Saint Mark / Mather Street

Saint Mark / Mather Street

[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 focal point of this relatively small area is St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church. The boundaries of this area have been drawn to include architecturally significant residential structures on the north and south sides of the church complex. This area is bounded by Dorchester Avenue on the east, Roseland Street as far west as Santuit Street on the south, the back lot lines of St. Marks (Samoset Street) and on the north by Mather Street.The focal point of the area , as well as the most highly visible landmark is the Gothic St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church (1915). Also situated on the St.Mark’s property is a Georgian Revival rectory (#20 Roseland Street), as well as a Georgian Revival convent and Gothic Revival St. Mark’s Roman Catholic School. These buildings are surrounded by play areas and parking lots as well as landscaped grounds along Dorchester Avenue. To the south of the church complex, bordering the south side of Roseland Street are well-crafted Queen Anne / Colonial Revival 3-deckers at 15 to 31 Roseland Street. Ranged along Cheverus Road, on the north side of St. Mark’s is a group of eight 2-family houses (#’s 5 to 37 Cheverus Road) which constitute a streetscape made memorable by the rhythmic repetition of boxy, wood shingle clad, gable fronted forms. This area also encompasses Centre Avenue (not to be confused with Centre Street, which curves north eastward at the western end of Centre Avenue).Centre Avenue offers a very diverse collection of housing, ranging from Italianate /Mansard residences in various states of preservation. (The T-shaped Italianate Mansard at 17 Centre Avenue retains its clapboards and bell cast mansard roof). #’s 3 and 15 Centre Avenue blendStick work elements with Queen Anne form.Particularly noteworthy is the well crafted Queen Anne with Stick Style barge board treatments at #15 Centre Avenue.  The three bay main facade exhibits a small, open front porch with curvilinear bracing and square posts and a two story polygonal bay with scalloped shingles protects from the left bay . This building is enclosed by a broad gable roof with attic walls covered by scalloped shingles. Additionally. Small saw cut brackets appear beneath the eaves. Centre Street, forming the norther edge of the district, is noteworthy for the large, brick Italianate/Mansard institutional building at 252 Centre Street. Formerly the Industrial School for Girls, this brick structure is composed of a main block and west ell. Projecting from the center of it three bay main facade is a small, enclosed entry with mansardic roof. This distinctive straight sided mansard roof profile is echoed in the roofs of the main block and side ell. Miraculously, given the New Engird climate, most of the slate shingles are intact. The main block’s massive mansard is surmounted by a mansard reefed cupola. Narrow, fully enframed double windows with angled and bracketed wooden lintels pierce the walls o: the three bay main facade, otherwise, sinde, narrower than standard sized windows are the rule. This house is situated at the center of a relatively ample, 75.000 square foot lot. Also noteworthy along Centre Street are Queen Anne 3-deckers with robust, well crafted porches at #’s 227, 229 and 233 Centre Avenue.

Returning to St Mark’s Roman Catholic Church complex it should be noted that the parish commissioned Charles Brigham of Brigham, Coveney and Bisbee to design the church. Built in 1914,this building’s interior was described by Douglas Shand Tucci in The Gothic Churches of Dorchester as “austere and lovely and very derivative of All Saints’ ( Ashrnont ).” Brigham , Coveney and Bisbee were the architects of the enormous, domed Christian Science Church in the Back Bay. This complex also encompasses a Georgian Revival rectory as well as a convent and school.

Mather Street, the northern-most street in this area deserves further study a thoroughfare that began as a country lane leading to a few farm houses by 1850. The historic resources of this street, including a Greek Revival front gabled house and several stylish and substantial Italianate/Mansard houses were discovered late in the survey process. This thoroughfare’s residences between numbers 8 and44 and 19 and 47 Mather Street deserve closer inspection.

Historical Narrative

This area’s boundary lines have been drawn to spotlight the Industrial School for Girls on Centre Street and St. Marks Roman Catholic Church complex on Dorchester Avenue between Cheverus Road and Roseland Street.The housing in this area might have otherwise been included almost as an after-thought to provide a context for the church and school but as it turns out encompasses some architecturally significant late 19th /early 20th century housing, particularly within the realm of three deckers. Dorchester Avenue, the eastern boundary for this small area was set out as a toll road as early as 1804. Centre Street was part of an east-west system of roads that was in place by 1830, stretching from Mattapan Square to Commercial Point via Norfolk, Centre and Mill Streets. The oldest building in this area, interestingly is an institution rather than a residence. The Industrial School for Girls at 252 Centre Street was founded in 1843 and evidently occupied the present substantial brick Italianate/Mansard residence from the 1850’s until at least the 1930’s. The school was built for “girls ten to fifteen years old who] are received here, and trained in good conduct and habits of self-support. Parents or guardians must put them under the entire control of the managers for a fixed time. On leaving the school for service, the girls are generally placed in country families, where they may still be controlled to a certain extent by the managers.” The girls typically came from “broken” families affected by death,desertion, drink or crime. The Industrial School staff was charged with sending the girls to public schools, training them in home economics with a special emphasis on sewing.The school’s goal was to “turn out…competent and attractive women”. When the school was founded the Centre Street section near Dorchester Avenue had only a handful of farm houses in the area owned by Nixons, Gorhams,Hildreths and Withingtons.The Industrial School for Girls is believed to be the oldest extant charitable institution in Dorchester. Its still ample grounds provide a remarkable glimpse into a world of the Victorian era’s less fortunate in an area that at the time of the school’s founding was far removed from the densely settled sections of the town.

In between the founding of the Industrial School for Girls during the 1850’s and the construction of the St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church complex at the time of World War I, the area immediately around these institutions followed familiar pattern of large farms being sub-divided over time into ever smaller house lots until by 1900, this area was densely built-up.

Somewhat confusingly, this area contains a Centre Street and a Centre Avenue. The former is the old road that runs east from Codman Square, jogging northward as it nears Dorchester Avenue. The latter dates to c.1870-73 and at only a single block in length is hardly an avenue at all, running between Centre Street and Dorchester Avenue. Centre Street may have started out as a driveway running westward from Dorchester Avenue to the Italianate residence of Henry M. Snell at 12 Centre Avenue. He was a merchant, whose company was located on Devonshire Street in Boston. In the 1869 Taxable Valuation for the Town of Dorchester, Mr. Snell’s then very new home is valuated at $4,500.00 and is listed as being on “lot #3” near Centre Avenue. It is evidently the oldest house in this area. By 1894, Elmer E. House, dentist owned this property. His heirs owned it up until c.1920. By 1933, a G. Zuffaute owned this house which by that time sat on a lot that had been reduced from 11,539 square feet in 1918 to 5,813 square feet by 1933. Another early house in this area is the Elizabeth Field house, a substantial T-shaped Italianate / Mansard at 17 Centre Avenue, corner of Centre Street. She is listed as a widow in the 1874 Boston Directory_ For a time during the 1880’s and 90’s, the heirs of Nathan Carruth owned this house. Nathan Carruth was the first president of the Old Colony Railroad and owned extensive real estate holdings, particularly in the Ashmont section of Dorchester. Later owners included Bailys (1900’s) Austins (1910’s) and Mongets (1930’s). At the opposite end of the block bounded by Centre Avenue and Street and Dorchester Avenue, an Ira Marbury, plumber owned a sizeable lot with a Queen Anne House built by 1884 and a stable which stood near the middle of this block. The Marbury house is now #1675 Dorchester Avenue. A second structure, evidently a house on the Marbury property,was standing at 233 Centre Street by 1884. 233 Centre Street was transformed into a triple decker by 1894. It was owned by an F.M. Bantwell in 1894 and became part of a trio of triple deckers by 1910. By 1933, the diverse mix of people in the area is underlined by the names of this trio’s residents: William Ramsden at 227, J. O’Neil at 229 and Samuel Barowitz at 233 Centre Street.

Centre Avenue was almost completely built up by 1894 with a c. late 1880’s Stick/Queenn Anne house at 3 Centre Street built for Edward W. Upham, salesman, 18 India Wharf and no doubt a member of the old Dorchester family for whom Uphams Corner was named. By the early 1930’s the Yankee Uphams had sold this house to Irish policeman Daniel P. Duggan. As early as c.1890, a policeman from Station #11, Leroy W. Dinsmore built the Queen Anne house at 15 Centre Avenue.

5/7 to 35/37 Cheverus Road represents a late addition to this area dating to the 1920’s and provides more evidence of the growing density of certain sections of Dorchester during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Built on the former farm land of Withingtons and Sargents (mid-late 19th century), these 2-family houses had an overwhelmingly Irish ownership by 1933. As early as 1918, the future path of Cheverus Road is indicated or_ the atlas of that year by broken “proposed” street lines. Undoubtedly attracted by the proximity of St. Mark’s to their residences, these homeowners included Wards, Leahys,Walls (C.J. Wall, clerk, 104 Kingston Street, 17 Cheverus Road), Corbetts, Kellys, Rileys (Harold V. Kelly, controller, 259 Washington Street, 27 Cheverus Road), Sullivans and Cosgroves (Margaret L. Cosgrove, teacher, Eliot School, 37 Cheverus Road).

Further research is needed regarding Mather Street which appears on the 1850 map as cul-de-sac leading to the farm houses of W. Holmes, J. Foster and R. M. Weymouth

Turning to the evolution of the St. Marks Roman Catholic Church complex at 1740 Dorchester Avenue Rectory at 20 Roseland Street) it should be noted that by 1874, the future site of the church complex consisted of the Joseph Sargent house lot and a vacant triangular parcel to the south owned by the heirs of Edward Foster. Roseland Street would not be set out until 1900-1910. By 1894, William A. Fitzpatrick, John Driscoll and Harriet Withington owned this site. John Driscoll’s house is shown as located next to the future entrance to Cheverus Road. Between 1900 and 1910 a wooden predecessor church was built near the corner of Roseland and Dorchester Avenue and the brick rectory at 20 Cheverus Road is extant. By 1910, St. Mark’s property encompassed 35,000 square feet. St. Mark’s Church was built in 1914 by the architects of the great domed Christian Science Church in the Back Bay: Brigham, Coveney and Bisbee, with Charles Brigham the principle architect of this design. This firm was responsible for St. Paul’s Natick which was built in 1919. During the 1920’s, the church complex embraced three contiguous lots containing 74,560 square feet (church and convent), 4,000 square feet (rectory) and 55,154 square feet


Posted on

June 18, 2022

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