Dorchester Illustration no. 2187
The Brooke Mattapan Charter School now uses the building at 150-165 American Legion Highway, formerly the Home for Destitute Jewish Children.
Excerpt from National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Home for Destitute Jewish Children building.
Although the established German Jewish community was successful in helping to establish the new Eastern European and Russian Jews in Boston, there was a need for additional care for the second wave of Jewish immigrants. To meet this need, Russian-born lawyer and politician Samuel Borofsky founded Boston’s second Jewish orphanage in 1897, known as the Home for Destitute Jewish Children. The first was the Leopold Morse Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews and Orphans, which began operations in Mattapan ca. 1890 and catered primarily to German Jewish orphans. Borofsky’s Ladies Helping Hand Society opened the Home for Destitute Jewish Children at the corner of Beech Glen Street and Fort Avenue in Roxbury, across the street from the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies. It was home to 65 boys and girls, most of whom were half-orphans whose parents were paid low weekly fees and brought their children home when they remarried or their poor economic situation improved.
By 1908, the Helping Hand’s Home for Destitute Jewish Children had outgrown its quarters. For the purposes of raising funds to build a new orphanage, the Hebrew Ladies Helping Hand Society and the Ladies Auxiliary formed a new organization, named The Ladies Helping Hand Auxiliary of the Home for Jewish Children. The Auxiliary successfully raised the $100,000 needed to construct and fully furnish the building upon completion. The Auxiliary raised the funds through private donations and by holding dances, concerts, and fairs. At the time of the opening, the group was only $30,000 short of its goal.
Deemed the Home for Destitute Jewish Children, the building was designed by architect John A. Hasty. Hasty first opened a practice in Cambridge, MA, moving to Milk Street in Boston in 1904, and later to offices at 46 Cornhill Street in Boston.
Hasty designed numerous private residences, commercial buildings, and industrial complexes, many of which are listed in the State and National Registers. These include the Eagle Bowling Alley (1902) in Roxbury, located within the Dudley Station Historic District (NR 1985); Temple Ohabei Shalom Cemetery Chapel in East Boston (1903, NR 2008); 20 Elmwood Avenue (1892), located within the
Old Cambridge Historic District (NR 1983); three buildings within the Central Square Historic District in
Cambridge (NR 1990); and 153 Naples Road (1908) in Brookline, located within the Graffam-McKay Local Historic District (LHD 2004). He also designed the Temple Beth El located on Fowler Street in Dorchester, in 1911. It was the first synagogue built in the neighborhood, a Neo Classical-style building with a domed roof, and the only wooden temple constructed in Boston. It was sold by the congregation in 1967, and was demolished in 1998. Hasty’s multistory apartment and commercial buildings were designed in a variety of revival styles popular at the turn of the century, and the Home is consistent with the character of his other works. Hasty was likely awarded the commission for the Home due to his ongoing association with the Jewish community.
Designed in the Classical Revival style, the building is typical of many late 19th- and early 20th-century
institutional buildings in Boston. Stemming from the Beaux-Arts tradition, which celebrated the composition and symmetry of Greek and Roman architecture, the Classical Revival style in the United States was often selected by architects for its more refined and restrained expression. While many Classical Revival-style buildings were constructed of cast stone, Hasty selected brick as the primary cladding, likely for its local availability and warmer tones more appropriate to a residential building. Classical Revival-style character defining features of the building include the symmetrical facade, monumental central entrance, and cast-stone quoins, sills, lintels, and pediment.
The new building opened in 1911 with great fanfare (see Figure 1, 1913 photograph). Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald addressed the large audience at the opening ceremony, along with Rabbi Harry Levi of Temple Israel, who stated his desire for Jewish children to be sent to the Home over public institutions to allow Jewish beliefs and traditions to be carried on by the children. At its opening, the Home provided shelter to scores of children under the age of 16. By 1912, the then underpopulated Morse Home merged with the Home for Destitute Jewish Children, thereby turning over its assets, claims to FJC funds, and ties to the affluent German Jewish community to the Home for Destitute Jewish Children. It was noted by the Jewish Advocate in 1919 that many of the Home’s children came from different classes, resulting in a wide variety of habits, propensities, and lifestyles. The Home was run much like a boarding school of the day, including rules and regulations. The new orphanage provided housing to roughly 200 boys and girls annually, aged 6 to 18.
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