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Dorchester

Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Dorchester

Learn more about your ancestor's neighborhood through the timeline, find more information in the Further Reading section, or use the links to experience life in that community today.

Timeline

  • Prior to 1630: Prior to 1630: Dorchester area known as Mattapan, inhabited by Wampanoag Indians.
  • 1630: Dorchester is first settled at Five Corners (today Edward Everett Square). Originally, Dorchester includes Canton, Foxboro, Wrentham, Milton, Stoughton, and Sharon. The first houses are built near the first meetinghouse near present day Pleasant and East Cottage streets and near to Rock (Savin) Hill. A fort is constructed on Savin Hill.
  • 1633: Chickatawbut, chief of the Massachuset tribe (Neponset family) dies. Legend claims that he greeted the newly arrived English with fish and a handshake.
  • 1634: Dorchester North Burying Ground is established at Stoughton Street and Columbia Road at Uphams Corner. Israel Stoughton operated a grist mill at Lower Mills on the Neponset River.
  • 1635: Jone's Hill is named after early settler Thomas Jones. In the nineteenth century, the hill was the site of some of Boston's most elegant homes. Today the area is home to a large Hispanic population.
  • 1638: November 8, 1638 is the first recorded date on a headstone in the Dorchester Burying Ground. It belongs to Barnard Capen.
  • 1639: The first school in the United States is constructed on Settler's Street (today Pleasant Street). The school is paid for using fees charged to farmers for grazing on nearby Thompson's Island.
  • 1648-1650: The James Blake House is constructed. It is the oldest wood-framed structure in the City of Boston and the only surviving example of West-England construction. The Blake House is open to the public.
  • 1652: An early example of a Puritan residence is the Pierce House built at 24 Oakton Avenue.
  • 1654: Present day Warren and Washington Streets are laid "four rods wide."
  • 1656: The first "Indian Reservation" in United States history is established at Ponkapoag for the Neponset tribe.
  • 1675: Wassausamon, a Dorchester Indian, is killed. His death is one of the precipitating events in King Phillip's War.
  • 1690: Sir William Phips leads an ill-fated naval expedition of thirty-two vessels containing over 2,000 men in an attack on Quebec. Dorchester contributes a company of seventy-four men under the command of Captain John Withington. Forty-six of them never return.
  • 1700: Lower Mills is home to a wool sizing mill, a gun powder mill, a paper mill, a snuff mill, and a saw mill.
  • 1724: Wrentham is set off from the town of Dorchester.
  • 1726: Jeremiah Smith (b. 1705 Ireland) founds the first paper factory in the United States. Part of Dorchester breaks away to become the town of Stoughton.
  • 1765: The Lemuel Clap House is built at Willow Court for Captain Lemuel Clap. It is moved to 199 Boston Street in 1957. He is a tanner who becomes an officer during the Revolutionary War. That same year, Dr. James Baker opens The Baker Chocolate Company. A Reverend with a Harvard degree, Dr. Baker establishes a cocoa bean grinding business that is soon expanded into a profitable company. Baker Chocolate is later bought by General Foods Corporation and moved out of state.
  • 1769: 300 Sons of Liberty, led by John Hancock meet at Robinson's Tavern which adapts a new name: The Liberty Tree Tavern.
  • 1776: Canons are moved from Fort Ticonderoga, New York to Dorchester Heights to take aim at the British ships in the harbor. The British evacuate Boston on March 17th.
  • 1803: Mrs. Judith Foster Saunders and Miss Clementia Beach establish Saunders' and Beach's Academy for Girls on Meeting House Hill. In addition to sewing, embroidery and painting-the French language, arithmetic, geography, writing and English grammar are studied.
  • 1804: South Boston is annexed to Boston.
  • 1805: The Second Church is constructed on Washington Street.
  • 1806: The William Clapp House is built for Lemuel Clapp's son, William. The house is a Federal style structure with a Greek Revival wing and pear trees in the backyard. Several generations of the Clapp family celebrate Golden Wedding Anniversaries in the house, so that it becomes known as the House of Golden Wedding Anniversaries. Today it is a museum and a meeting place for the Dorchester Historical Society.
  • 1835: The Boston and Providence Railroad comes to town.
  • 1840: Thadeus Clapp, son of William Clapp, creates a hybrid pear in the family orchards by crossing the Flemish Beauty Pear with a Bartlett. He calls his creation "Clapp's Favorite Pear." It becomes a popular variety and brings considerable income to the family.
  • 1844: Old Colony Railroad arrives bringing wealthy Yankees who build Victorian summer homes and estates on Savin and Jones Hills. Immigrant Irish also arrive on the rails.
  • 1848: Abraham Lincoln visits Dorchester and speaks at Richmond Hall on Washington Street in support of presidential candidate Zachary Taylor.
  • 1868: Hyde Park is incorporated out of part of Dorchester.
  • 1870: Dorchester is annexed to Boston after a vote of 928 to 726.
  • 1874: The Municipal Building is constructed in the Victorian style at Field's Corner. Mattapan, the original Native American name for the area, is given to the southwest section of town.
  • 1884: The Calf Pasture Pumping station at Columbia Point, designed by City Architect George A. Clough, becomes Boston's first sewage station.
  • 1890s: Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Italians, and French-Canadians begin to settle in the town.
  • 1893: House of William Monroe Trotter (b. 1872) is built at 97 Sawyer Avenue. He is an African-American writer, lecturer, and publisher who fights against racism.
  • 1893-1929: All Saints' Church is built at Peabody Square. This building is the first job of famous architect Ralph Adams Cram. He later gains a national reputation for his work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
  • 1894: St. Margaret's Church is built on Columbia Road and Dorchester Avenue. The Romanesque style brick building, designed by Keeley and Houghton, is distinguished by its corner tower, rounded arches, and decorative terra cotta tiles. The church complex includes a rectory and a later school.
  • 1896: The Dorchester Pottery Works is established on Victory Road. Until it closes in 1965, the company produces hand crafted tablewares which are now collector's items.
  • 1897: The First Church is rebuilt on Meetinghouse Hill. It is the seventh building inhabited by the congregation since its establishment in 1630.
  • 1900: The High School at Codman Square is designed by Hartwell, Richardson, and Dyer, a noted architecture company of the time. Jews move into Franklin Field and Mount Bowdoin (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted) from the West End.
  • 1908: Beth El is founded on Fowler Street.
  • 1911: A statue of Edward Everett, designed by William Wetmore Story in 1867, is moved from its spot in the Public Garden to Five Corners, now known as Everett Square. After twice being struck by traffic the statue is placed near the Olde Blake House in Richardson park on Columbia Road.
  • 1918: The Strand Theater opens and quickly becomes a popular stop on the vaudeville circuit.
  • 1924: Upham's Corner Market is built at 600 Columbia Road. There, the Cifrinos brothers develop the ancestor of the modern supermarket in three connected buildings. Their modest fruit and vegetable store is expanded to include meats, staples, dairy products, a delicatessen, bakery, cafeteria, newsstand, soda fountain, and shoe repair shop. The store even has a huge parking lot for cars.
  • 1940-1950s: African-Americans from the South migrate north to Dorchester looking for work and buying homes. The Jews move further out to suburbs outside of the City, including Randolph, Canton, and Newton.
  • 1948: La Donna Andrea Gaines is born at Carney Hospital. She later takes the name Donna Summer and wins several gold records.
  • 1968-Early 1970s: Boston Banks set up Boston Bank Urban Renewal Group (BBURG) area in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination, and in an effort to help African-Americans who do not own homes to buy them as a way of quelling social unrest. The primarily Jewish area Dorchester neighborhoods near Gallivan and Blue Hill avenues is the center of this "blue lined" area where mortgages at below market rates, and small downpayments are offered to African-American families from the South End and Roxbury as an incentive to buy housing. Many Jews move out of Weld Hill area and other Dorchester neighborhoods quite precipitously in '68 and '69 as some local real estate agents use the fear of African-Americans moving in as an inducement to get the Jews to sell their homes at below market value, only to resell to African-Americans at much higher prices due to the Federally-financed low downpayments. The BBURG "bluelining" becomes quite well known locally and nationally, in the late 1970s with a United States Senate investigation. The G&G Delicatessen on Blue Hill Avenue, which had been a symbol of Jewish Dorchester closes in the mid-1970s, a symbol of the change in the neighborhood.
  • 1970s and 1980s: Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Cape Verdeans move into Dorchester neighborhoods.
  • 1980s-present: Emigrants from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia settle in the area.
  • 1986: The Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point opens.
  • 1998: The Lemuel Clapp and the William Clapp houses on Boston Street serve as locations for several scenes in WGBH's documentary series "Africans in America."

Further Reading

  • Dorchester. The Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976.
  • Hillel, Levine and Lawrence Harmon. The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions. New York: Free Press, 1992.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. Dorchester. Images of America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 1997.

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