March 19, 2017 Program: The New Bostonians

New Bostonians book cover for website

Program: Sunday, March 19, 2017 2 pm

The William Clapp House, 195 Boston Street, Dorchester, MA 02125

Professor Marilynn S. Johnson from the Department of History at Boston College will speak about her work on urban social relations in late nineteenth-and twentieth-century America. She teaches courses on social movements, urban and working-class history, violence, and the American West. Her earlier work looked at internal migration during World War II, police brutality, and violence on the mining and cattle frontiers.  Her latest book, The New Bostonians, explores the history of new immigrants in greater Boston since the 1960s. She is now launching a digital history project and website on Boston area immigration.

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Dorchester Illustration no. 2288 Bookkeeping Class 1892

2288 Class I Bookkeeping

Dorchester Illustration no. 2288           Bookkeeping Class

Bookkeeping class at the H. L. Pierce Grammar School, 1892.

The Pierce School was located where the Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library is located today at the corner of Washington Street and Welles Avenue.The School was named for Henry Lillie Pierce (1825-1896), owner of the Walter Baker & Company chocolate manufacturers at Lower Mills. He served as mayor of Boston in 1872 and 1877 and served as a member of the US House of Representatives.

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Dorchester Illustration 2287 Soldiers Monument

2287 Soldier's Monument

Dorchester Illustration no. 2287           Soldiers Monument

The following is from Monuments, Tablets and Other Memorials Erected in Massachusetts to Commemorate the Services of Her Sons n the War of the Rebellion, 1816-1865. Collected and Arranged by Alfred S. Roe. (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Company, 1910).

Dorchester (City of Boston). — Before this historic section became a part of Greater Boston, its monument for the Civil War was projected and built. It stands in the space in front of the church on Meeting House Hill, is constructed of red sandstone, 31 feet high, obelisk in shape, and is 8 feet square at the base.  It is a very attractive memorial and is highly creditable to the genius of B.F. Dwight, who was the designer.  The names of those who fell in the cause are graven on the surface of the stone.  It was dedicated Sept. 17, 1867 the very day the National Cemetery at Antietam was also dedicated.  The oration of the day was delivered by the Rev. Charles A. Humphreys, then of Springfield, himself a veteran of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry; an ode, written by William T. Adams (Oliver Optic), was sung by the children.  The cost of the monument, $5,301, was met through the diligence of the Pickwick Club, which started the subscription with a promise of $500 and then circulated the paper until the necessary funds were raised.  The First Methodist Church of Dorchester has an interesting tablet to the memory of members, 51 in number, who enlisted.  Of Tennessee marble, 6 by 5 feet in size, designed by Comrade E. W. Fowler of Milton, and surrounded by an emblematic fresco, the three columns of names are surmounted with the words, “Not for conquest but for country.”  The memorial was unveiled March 24, 1895, with significant exercises, which included addresses by the Department Commander, J.W. Thayer, Rev. Dr. Arthur Little, the Rev. G.A. Phinney, pastor of the church, Secretary of the Commonwealth William M. Olin and Comrade Alexander Hobbs. Benjamin Stone, Jr. Post 8 has long met within its own walls, having erected at 91 Park Street, a commodious edifice and dedicated it to the uses of the Grand Army.  Post room, banquet room, all that veterans need for comfort and utility, are fond here.  The total valuation is $7,500.

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Dorchester Illustration no. 2286 St Williams Church

2286 St Williams Church postcard

Dorchester Illustration no. 2286           St. Williams Church

St. William’s became its own Parish in 1909, when it was set off from St. Peter’s; it consisted of territory south of St. Margaret’s nearly to Glover’s Corner, and included the Savin Hill district. The Reverend James J. Baxter was the first pastor and was succeeded by James McCarthy. Baxter bought the Worthington estate at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Belfort Street, and adapted the old mansion as a rectory.  Edward Sheehan, a Dorchester resident, designed the first church building at 1048 Dorchester Avenue in the Spanish Mission.

The building was burned in September 1980 and was replaced with a church of modern design. On August 31, 2004, St. William’s joined St.Margaret’s to come the Blessed Mother Teresa parish, occupying the St. Margaret’s building at 800 Columbia Road.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized on Sunday, September 4, 2016, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta parish in Dorchester changed its name to St. Teresa of Calcutta Church.

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Dorchester Illustration 2285 Adams Corner 1927

2285 Adams Corner 1927

Dorchester Illustration no. 2285    Adams Corner

In the late 1920s photographs were taken do document site conditions in preparation for the Southern Artery project. The project included the construction of Gallivan Boulevard from Neponset to Morton Street plus improvements along Morton Street as far as Blue Hill Avenue.  Both the Dorchester Historical Society and Historic New England own portions of this series of photographs. Just this week DHS has acquired the two photos shown as today’s illustration.  Both photos are dated November 15, 1927.

The top photo shows Adams Corner long before McDonald’s came to the corner at the right. The Ashmont Motor Co. occupies the corner on the left where Windy City Pizza is located today.

The lower photo is a 10 foot offset from the photo above. We can see the building where Gerard’s news shop and restaurant operated for many years. To the left of Ashmont Motor Co., there is a battery service store, a hardware store, a lunch shop, and bowling.


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Dorchester Illustration 2284 Peabody Square Tunnel

2284 Opening of Peabody Square bridge

Dorchester Illustration no. 2284    Peabody Square subway tunnel

Boston City Archives has put a huge number of pictures online. You can view them by going to  Enter City of Boston Archives in the search box, and you will see a number of collections with many photos in each.

Today’s photograph comes from the City Archives: Northerly View of Opening of Peabody Square Bridge, Sept. 24, 1927. The photographer would have been standing in the middle of Peabody Square.  Talbot Avenue is on the left with street cars. At the far left, the building where the bike shop is located today was an auto garage with billboard on top.  At the very right, you can see a small piece of Dorchester Avenue. The building we can between the tunnel and Dorchester Avenue was a market with billboard on top.  The Archives allows downloading their images a various size.  By downloading at full size, I can see that the billboard company is Donnelly Advertising.  The billboard advertises Two Completely New Lines of Motor Cars. Fours. Sixes.  Internet searching shows that this was probably from a local Buick dealership.  In front of the market, there appears to be a small steam engine being used in the work on the tunnel.

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Dorchester Illustration 2283 South Bay


Dorchester Illustration no. 2283    South Bay

The South Bay was a noted feature of the landscape bordering Dorchester, Roxbury and Boston. The Washington Village (Andrew) section of Dorchester was annexed to the city in 1855, following Dorchester Neck (the main part of South Boston), which was taken from Dorchester and annexed to Boston in 1805.

Today’s illustration is a bird’s-eye view published in Harper’s Weekly, July 8, 1871, showing South Boston and Columbia Point with the South Bay farther west. The railroad train on the tracks in the South Bay is about where the Newmarket station is today on the Fairmount Railroad line behind the Stop & Shop in the South Bay shopping plaza.

The map is not meant to be exact in detail, but it does provide an impression of the area. It shows the commercial activity in South Boston and some of the wharves on the South Bay.  The stream that runs into the South Bay at the left appears to be Dorchester Brook, the dividing line between Dorchester and Roxbury.  The church at the upper left is probably the Stoughton Street Baptist Church.

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Dorchester Illustration 2282 Winter Home of the Sheep


Dorchester Illustration no. 2282    Winter Home of the Sheep

Postcard. Caption on front: Winter home of the sheep, “Franklin Field,” Dorchester. No. 2 Pub. by Boston Post Card Co. Postmarked Dec 31, 1905. Roxbury Station, Boston. With one cent stamp.

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Dorchester Illustration 23 Chickatawbut Street



Dorchester Illustration no. 2281    23 Chickatawbut Street

The house at 23 Chickatawbut Street was described in 1978 in a survey report of Neponset for the Boston Landmarks Commission:

Estimated 1840

Grand scale Greek Revival 5 Bay House; pedimented central pavilion with recessed 2nd floor window; 2 ionic columns support entrance porch, columns supporting side porches. Siding obliterates wide frieze and corner pilasters, etc. with addition to rear.  House set on granite foundation on terrace.  Once one of the grandest houses of its period in Dorchester, the house’s significance has diminished somewhat because of the siding and alterations.

Now, due to the stripping off of the siding, we can see more of the detail underneath. The photo with siding is from 2004, and the photo with siding removed is from December 2016.

The following are selected notes from the summary of the recent neighborhood meeting regarding the property.

Ted Ahern, a local developer, has recently purchased the property at 23 Chickatwabut Street. Over the years it has been used as a single family, two-family, three-family and rooming house.  It is currently a legal 3-family.  It sits on a lot that is approximately 20,000 square feet.

Mr. Ahern’s proposal is to retain the original structure of the house and remove the non-conforming additions that were added to the rear. These additions do not contribute to the character of the building.  He plans to restore the exterior of the building to its original appearance.  When complete, the building will have two condominium units, each with 3 bedrooms and two parking spaces in the rear.

In the rear of the lot, Mr. Ahern proposes to construct a new building, which will house 4 condominium townhouse units. The architect has attempted to call out the characteristics of a carriage house typical to the period.  Three of the units will have 3 bedrooms, and one will have 2 bedrooms and a nursery/office.  All will have 2 parking spaces.

Mr. Ahern also plans to retain as many of the numerous mature tress on the property as possible and clean up the landscaping.

[Editorial note: Mr. Ahern should be commended for retaining a house significant to the streetscape and significant in the history of Dorchester’s development.  He has found a way to do a development project without tearing down Dorchester’s past.]

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Dorchester Illustration 2280 Houses at Commercial Point


Dorchester Illustration no. 2280     Houses at Commercial Point

Soon after 1800 Joseph Newell and Ebenezer Niles, who thought Commercial Point would prosper in whale and cod fishing, built neighboring large, square, palatial houses on the south side of the point looking south toward Port Norfolk. They connected themselves as partners in business, built vessels and were actively engaged in commercial matters, but the panic resulting from the War of 1812 put a close to their business speculations and prospects.

In the painting that is today’s illustration, Newell’s and Niles’ houses are the two white federal-style buildings that look identical.

Commercial Point served many commercial interests throughout the rest of the 19th century including Preston’s chocolate factory and wharf, a syndicate in the late 1820s and 30s for the whale fishing, and the Cutter heating fuel company. Cutter started by selling wood for heating homes and later coal.  At the end of the 19th century, Commercial Point became dominated with coal gas holders of the Boston Gas Company, and in the 20th century the Point saw the introduction of metal tanks for natural gas. Today we are left with the one colorful tank that serves as a landmark for traffic reports during the morning and evening commute along the Southeast Expressway.

The streets lost to development of the Point by Boston Gas and through the construction of the highway include: part of Preston Street, Plymouth Street, Washington Street, Pleasant Street, Neponset Street and Union Street.

The channel of water visible in the painting was Tenean Creek and its branch Barque Warwick Cove.

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