the second half of the 20th century the congregation witnessed changes to its composition, retaining some of its original members while embracing newcomers to the neighborhood. Annual deficits resulting from Community House activities, and the building’s mortgage induced Withey to enter into negotiations with Norman Ludlow of the Dorchester WMCA.  In the resulting agreements, the Greenwood Church Community House and the Dorchester WMCA/WYCA joined to form the Greenwood Youth Center as a local provider of recreational and educational youth programs. The building was razed sometime in the 1960s after substantial fire damage.

            Footnote: “Greenwood Memorial Church: Fiftieth Anniversary, 1900-1950” (unpublished               bulletin)

Around this time, Greenwood Memorial Church witnessed a similar pattern seen in other local churches, including the nearby Dorchester Temple Baptist Church: membership in the predominately white congregation began to dwindle as parishioners continued to move to the newer suburbs in the ensuing decades. By the 1970s the demographics of. the congregation began to reflect those of the surrounding neighborhood and of Dorchester at large. The rapid white exodus from Dorchester became a symbol of urban crisis as increasing racial and economic segregation coincided with the decline of the neighborhood’s infrastructure and municipal institutions, although this correlation between racial change and property deterioration did not accurately characterize these transitional communities.  In 1973 Rev. Theodore Lockhart observed that though the congregation was founded by white members, it had become “predominately black” during his tenure, changing as the “community surrounding it did.”

            Footnote: “Rev. Lockhart Views black Church as Poet and Minister,” Bay State Banner, May 3,    1973, 21.

Lockhart envisioned the church as an active member in the “greater black community,” a goal realized in Greenwood Memorial Church’s extensive contacts with neighborhood residents and groups. The church’s growing membership reflects the predominantly Afro-Caribbean population of the surrounding area. A number of programs – including the Four Corners Acton Coalition and a local food pantry – occupy office space in the building’s basement level, and the church participates in the “Victory Generation,” a cooperative after-school program under the stewardship of the Black Ministerial Alliance.

Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church is both a physical and spiritual anchor of the Four Corners area. Like that of other local churches, Greenwood Memorial’s present congregation is recognized for its level of ethnic diversity, and its demographics reflect those of Dorchester, with people from the United States, Africa, Latin America, the Philippines, and the Caribbean islands within the church’s membership. During the 102 years since the church’s founding, twenty pastors have served Greenwood Memorial Church.

            Rev. Charles Tilton (1898-1900), Rev. William H. Meredith (1900-02), Rev. George A. Phinney      (1902- 08), Revs. Charles E. Davis and Alfred A. Wright (1908-09), Rev. Marshall B. Lytle (1909-12), Rev. Charles E. Spaulding (1912-17), Rev. George H. Spencer (1917-19), Rev. Robert                      M. Pierce (1919-25), Rev. Everett L. Farnsworth (1925-37), Rev. Raymond A. Withey (1937-         51), Rev. Norman L. Porter (1951-56), Rev. Ronald W. Ober (1956-62), Rev. Joseph A.            Stevenson (1962-70), Rev. Theodore L. Lockhart (1970-74),Rev. Jerome K. DelPino (1974-76),               Rev. Beale R.G. Nauth (1976-80), Rev. Alford W. Alphonse (1980-84), Rev. Fitz A. John (1984-          96), and Rev. Marcelle Dotson (1996-  ).       

In the year 2000, during the pastorate of Rev. Marcelle Dotson, Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church celebrated its 100th anniversary of its church building and parsonage and the long history of the church and its Dorchester community. The church retains its architectural integrity and remains relatively unaltered from the time of construction. Moreover, as a pillar of the Four Corners community, Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church represents not only the life of an established congregation, but also the ethnic, racial, and economic transitions that have occurred in Dorchester and the vitality of the communities that live there.


Printed Sources

Barrows, Samuel J. “Dorchester in the Last Hundred Years,” in Justin Winsor’s Memorial History of Boston. Boston: James Osgood and Company, 1881.

Dorchester, Daniel. “The Methodist Episcopal Church: Its Origin, Growth, and Offshoots in Suffolk County,” in Justin Winsor’s Memorial History of Boston. Boston: James Osgood and Company, 1881.

Dorchester Tercentenary Committee. Dorchester Old and New, 1630-1930. Chapple Publishing Co. Ltd., 1930.

Gramm, Gerald.  Urban Exodus. Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1999.

Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester. Riverside Press, 1893.

Perry, Lawrence F. Greenwood Memorial Church, Dorchester, Massachusetts: Its Ancestry and Growth with the Neighborhood.  Roxbury: The Warren Press, 1936.

Sammarco, Anthony M.  Images of America: Dorchester (vols. 1-2). Dover, NH: Arcadia Press, 1995; 2000.

Scully, Vincent J., Jr. The Shingle Style and the Stick Style.  New Haven: Yale U.P., 1955.

Tucci, Douglass Shand. Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800-1950. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

________.   Church Building in Boston.  Concord: Rumford Press, 1974

________.  The Second Settlement, 1875-1925: A Study in the Development of Victorian Dorchester.  Boston: St. Margaret’s Hospital, 1974.

Warner, Sam Bass, Jr. Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston (1870-1900). Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1978.


“Church is to be Dedicated,” The Dorchester Beacon, March 15, 1919, 1.

“Dorchester’s Phenomenal Growth,” [The Dorchester Beacon?, n.d. Greenwood Memorial Church files.]

“First Baptist Church,” Randolph, Mass., American Architect and Building News, May 14, 1898, v. 60, pl. 1168, p. 55.

“The First Church, Brockton, Mass.,” American Architect and Bui/ding News, December 18, 1897, v. 58, pl. 1147, p. 58.

“Passing of an Old Landmark,” [TheDorchester Beacon?, n.d.: Greenwood Memorial Church files.] ,

“Reverend Lockhart Views Black Church as Poet and Minister,” Bay State Banner, May 3, 1973, 21.


“Greenwood Memorial Church: Fiftieth Anniversary, 1900-1950” (unpublished bulletin).

Miscellaneous clippings and unpublished articles in Greenwood Memorial U.M. Church files.

Sanborn Maps, Boston, Massachusetts (1981), v. 8, 875-75, 882-83.

Tilton, Charles. “Letter to Highlands M.E. Church,” September 21, 1898.


Verbal Boundary Description

Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church occupies parcel 2429 in Ward 17 of the . City of Boston; the parsonage occupies adjoining parcel 2442. The southern boundary of th~ church runs east from Washington Street along the side lot shared with the residential property at 394 Washington Street. The western boundary runs along the side lot line shared with number 27-43 Claybourne Street. The property’s northern lot line borders Dakota Street, and its western boundary runs along Washington Street.

Verbal Boundarv Justification

The boundaries as nominated encompass the current and historic boundaries of the Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church, including the church, grounds, garage, and parsonage.


Posted on

April 9, 2020