The first road from Boston to Plymouth traveled through Dorchester along the route of what is now Adams Street. In 1654, a more direct route through Dorchester was created that became known as the Upper Road. Adams Street, being at a lower elevation, became known as the Lower Road. The Upper Road was later named Washington Street.
The Upper Road was laid out to provide a shorter route to the bridge over the Neponset River at what is today’s Lower Mills in Dorchester. The original route left today’s Dudley Square along Eustis and Dudley Streets in Roxbury into Dorchester, passing through Upham’s Corner and Field’s Corner, then continuing along Adams Street following the path of least resistance by avoiding the hills of Roxbury and Dorchester. The new road also began in Dudley Square but followed a route along higher ground along what is today Warren Street in Roxbury to what is today Blue Hill Avenue and continued along what is now Washington Street through Dorchester until the bridge at Lower Mills was reached. In the seventeenth century, Blue Hill avenue did not exist.
The following is from The Turnpikes of New England. By Frederic J. Wood. (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919), 147.
The “Upper Road ” to Quincy followed practically the present lines of Warren and Washington streets through Roxbury and Dorchester to Milton Lower Mills, and thence over Adams Street through East Milton.
The following is from “The Upper Road in Dorchester.” By Lawrence Berry. The Dorchester Beacon, December 3, 1938.
The story of the homes that were built near to this roadway, the noted people who once resided along its path, and the various activities occurring in the vicinity. Is more than this article could attempt to properly relate A few names and incidents will be mentioned for the interested investigator to further delve into old records, or the old timer to reminisce about.
During the last half of the eighteenth century Stephen Kent’s Tavern occupied the site of John Goddard’s homestead of the early seventeen hundreds, on the old Samuel Payson estate. The ancient tavern gave way to Thomas Kilby Jones’ “Grove Hall” mansion In 1800, which was enlarged in 183 and operated as the–Grove Hall Hotel,” until remodeled in 1862-1864 for the “CuIlis Consumptives Home.” To avoid possibly spread of disease germ, the buildings were purposely “fired” about 1900. Samuel Richards ran an old tavern in the late seventeen and early eighteen hundreds at the south west corner of Washington Street and the lane now School Street. William Wilcox kept a tavern opposite the Second Church around 1800. We are told that before and after church services he sold rum to his fellow parishioners. I gather from his epitaph that he closed the bar to attend church. thus combining business and religion in a very practical manner.
On the east side of the road near Fuller Street was found Lemuel Robinson’s or the “Liberty Tree Tavern” famous in Revolutionary War times. The Walter Baker Administration Building occupies the site of Minot Thayer’s old tavern, later Milton or Village Hotel. On Milton Hill across the bridge was the “Riming Sun Tavern.”
Returning again to Grove Hall we would have found the fine old estate of Marshall P. Wilder, the famed horticulturist and agricultural expert. The old house was built on the west side of the street near Columbia Road on the Morgan Farm. Before the Revolutionary War, it was erected by Increase Sumner, father of the later Governor Increase Sumner. Wilder,
during his life, and then his daughters occupied the house until replaced by the present brick apartment block. On the other corners were the estates of Atherton, Morse, Copenhagan-Adams. The Jeremiah Burke School is now on some of the Wales property.
Mount Bowdoin gets its name from the summer home location of the Hon.
James Bowdoin. At the ‘Four Corners” and just beyond were the estates of Capen, Fuller-Tileston, Booth and Tucker. At School Street Was the Ball-Hughes house, still standing around onthat street. and the Blackman place. Roswell Gleason 1182) had his Brittaniaware and Silver Plate ‘1849i works opposite. This famed manufacturer’s home was further along near Park Street.
Continuing on were: the Oliver-Penniman-Walter Baker mansion. Thomas Tremlett. Thomas Melville Vinson; across to the ancient Barnard Capen house. Blake. and E. J. Baker places. The Clapp estates were on Washington and Center Streets. Rev Dr Means’ home was and the “Second Church” is now on that early property. Beyond the Square. Tolman., and Withington: and the Daniel Webster-Henry Kncx-Welles mansion was torn down to erect the Henry L. Pierce School.
The Dolbeare house still stands opposite Armandine Street, about two hundred years old. Then came John Mears who lived in the old Robinson Tavern, and the Nichols’ property upon which sits the Woodrow Wilson School. Opposite was the Rev Dr. John Codman mansion on “Spurr’s.” –Linden.” or Cadman Hill. Down overthe hill Into the village the name. Nightingale. Ruggles. Webb, Cain, Sanford, Davenport, Dr Richmond. Henry L. Pierce. Tileston. Tolman. Bisham. Thayer. Leeds. Dunmore etc. etc. were all those of noted people.
The “Upper Road” saw Dorchester’s First Post Office, established in 1826 near School Street; The Brittania-ware Works already mentioned, 1822; the Dorchester Academy, 1831-1832 at Lyndhurst Street; the Second Church, 1805-1806: the Town Hall 1817- 1870-1902, on the Library site since 1904. The Codman Square Theatre stands where the old coach and horse car barns were in the 1860’s.
Opposite Armandine Street on the vacant lot was the large “Dorchester Station” of the electric car lines about 1895 to 1920.
In old Richmond Hall, opposite the Lower Mills Library, Abraham Lincoln spoke to the citizens of Dorchester on September 16, 1848.
Well, this story like the road could continue on but the traffic light says, Stop!
The following is from the Dorchester Town Records
Upper Road Washington Street
7: month 1654 [i.e., October]
Wee whose names are here underscribed And being appynted by our several Townes and being mett this first day of the 7: mo 1654: to Lay out the High Waye through Dorchester woods from Brauntre Bounds to Roxbury bounds: do agree as followeth:
“first that the Waye shall be fowre Rodd Wide from Brantre bounds to Roxbury bounds: secondly beginning neere Hinrye Crane’s house the Way to Lye on the Sowthest side of it in the old Beaten roede way: and so to a Lowe White oake marked on the same side of the waye and so by the marked trees to the Brooke: so from the Brooke the way being Lade in the Winter we agreed to take about a roode wide into Anthony Golliford’s lott wheare the fence Interrupts the waye: and so to a marked post to wards John Gill’s howse: and from thence to an other marked post against John Gills howse: from thence to a stake in Elder Kingslys yearde and from thence to the mille in the olde beaten roede waye: and from the mille to tow greet rockes one the Lower side of the waye att Robert Spures and Henry Merifelds howses end: and from thence to the new feild by the marked trees in the olde roede waye: and so through the new feld wheare the waye formerly was and from thence by the marked trees one the Left hand to Roxbury bounds:”
of Dorchester Nicholase Clape William Blake
of Brantree Moses Paine Gregory Bellcher