Savin Hill Flats

Savin Hill Flats

AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated April, 1995 and recorded by Edward W. Gordon.

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

Architectural Description

Savin Hill Flats, for the purposes of this survey, is bounded by the MBTA Red Line tracks to the east, Bay Street to the South, Dorchester Avenue to the west and Romsey Street to the north (see attached map for more narrowly defined boundaries). This area’s historic resources are widely dispersed throughout the area, with little in the way of concentrations of architecturally significant structures. This area’s buildings are overwhelmingly residential with a small node of commercial structures bordering Savin Hill Avenue. The oldest building in the area is believed to be 71 South Sydney Street, a Gothic Revival cottage that was moved to this site between 1884 and 1894 from an undetermined location. Moving west to east, Savin Hill Flat’s streets are characterized by the following housing forms and styles: the side streets off Dorchester Avenue, including St. William and Hallam are bordered by three deckers. St. William Street’s three deckers (#’s 3 to 19) are noteworthy for their rhythmic repetition of monumental fluted Doric columns which provide a visually effective backdrop for the modern St. Williams Roman Catholic church on the north side of the street.

A similarly rendered group of three deckers are located on both sides of Hallam Street (#’s 6 to 18 and 5 to 17), one block to the south. Elton Street is bordered by Queen Anne houses of irregular fomr with porches exhibiting well turned elements. The north-south streets in this area are characterized as follows: #’s 6 to 32 Auckland Street are primarily 2.5 story Queen Anne 2-family houses which stand with broad end wall gables and 2-story porches facing the street. #10 Auckland Street is the best preserved of the group and the only one with a corner tower. Continuing eastward, Sagamore Street offers upright and wing, 2.5 story, gable-end-to-street, Italianate housing at 17 and 25 Sagamore Street. On the east side of Saxton Street, 39,41 and 43 represent a rare (for the area) group of 2-family bow front red brick row houses. More characteristic of Saxton Street is the expanse of Queen Anne 2-family houses numbered 15 to 37 with their one- story porches and projecting street-facing gables. Tuttle Street and South Sydney Street are characterized primarily by one and two family Queen Anne houses, which rise to a height of 2.5 stories, possess irregular forms and feature combinations of clapboards and wood shingle sheathing. Tuttle and South Sydney Street’s houses aspire to a slightly higher quality of craftsmanship and design than is found elsewhere in the neighborhood. Exhibiting irregular forms and well rendered shingle patterns, good examples of this type of housing are located 34, 36, 69, 73/75, 86 Tuttle Street and 50-94 South Sydney Street.


The northern boundary of this district includes sections of east-west streets: Belfort and Romsey Streets and all of Hartland Street and has been drawn to include houses that represent various manifestations of the Queen Anne style, including a well preserved Stick /Queen Anne three decker at 32 Belfort Street, 3-story Queen Anne house with gable and attic Palladian window at 66 Romsey Street and a substantial three family Queen Anne with a broad, round tower and conical roof cap at 100 South Sydney Street.

A small segment of Savin Hill Avenue has been included in the district to include noteworthy non residential structures, including St. William’s Parochial School at 100 Savin Hill Avenue, a restrained, tan brick and cast stone trimmed example of the Georgian Revival style and a Queen Anne commercial/residential block at 2 /4 / 6 / 8/ 10 Saxton Street noteworthy for its curved wall, metal Classical revival storefront, terra cotta panels and rope mouldings as well as a well rendered corbelled cornice. At the northeast corner of Saxton and Savin Hill Avenue is another noteworthy Queen Anne masonry structure (84/86 Saxton Street) with abutting, double bow front apartments called the Leeds Building.

South of Savin Hill Avenue, Midland Street (11 to 31 and 4 to 34 ) represents a development of L and T-shaped, wood frame, side hall plan, cottage- scale, single -family, Italianate/Mansard houses with well preserved examples at 27 and 10 Midland Street. Situated at 4 / 6 Midland Street is a large, double, U-shaped Italianate / Mansard house which is constructed of wood and provides a fine introduction to the mansards of Midland Street.

The only industrial structure in the area is the former Boston Insulated Wire and Cable Company building at 65 Bay Street. Presently abandoned, this 2.5 story brick and concrete structure dates from ca. 1910-1918.

Historical Narrative

Historically, the area called Savin Hill Flats was considered part of Savin Hill. Savin Hill’s original boundaries stretched eastward from Dorchester Avenue to Dorchester Bay and extended northward from Bay Street to Sudan Street. The Southeast Expressway of the late 1940s / early 50s served to cut the hill section of Savin Hill off from the “flats” and now Savin Hill has become more of a real estate term for the area east of the Southeast Expressway. Savin Hill Avenue which runs east-west through Savin Hill Flats represents a segment of the oldest road in Dorchester, dating back to the 1630s. It ran from the meeting house, on the corner of Cottage, Pleasant and Pond Streets, along Pleasant Street and ultimately along Savin Hill Avenue to Rock Hill or Old Hill, later Savin Hill. Prominent early settlers in the Savin Hill Flats area included Richard Baker who built on the Tuttle House site, later the site of the present St. Williams School. The completion of Dorchester Avenue, a Federal Period Turnpike, in 1804 opened the way for not only Norfolk County farmers to have a more direct route to Boston produce markets but also to Bostonians seeking relief from the summer heat on Dorchester’s picturesque shores and hill tops. In 1822 Joseph Tuttle purchased the old Wiswall House and remodeled it as an early “sea side hotel” on the site of St. William’s School, 100 Savin Hill Avenue). Tuttle was a successful merchant who lived on Pemberton Square in Boston. His enlarged Wiswall house became a seaside resort known as the Tuttle House, famous for its chicken dinners and winter sleighing parties. The Tuttle House was on the stagecoach line from Boston to Neponset, a pleasant ride of three miles at 12.5 cents each way. Over time Tuttle added stables, cottages, bowling saloons and an ice house in an effort to cater to his guests. A survivor from the Tuttle House period may be 71 Sydney Street, a Carpenter gothic cottage that seems to have been moved to its present lot at some point in the late 19th century. By 1844, the introduction of the Old Colony Railroad through this area made the Tuttle House even more accessible to guests and Tuttle, perhaps deeming the name “Old Hill” not enticing enough, renamed the area Savin Hill after the numerous columnar red cedars that covered the nearby hill.

During the mid 19th century, much of the Savin Hill Flats area that wasn’t owned by Joseph Tuttle was owned by the Leeds and Worthington families. Saxton Street was set out around the turn of the century through the Leeds estate which was just to the west of the Tuttle estate and encompassed some 108,900 square feet. The Leeds name lives on in the Leeds Building apartments, a bowed, red brick structure at 5 Saxon Street. The northern portion of this area was subdivided into blocks by 1874 and owned by the Worthington family. The Wiswall-Worthington House once stood near the center of the block bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Elton Street, Auckland Street and Belfort Street. Auckland, Romsey, northern Sydney Street and Belfort Street were all part of the Worthington Associates parcels.

Midland Street represents an early area of residential development, its mansard houses built during the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. It is listed in the Norfolk County Plan Index as early as 1857. The developer of this street may have been D.H. Mc Kay, lumber dealer whose son (?) Earnest A. McKay, carpenter is listed as boarding on Midland Street in 1874. D.H. McKay owned houses at 9, 11, 27 Midland Street. #4/6 Midland Street originally faced Savin Hill Avenue and was moved back and turned to face Midland Street between 1910-1918, in order to accommodate a commercial building.

During the 1890s and early 1900s, the once ample grounds of the Tuttle House resort were reduced in size by the subdivision of its land into lots for well crafted Queen Anne houses. 73, 75 and 81 Tuttle Street provide physical evidence of the quality of these properties. Anna L. Worcester lived at #73 from the 1890s until at least 1920 while Gary F. Davis owned #81 until a police officer named F.S. Duffin purchased this house c.1915.

During the early 1900s, industry came to the southern edge of Savin Hill Flats in the form of the masonry Boston Insulated Wire and Cable Company at 65-69 Bay Street. The south side of this company’s 122,000 square foot lot bordered the flats of Dorchester Bay while the Old Colony Railroad ran along the eastern edge of this industrial complex. Perhaps the introduction of industry to this area during the early 20th century, along with the more widespread use of the automobile signaled an end to the Tuttle House as an exclusive summer resort. The Tuttle House was sold in 1924, subsequently razed and its lot was developed with buildings associated with St. Williams Roman Catholic School at 100 Savin Hill A venue.

Bibliography and/or References

Boston and Dorchester Maps/Atlases – 1794, 1830, 1850, 1874, 1884, 1894, 1898, 1910, 1918, 1933

Boston Directories: 1870-1945

Dorchester Community News, 5/28/1992, “History: Savin Hill’s Tuttle House” by A.M. Sammarco.

Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester (1893)

Tercentenary Committee, “Dorchester Old and New, 1630-1930.

Various authors. The Dorchester Book Illustrated, 1899.



Posted on

November 21, 2023

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