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Mission Hill

Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Mission Hill

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.


  • 1630: The first settlers to Roxbury establish John Eliot Square as the town center. Mission Hill is developed as part of the town of Roxbury.
  • 1700-1750: The Parker Hill area is divided into large estates. The name derives from the property of wealthy merchant John Parker (1757-1840).
  • 1840s: Boston and Providence Railroad stops at Roxbury Crossing, opening up Parker Hill to settlement.
  • 1860: Irish immigrants begin moving in following the railway, jobs in the mills along Stoney Brook (the small river at the base of Parker Hill), and recently laid sewerage lines. The Irish community is a vital piece of Mission Hill over a century, and gradually declines in the last thirty years of the 20th century.
  • 1878: The Mission Church on Tremont Street is established.
  • 1885-1895: A housing boom attracts more residents.
  • 1892: The Blessed Sacrament parish breaks away from the Mission Church on the south side of town around Fisher Avenue.
  • 1893: The New England Baptist Hospital is constructed. Its founder is Dr. Francis Fremont Whittier (1852-1937).
  • 1899: School Sisters of Notre Dame open a Catholic grammar school in the Mission Parish. Two thousand children attend.
  • 1900: The St. Alphonsus Hall has a 1,300 member Athletic Club and 1,142 seat theater.
  • 1914: The reservoir on the top of Hill is drained and the Robert Breck Brighton Hospital is built on the site.
  • 1920s: Mission Hill acquires its name: a combination of the Mission Church and Parker Hill.
  • 1937: Local boy, Maurice Tobin, beats James Michael Curley for Mayor. Tobin is later elected Governor, and later as US President Harry Truman's Secretary of Labor. Tobin Bridge named for him after his death.
  • 1940: The Mission Hill housing project opens on the site of what had been slums. It is the first housing project opened in the United States. Mayor Curley's brother is the first manager of the project. It is intensely political to get an apartment in the prestigious project.
  • 1954: Pope Pius XII pronounces the Mission Church a basilica and it becomes Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, the Mission Church. It becomes known as "The Lourdes in the Land of the Puritans" due to a reputation for healing people.
  • 1958: The Boston Redevelopment Authority builds high rise apartments, called "Mission Hill Main" housing project, near Huntington Avenue.
  • 1962-68: The Boston Housing Authority is forced to desegregate its two Mission Hill projects.
  • 1964: Mission United Neighborhood Improvement Team (MUNIT) holds a rally at the State House protesting the expansion of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center at the expense of 700 residential homes. This is part of the battle by Boston neighborhoods against the Boston Redevelopment Authority's plans for urban renewal. This is the early stage of what will become a two-decade battle for control of Mission Hill between the "institutions" and the working class residents of Mission Hill.
  • 1969: The Black Panthers, a Black Power movement based in Oakland, CA, establish their Boston base in Mission Hill project. Harvard University students, protesting the Vietnam War, decide to include "No Expansion" by Harvard Medical School into Mission Hill as one of their Strike's demands. The students win their strike, and join wit the MUNIT groups over the next several years.
  • 1970-1980: Lahey Clinic purchases much of the "Backside of Mission Hill and tears down the 3-decker homes. Eventually they decide not to build the Clinic on Mission Hill, choosing Bedford instead. The fight between the community and Lahey catalyzes a group to fight Harvard. Harvard vs. Mission Hill political battle rages over whether Harvard will be able to buy property for a new generating plant on Mission Hill. Eventually the Plant is built. Harvard, however, reaches a compromise on housing which leads to the development of Mission Park on Huntington Avenue, which is owned and run by the "Roxbury Tenants of Harvard."
  • 1970-1983: Arson wave, some alleged to be set by landlords, leads to about 10% of the housing stock on the Hill itself being burned. After the 1983 Mayor Raymond Flynn is able to quell the arson wave with a new approach to arson prevention. New housing is built on the Back side of Mission Hill where some of the worst fires were, and where the Lahey clinic was to have been. It is built by the Bricklayers Union.
Further Reading

  • Mission Hill: The Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976.




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