Grove Hall

[Note: this reproduction of the information in the Boston Landmarks Area Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]

For the purposes of this survey, the Grove Hall area is bounded as follows: Blue Hill Avenue on the north west between Glenway and Brunswick Streets, Washington Street on the east, and Erie Street, between Washington and Michigan Streets on the south. This area is bisected by Columbia Road.Architecturally, this area’s greatest strength is its collection of early 20th century apartment buildings bordering Blue Hill Avenue, Washington Street and Columbia Road. Despite the economic decline of the Grove Hall area over the past few decades, this area retains impressive resources to stage a comeback as a healthy urban community. Blue Hill Avenue, for example, still has the appearance of a dynamic, aesthetically pleasing urban thoroughfare with its views of the Blue Hills to the south, proximity to Franklin Park on the west and succession of architecturally- distinguished apartments, commercial blocks and ecclesiastical buildings. This area’s boundaries have been drawn to include Adath Jeshurun, the first synagogue of the Roxbury /Dorchester Jewish community. This synagogue’s tall, domed towers are a major, memorable landmark looking northeast from the Washington Street/Blue Hill Avenue intersection. Washington Street’s south- west side is bordered by a “wall” of masonry apartments, mostly in the Georgian Revival style. Washington Street’s northeast side, while lined with buildings of less consistent architectural merit, does include landmarks of considerable distinction, including the Rennaissance Revival brick and terra cotta trimmed Fire Station #24, Ladder #23, the Gothic Revival Grove Hall Universalist Church (1894) and the Art Deco Jeremiah Burke High School. Columbia Road is characterized by a variety of building types and architectural styles, ranging from a substantial Stick/Mansard

is 545-549 Blue Hill Avenue. This chastely rendered grouping of bow front Georgian /Classical Revival buildings called the Scollay Apartments exhibit continuous third floor sill courses and cast metal Classicized cornice which draws the eye to the church in the next block. The St John – St Hugh Parish Church at 543 Blue Hill Avenue is an imposing stone Gothic Revival church church whose main entrances are reached via stairs on either side of a high platform. The main facade features a four story corner tower which stands adjacent to a center gable segment, which, in turn is adjacent to a one bay wall segment. Its side walls are pierced by tall pointed arch windows and the main body of the church is enclosed by a broad gable roof. Rather odd in its appeal is the planar main facade of the Public Welfare Building at 515 Blue Hill Avenue. Here modernism contends with weak references to the Classical Revival in the entrance enframents of this 4-story structure with its high, rusticated stone basement and brick upper floors. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing building , in part because of the well balanced interplay of vertical, pier-like areas of brick work with cast stone apron panels beneath the single and double windows.This building was constructed in 1951 from plans provided by Thomas F. Mc Donough of 25 Huntington Avenue.497-505 Blue Hill Avenue is another architecturally distinguished bow front apartment block. Constructed of yellow brick , this group was built in 1898 from designs provided by architect Clark G. Tyler of 1-5 Court Square, Boston. Blending Georgian and Rennaissance Revival elements this group’s entrances are set within arched openings flanked by Corinthian pilasters. Just beyond these apartments the Grove Hall commercial district begins with a low, one story c.1920’s cast stone and brick structure at 489-493 Blue Hill Avenue which exhibits ornate, raised floral plaster detail at the center of its parapet. Crossing Cheney Street and still on the North side of Blue Hill Avenue is 483-487 Blue Hill Avenue. Essentially two separate and abutting buildings, these 4-story structures “read” as one large commercial/residential block even though up close these are clearly two separate building. By far, the most architecturally significant late 19th century commercial buildings in this area these buildings exhibit characteristics of the Queen Anne style. Both building’s facades’ are characterized by highly plastic surface treatments typical of this style with four 3-story metal oriels ranged across the main facades. None of the original store fronts are in tact. Further enlivening the facade are corbelled cornices. This building culminates in a flat roof with high parapet.

Continuing along the Roxbury side of Blue Hill Avenue are structures constituting a “mixed bag” in terms of quality design. The former bank building at 453 Blue Hill Avenue , now Beulah Pilgrim Holiness Church, is a solid, c.1920’s Classical Revival granite bank building with its main entrance set within an imposing enframement of engaged and fluted round and square stylized Corinthian columns (Classicism which more than nods to the Art Deco for inspiration). These “columns” support a heavy entablature. On either side of the entablature are ornamental Art Deco band s with incised (floral? fairly abstract) detail. Moving eastward along Blue Hill Avenue is 638 Warren Street, corner of Blue Hill Avenue, which is in poor condition and in need of immediate preservation action as it is vacant and partially open to the elements. Built in 1898 by builder A.J. Drisco for an M.W. Hall, this building ranks among the Boston area’s many fine examples of masonry commercial/business blocks with curved facades. Designed in the Georgian Revival style it stands with four story curved facade facing the Warren/Blue Hill intersection. Its windows are enlivened by prominent key and shoulder stones. Cast iron store front piers are still in evidence on the first floor.


Substantial Queen Anne /Colonial Revival residences of the turn -of- the -century to the Craftsman style St. Marks Episcopal Church at 73 Columbia Road through the World War I vintage apartments such as 90-94 Columbia Road. The Grove Hall area also takes in the side streets of the triangle formed by Blue Hill Avenue, Washington Street and Columbia Road; an area noteworthy for its Queen Anne/Shingle style 2-family housing at 350-358 Seaver Street Tudoresque and Classical Revival apartments at 6-14 and 9-21 Castlegate Street and Tapestry Brick 2-family houses at 36-48 and 37-55 Pasadena Road. This area also includes the “ladder streets” in the sub area bounded by Columbia Road , Erie Street, Washington Street and Michigan Street. These streets seem to have been developed primarily during the 1880s and 90s with some evidence of earlier, Greek Revival / Italianate housing at 10/12 Michigan Street, a Carpenter Gothic house at 16 Merrill Street and an Italianate double house at 418/420 Seaver Street (with noteworthy, heavy door hood with bold brackets). Aside from these early survivors of less systematic development of these “ladder streets”, this “sub area” excells within the realm of substantial, well detailed Queen Anne and Colonial Revival residences. Powellton Street possesses one of the finest streetscapes with pleasing porches displaying Colonial Revival treatments, Palladian windows and dormers capped by swansneck scroll and flaming finial ornamentation (including 2-28 Powellton and 3-27 Powellton. Other noteworthy Queen Anne /Colonial Revival residences include the trio numbered 40, 44 and 48 Hewins Street, and Wolcott Street with its predominantly Queen Anne housing stock.

Blue Hill Avenue and Washington Street are bordered by the most architecturally significant buildings..Situated across from Franklin Park, 612-624 Blue Hill Avenue , between Columbia Road and Ellington Street, is the former, Franklin Park Theatre, currently home to the New Fellowship Baptist Church and commercial concerns. This theatre’s design shares much in common with the Strand Theatre with its center entrance featuring a broad arch above the street – level entrance. Both theatres exhibit classicized, low -relief plaster details. The Franklin Park Theatre’s central segment exhibits a bracketed cornice which supports a low parapet from which columns rise at either end. While the Strand’s commercial wings follow the great bend in Columbia Road/Hancock Street, Franklin Park Theatre’s facade is entirely linear. Its 5-bay flanking wings feature storefronts separated by pilasters. Continuing northward and crossing Columbia Road, is one of the great “place maker” buildings in this area, on the Roxbury side of Blue Hill Avenue. 575 Blue Hill Avenue exerts considerable authority over the important intersection of Blue Hill Avenue, Seaver Street and Columbia Road via its distinctive form which fans out in a series of bow and flat fronts culminating in a deep Georgian Revival cornice with modillion blocks. Its facades exhibit high rock faced and rusticated stone basements, entrance porches with Ionic column -supported pediments. Monumental Ionic pilasters add power and grace to the exterior at strategic intervals.

The fabric and design of the masonry buildings bordering Blue Hill Avenue’s Roxbury (north) side are very intact and visually memorable as far as Warren Street. Building after building speaks to the fact that Blue Hill Avenue is a once and future great urban thoroughfare. Architecturally much of Blue Hill Avenue is characterized by apartments whose swell fronts constitute a rhythmic repetition of bowed masonry walls. Around the intersection of Washington Street and Blue Hill Avenue are several architecturally significant late 19th century masonry commercial blocks. This area’s boundaries have been drawn to include the former Congregation Adath Jeshurun at 397 Blue Hill Avenue, which is a major focal point looking eastward from the Blue Hill Avenue/Washington Street intersection (continued).

Parts of its interior appear to be fire-destroyed. With its well-proportioned curved facade and unaltered storefronts it is too much of a local landmark to lose. The Grove Hall boundary line has been drawn to include one of this area’s great architectural treasures, the synogogue at #397 Blue Hill Avenue known as Adath Jeshurun at 397 Blue Hill Avenue. Currently housing the First Hatian Baptist Church of Boston, Adath Jeshurun ‘s design is reputed to represent Jacob Krokyn’s Harvard School of Architecture student project. Jacob’s father, Davis Krokyn was a local real estate agent and a founder of Adath Jeshurun. Architecturally, this synagogue’s design blends Romanesque Revival design with a Middle Eastern sensibility manifested in the domes of the monumental twin towers of the main facade. These towers flank a broad end wall gable which exhibits an entrance loggia . The loggia is surmounted by a great arched window. In general, this building is constructed of red brick with yellow brick trimmings. Particularly noteworthy is the arched corbelling that appears beneath the eaves of the side walls and towers.

The south side of Blue Hill Avenue between Columbia Road and Washington Street, like the north side, is characterized primarily by masonry apartments built during the 1910s. One noteworthy exception to this rule, is the Mansard commercial/residential block at 470-476 Blue Hill Avenue. This rectangular, four story, 4-bay x 3-bay brick building is enclosed by a straight sided mansard roof. Its first floor storefronts are boarded-over. Its second and third floors exhibit two-story polygonal bays which visually are carried through the roof line as tripartite dormers. These oriels flank pairs of windows with pedimented lintels containing incised Eastlakian detail. This buildings’ facades culminate in deep projecting Italianate cornices with closely spaced wooden brackets. The mansard retains its patterned slate shingles.

More typically, the south side of Blue Hill Avenue is lined with three- and four- story apartment buildings whose great expanses of bowed, polygonal and flat facades form a compelling, near- continuous brick and stone trimmed wall; a wall interrupted by streets and a large vacant lot at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Seaver Street. A representative example of this type of apartment housing is the Tudoresque 484-490 Blue Hill Avenue. This four story masonry apartment building features polygonal bay-accented facades which continue around the corner to4 – 14 Castlegate Road. In terms of design influences, this building’s entrance enframements nod to the Italian Rennaissance and Tudor styles . Entrances are set deep within Tudoresque arches ; heraldic shields serve as key stones. Supporting the entrance arch are engaged columns with Composite capitals. Ornamentation is confined to the entrance bays, elsewhere, windows exhibit simple bar sills and lintels. Some of the windows on the first floor exhibit Tudoresque drip lintels.

Rounding the opposite corner from Blue Hill Avenue to Castlegate Road is the apartment complex at 496-500 Blue Hill Avenue and 9/15;15/17; 19/21 and 23/25 Castlegate Road. Here, walls undulate with three story bow fronts. Its red brick walls are enlivened by belt,sill and lintel courses of rock faced granite and entrances are reached via low stoops ; front doors are set within broad, keystone granite arches. Particularly noteworthy are its molded metal cornices which exhibit dentils and modillion blocks (continue).

Washington Street, one of Dorchester’s oldest, most historically and architecturally significant thoroughfares,begins at Blue Hill Avenue. The west side of Washington Street, between Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road , like much of Blue Hill Avenue, is characterized by great expanses of masonry apartment walls. Many of these buildings are the same vintage (1910s and 20s) and bare similarities of massing and ornamentation to the apartments of Park Drive in the Fenway section of Boston. The best place to experience the full sweep of this remarkable “wall” of white cast stone trimmed red and tan brick work is looking northwest from Columbia Road.

The four identical Georgian Revival apartments at 15;19; 23 and 27 Washington Street add interest to the streetscape via the rhythmic repetition of bow and flat fronts. Built in 1909, these 6-family apartments were built for Morris Rudnick by F.A. Norcross. Each building exhibits 3.5 story bowed components at either end of the main facade. These bows flank a flat entrance bay with deeply recessed entrances surmounted by heavy and plain entablatures. The first floors of these buildings exhibit rusticated brick work. Corners are accented by unusually narrow quoins. These buildings culminate in well-molded cast metal cornices with dentil and console bracket courses. 35 Washington Street was built in 1925 for the Castlegate Realty Corporation from designs provided by Saul E. Moffie. This building’s tan brick facade sweeps around a broad, curved corner wall to Normandy Street. Here, surface planarity is essentially uninterrupted by any ornamental excressences. This buildings standard size and triple windows exhibit keystone and shoulder stones which are flush with the brick work. The Georgian Revival stylistic qualities of this building are most evident in the entrance enframements which consist of a broken pediment with center urn motif. 53 Washington Street was built in 1916 from designs provided by A.J. Carpenter Jr. for Frederick J. Rockwell. Constructed of red brick with white cast stone trimmings, this three story, six family apartment building’s exterior ornamentation speaks to Renaissance and Tudor influences. 59 and 63 Washington Street were built as three story,14-family apartments in 1925-26. Each structure cost $ 40,000 to build and the original owner was the L.S.E.T. Company (??) of 20 Seaver Street Roxbury. The architectural firm responsible for these Renaissance/Georgian Revival buildings was Winebaum and Wexler. These yellow brick apartments exhibit main facades surface ornamentation limited to string courses containing ocean wave-like detail and well molded cast metal cornices. 67 and 69 Washington Street are yellow brick Classical Revival apartments built in 1925 from designs provided by architect W.L. Minor of 60 Pemberton Square, Boston, for Myers S. Corowsky. Here, main entrances are set within graceful arches which exhibit shield ornamentation at the spandrels as well as well molded enframements and entablatures. Other key components in this dramatic expanse of masonry apartment facades are 95 and 103 Washington Street. Built in 1925, these 12-family apartments were designed by Silverman , Brown and Heiman of 51 Cornhill, Boston for a J. Kinsky. Here, highly symmetrical Classsical Revival/ Georgian Revival elevations feature entrances set off by heavy cast stone Tuscan columns which support substantial entablatures.The Park Drive-like apartment streetscape is continued around the northwest corner of Washington Street and Columbia Road with handsome Georgian Revival apartment buildings at 90; 94; 102; 104 and 108 Columbia Road. 90 Columbia Road (and possibly the other buildings in this group ) was built in 1925 for Greene and Shapiro of 90 Columbia Road from designs provided by Saul E. Moffie. The estimated cost of construction for #90 was $40,000.00. Judging by the building permits for other 12-14 family apartments in the area this seems to have been a pretty standard expenditure. These Columbia Road apartments constitute an unusually handsome grouping of three story yellow brick apartments. Here, entrances are, for the most part, situated on either side of 6-bay projecting segments and are flanked by fluted Tuscan columns which support broken scroll pediments with center urn motifs in high relief. In general, window lintels are of the Georgian and Federal style splayed key stone variety.

The one exception to this apartment building rule is the one story cast stone-fronted commercial block at 3-11 Washington Street which was built in 1914 by the Cornhill, Boston-based architect F.A. Norcross for Abraham Isaacs. Modified pilasters are interspersed between six store fronts. Its parapet exhibits raised plaster (?) shields, bell flower and other floral details.

While the great strength of the west side of Washington Street is its unbroken stretch of masonry apartment facades, the east side’s interest lies primarily in individual , non-contiguous buildings of considerable architectural and / or historical merit. Unlike the west side, the east side of Washington Street suffers from gaps in the streetscape (such as extensive parking lot of a fast food concession’s at Washington Street and Columbia Road),Its building stock represents a more diverse collection of architectural styles. Situated in the heart of the Grove Hall Washington/Blue Hill intersection is Muhammed’s Mosque No. 11 at 10 Washington Street. Evidently built as a Georgian Revival bank building during the 1950s, this structure’s design and materials are compatible with older structures around this historic crossroads . Constructed of red brick with white stone trimmings, 10 Washington Street is a one story, rectangular structure which is enclosed by a flat roof. At the center of its 5-bay main facade is an entrance enframed by Doric pilasters , entablature and pediment. Its windows are flanked by wooden shutters and are surmounted by solid louvered fans. Above these fans are ornamental stone plaques. This building’s edges are accented by quoins. The Prince Hall Masonic Lodge at 24 Washington Street is a rectangular one story brick glass and concrete structure whose architectural distinction lies in its design’s ability to unmistakenly place this building’s construction date in the late 1960’s. Its main facade is divided into five bays divided by narrow concrete piers. The lower half of these bays is faced with textured concrete blocks while its upper half is covered with opaque and colored glass that constitute a mosaic-like effect. The “60’s modern look” is completed by a concrete arch above each bay which suggests wave like motion. This building is not old enough for landmark status but is very representative of the public architecture of its period. The Prince Hall Masonic Lodge was initially founded during the late 18th century and was the first Afro American Masonic organization in the United States. The fire house called Engine 24, Ladder 23 at 36 Washington Street is one of the great architectural treasures of the Grove Hall area. Built in 1898 and first occupied by Combination Ladder 6, this Renaissance Revival municipal building was designed by Perkins and Belton. Essentially rectangular in plan , this brick and terra cotta trimmed building rises three stories to a low hip roof covered with red terra cotta tiles. Its narrow 2-bay end wall faces the street . Judging by later brick work, the square headed garage bays originally culminated in arches that echoed the shape of the second floor windows. Above the garage doors are a pair of arched windows with raised and arched terra cotta lintel mouldings. On the third floor are pairs of small square window which exhibit continuous terra cotta sill courses. A curious feature of the first story’s side walls are the Gothic Revival pointed arch windows and lintel moldings on a building that otherwise looks to the Italian Renaissance as a design source. Situated between the fire house and Jeremiah Burke High School is a long rectangular 1920’s commercial block at 40-46 Washington Street. Containing six store fronts, this well-preserved commercial block’s main facade is faced with cast stone and its side and rear walls are constructed of brick . Particularly noteworthy is its low parapet which is punctuated by six pediments containing heraldic shield-like motifs in high relief.

The Jeremiah E. Burke High School at 60 Washington Street ranks among the great Art Deco buildings in a city that has relatively few examples of this important 1920s – 40s architectural style. This high school is constructed of red brick with gray cast stone trimmings. It is an imposing institutional building completed in 1934 from designs provided by George E. Robinson. T-shaped in form, its main facade is divided into three segments: a three story, 5-bay entrance pavilion flanked by three story 5-bay wings. Access to this building is gained via a broad flight of stone and concrete steps. The center pavilion is dominated by six monumental, fluted Art Deco piers interspersed between tall windows overlaid with ornamental bronze (?) tracery. These cast stone piers culminate in stepped capitals and impart a typically Art Deco streamlined sensibility to an otherwise very utilitarian institutional building. Rising behind the tops of these piers is a parapet with a cast stone band bearing incised Art Deco lettering which reads “Jeremiah E. Burke High School”. The side wings of this school exhibit closely spaced, tall and narrow windows which are interspersed between brick piers. Monumental cast stone piers are utilized again on the projecting center entrance pavillions of the side walls and consist of three rather than six cast stone piers.

Completing the east side of Washington Street’s collection of architecturally noteworthy non residential buildings is the Grove Hall Universalist Church at 64 Washington and Wilder streets. Built in 1894 from designs provided by Francis R. Allen in association with W.H. Bralvard, it is an important example of the Gothic Revival style in Boston.It is also significant as an early work of Frances R. Allen who would later be a partner in the nationally important Boston architectural firm of Allen and Collins. The Grove Hall Universalist church, presently called the Holy Tabernacle Church, looks to the English Country Gothic for inspiration. It is constructed of Roxbury puddingstone and wood with medieval half timbering surface treatments. Judging by a period drawing of the church shown in Douglas Shand Tucci’s The Gothic Churches of Dorchester, This church has been either reduced from about half of its original size or its long rectangular hip roofed nave was never built.This church stands with narrow gable end wall facing Washington Street. At the center of this gable is a clerestory which is surmounted by another, taller gable. At the center of this steeply pitched gable roof is a small octagonal platform with oculus windows which supports a pyramidal steeple and copper weather vane.The main, Wilder Street entrance is set within a broad gable with wide, splayed bare boards which shelter half timbering. Like all the wooden surfaces on this building this gable is painted white whereas the architects’ original intention was to have contrasting dark hued barge boards with white, possibly stucco covered walls.The north and south walls of this church are divided into four bays by wooden buttresses.Interspersed between these buttresses are pairs of windows set high on the walls and originally exhibited diamond shaped window panes.Tucci describes the Grove Hall Universalist Church as “an early marker of the charm and reticence which characterized Allen’s work”.

The Grove Hall area also includes two residential sections containing single -and two-family houses, including the rectangular area bounded by Columbia Road, Michigan, Erie and Washington Streets and the triangular section bounded by Columbia Road, Blue Hill Avenue and Washington Street

Michigan Street deserves further study for buildings than rank among the earliest in the area. Particularly noteworthy is the broad gable front Greek Revival /Italianate double house at 10/12 Michigan Street dating to the 1850s. Its broad facade gable features polygonal bays on either side of the main entrance. Situated above the center entry is a polygonal oriel. This house rises 2.5 stories from a high brick basement to a roof with brackets and gable returns.


81 Columbia Road is a rare surviving example of a pre-1890, single family residence. It is composed of a main block and perpendicular wing with a mansard roofed towered component at the center of the main block. Its walls exhibit an overlay of stick work , including saw-tooth fringe beneath the cornice of the tower. This property retains its Victorian era semi circular drive way. This house represents a miraculous survivor, somehow managing to escape the wrecker’s ball for the construction of the ubiquitous Columbia Road apartment block.

In terms of streetscapes, Hewins and Powellton streets are lined with Queen Anne/Colonial Revival hip roofed, facade gable residences. 44 Hewins Street is noteworthy for a swans neck scroll pedimented dormer. Hewins Street was developed in 1902-1903 by architect Frances G. Powell and developer C. A. Powell. The land of the houses bordering these streets cost $6,500.00

The second residential section of the Grove Hall area, on the north side of Columbia Road mostly post dates-1900. The quartet of houses at 350 to 358 Seaver Street are noteworthy for their felicitous blend of the Shingle and Queen Anne styles. Essentially rectangular in form and rising to a height of 2.5 stories, these houses are enclosed by distinctive gambrel roofs with retardataire Stick Style bracing across the upper slopes of the gambrel. Built in 1906, the architect and original owner of these 2-family dwellings was W. H. Newcombe.

Pasadena Road first appears as a proposed street called Pinckney Street on the 1894 Atlas. Judging by 8/10 Pasadena Road’s building permit, these houses were constructed in 1903 by Frances G. Powell, the architect of houses on Hewins Street . 5 to 28 and 7 to 31 Pasadena Road are substantial facade gable houses with high granite block basements, Tuscan columned porches, bowed fronts and projecting gables.

Supple Street is lined with the most recent addition of residences to this section. Built in 1926 by Phillip Glazer, from designs provided by architect S. S. Levy , 41 to 60 and 41 to 61 Supple Street are two-family Tapestrry Brick houses with fan lit Colonial Revival entrances, attractive patterns of blackened and red bricks and Mediterranean red tile roofs.

Historical Narrative

The name “Grove Hall” refers to a long lost Federal period country estate which stood atop an elevated knoll near the intersection of Washington Street and Blue Hill Avenue. Washington Street is a thoroughfare that has existed since the 17th century. Blue Hill Avenue was set out in 1804 as a toll road called the Brush Hill Turnpike. The mansion known as “Grove Hall” was built c.1810 for Boston merchant prince T.K. Hall, it was a large residence of sophisticated architectural design. It may have been inspired by 18th- century English country houses that were in turn inspired by the northern Italian villas of the Palladio. Ranged across Grove Hall’s main facade were Ionic pilasters. The center entrance was surmounted by an elliptical fanlight and opened on to a broad flight of stairs. Rising above the center of the main facade’s roof line was a pedimented bay containing a lunette window. In a sense this mansion house may have set a precedent for architectural urbanity that would evolve in the form of well- designed apartment and commercial blocks during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Looking further back for a moment, much of the Grove Hall area was owned by Massachusetts Governor Increase Sumner during the second half of the 18th century. In 1799, the Sumner estate passed to his son William Hyslop Sumner who was among other things: a Harvard graduate, adjutant general of Massachusetts, developer and historian of East Boston during the 1830s and 40s and of Sumner Hill , Jamaica Plain during the 1850s, art collector, and nationally prominent horticulturist who was a founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society. It was Sumner’s interest in horticulture that lured Marshall P. Wilder to the Grove Hall area. Wilder, an avid horticulturist, owned this estate by at least the late 1830s. Wilder’s house stood near the north-west corner of Washington St. and Columbia Road

By 1874, two long and narrow hot houses were located behind the Wilder house. Wilder’s property encompassed much of what is now the area bordered by Washington St, Columbia Road (then Columbia Street) and Normandy Street. Wilder commenced to utilize the former Sumner estate as experimental grounds for the hybridization of fruit. During the fifty years that Wilder owned this estate, he produced more than 1200 varieties of fruits. It is said that on one occasion he exhibited 404 varieties of the pear. At one point, the Massachusetts Agricultural Club wanted to buy the rights to the Clapp Favorite Pear and rename it in honor of Mr. Wilder but the Clapp family refused the club’s offer of $1,000.00. At least by that time, the club had already named a strawberry in honor of this important Grove Hall resident and, indeed, it was called the” President Wilder Strawberry.” Mr. Wilder also cultivated camelias in the hot houses on his grounds. Some of his better known camelias were the “Camellis Wilderi”, the “Mrs Abby Wilder”, “Mrs. Julia Wilder” and the “Jennie Wilder”.

In 1850, the Grove Hall area was sparsely built -up with only six houses in the area including “Grove Hall”, the M.P. Wilder house, as well as houses labeled “Mrs. Wales (east side of Washington, north of Columbia), an A. Copenhagen (northeast corner of Washington and Columbia) as well as C. Hood and J.H. Bowman (south side of Columbia between Washington and the present Michigan Street). Neither Erie Street nor any of the side streets between Erie and Columbia existed in 1850.

By the mid 19th century, the old T.K. Jones estate, “Grove Hall” had fallen on hard times. No longer owned by the Jones family, it became a public house “resorted to by parties from Boston” who enjoyed sleigh rides in the area in winter and picnics in the summer. By the time of the Civil War, the mansion had been remodeled for use by the Cullis Consumptive Home for patients suffering from tubercular disease. “Grove Hall” was transformed into an Italianate/Mansard institutional building complete with porte cochere, towered center pavilion, new third floor, extensive rear wing and a mansard roof. The Cullis Consumptive Home was accessible to downtown Boston via the Highland Railway Cars-a kind of early trolley. Patients were greeted at the front door of the Home by a painted sign which read “Have Faith in God”.

The development of Grove Hall as a residential and commercial district increased after Dorchester was annexed to Boston in 1870, and the former estates of the Wilder, Seaver and Atherton families were subdivided into streets and house lots. By 1874, the “ladder streets” between Columbia Road and Erie Street were more or less set out with the noteworthy exception of the area between Merrill and Washington Streets which was divided into two large tracts owned by Samuel Atherton and Anne B. Crane. By 1884, these tracts had been carved up into lots bordering Glenarm Street and Powellton Road. The street names in the section south of Columbia Street have changed significantly since 1874. Michigan Avenue is still called Michigan Avenue but Wolcott, Hewins and Seaver Street were called Rosalinda, Oakland and New Seaver Street, respectively. On the north side of Columbia Road in 1874, this area was still divided up into relatively large tracts owned by the Wilder, Don and other families.

The oldest housing in the area borders the “ladder streets” with interesting examples of the Italianate styles scattered here and there throughout the area. 10/12 Michigan Avenue is a Greek Revival/Italianate double house with broad and bracketed end wall gable facing the street. It is one of the oldest dwellings in the area, appearing to date to c.1855-60. 28/30 Michigan Avenue is a double Italianate house with paired and deep saw cut bracketed door hoods. #16 Merrill Street is another survivor from the mid -19th century. It stands with narrow end wall gable facing the street. This house rises 2.5 stories from a Roxbury pudding stone basement to a gable roof. This gable is ornamented with lacy gingerbread and the apex of the gable exhibits remnants of what may have been a king post. Wolcott Street, one block to the east is characterized by later development

While the section of the Grove Hall area south of Columbia Road was gradually being developed with single- and two-family houses during the last half of the 19th- century, the section north of Columbia Road retained the appearance of rural estates until as late as the World War I . The introduction of the electric trolley to this area during the 1890s and the construction of the Columbia Road Parkway in 1897 served to accelerate the development of the Grove Hall . This parkway connected Franklin Park and the Dorchester Bay waterfront: the first, the largest park in New England, the second, a yachting center of importance. The park median strip and lawn borders of Columbia Road disappeared during the 1950s, but at the turn-of-the-centuy, this landscaped parkway served as an enticing introduction to inner city residence in search of the suburban residential ideal presented by the Grove Hall area.

Boston’s Jewish community played a major role in shaping this area from 1900 until the late 1960’s. From the early 1900’s until the mid 1920s, the suburban center of Boston Jewery was in Dorchester and Upper Roxbury. As early as the late 1890s mostly Eastern European Jews from Boston’s North End began to settle in areas bordering Blue Hill Avenue. One measure of the Jewish community’s early growth in this area was the ability of only 140 families to raise the money necessary to fund the construction of the enormous Adath Jeshurun Synagogue at 397 Blue Hill Avenue, corner of Brunswick Street in the Grove Hall section. Indeed, the construction of this synagogue was an event of enormous importance for this area and like the first churches built in the Back Bay during the 1860s would serve as an enticement for Jews to set up housekeeping in the new apartments of Washington Street and Blue Hill Avenue.All of the founders of Adath Jeshurun were in the real estate business, including, Davis Krokyn, Nathan Pinanski, Joseph Rudnik, and Myer Dana. Adath Jeshurun’s building campaign was launched in 1904. Davis Krokyn served as the contractor and hired builder/ Frederick A. Norcross to work from designs reputed to have been supplied by Krokyn’s son Jacob, then a student at the Harvard School of Architecture. The building campaign was launched in 1904 and the new synagogue was dedicated in 1906.

Representative examples of apartments built between the late 1890s and 1920 include (listed chronologically by construction date) : the 3-family Renaissance Revival building at 495 Blue Hill Avenue built in 1898 from designs provided by Clarke G. Tyler for Fritz, Hurwitz and Brennan; the Georgian Revival commercial /residential building at 638 Blue Hill Avenu built by A.J. Drisco in 1898, the Renaissance Revival 6-family apartment at 15;19;23 and 27 Washington Street built in 1902 for Morris Rudnick from designs by Fred A. Norcross; the 6-family Georgian Revival building at 547 Blue Hill Avenue built in 1911 by C. A. and F. N. Russell, architects; 484; 488 and 490 Blue Hill Avenue built in 1912 by architect Frederick A. Norcross; and 6-10 Castlegate Road, dating to 1913 and designed by the Silverman Engineering Co. for Abraham Isaacs, to list just a few of the buildings in this first wave of apartment construction.

By the mid- 1920s, the stable middle class Jewish population of Grove Hall and other areas along Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square to Dudley street began to move farther out into the suburbs. This affluent group was followed by working class and lower middle class Jews who were attracted to the second wave of apartments being built along Washington Street, Blue Hill Avenue as well as some of the multi -family housing on side streets. By the late 1920s / early 1930s 77,000 Jews lived in the Dorchester/Mattapan area–roughly half of the entire Jewish population living in the greater Boston area. During the 1920s, the trend in construction along this area’s major thoroughfares was toward apartments with more units and wider street frontage; a trend which served to “wall off’ sections of one-and two-family houses and in the process creating a more urban structural density. Large apartments dating from the 1920’s include 59/63 Washington Street, built in 1925 for 14 families. The Boston architectural firm of Winebaum and Wexler provided the designs.

67/69 Washington Street also date to 1925 and were designed in the Classical Revival style by W.L. Minor for Myers S. Corowsky. Representing the work of Silverman, Brown and Hieman, the 12-family 95/103 and 111 Washington Street was built during the mid-1920s.

By 1950, the Jewish population had declined to 70,000 and numbered less than 1,000 by the end of the 1960s as the population became increasingly composed of Afro Americans, Haitians and other Caribbean island


Posted on

June 13, 2022

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