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Roxbury


Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Roxbury

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

  • 1630: September 28, The first Puritan settlers arrive in Roxbury, led by William Pynchon (1589-1661), three weeks after the founding of Boston. The town is originally called "Rocksberry." The town is named after the unique rock outcroppings later called Roxbury puddinstone. All the other Roxburys in the United States have their origin in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
  • 1632: The first meetinghouse and burial ground are constructed in John Eliot Square. At this time, Washington, Roxbury, and Warren Streets and Dudley Square are laid out.
  • 1635: Reverend John Eliot (1604-1691) founds the Roxbury Latin School that later moves to West Roxbury in 1922. The school is the first preparatory school in the United States. Eliot is known as 'The Apostle of the Indians' for his efforts to christianize the Native Americans.
  • 1639: Roxbury is founded. It is connected to Boston by a thin strip of land along Washington Street. Originally, the town includes West Roxbury, Roslindale, Mission Hill, and Jamaica Plain. The town is a farming and stone mining community in a strategic military position since it guards the only route into Boston.
  • 1720: The Warren House, childhood home to Dr. John Warren (1753-1815), Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at Harvard, and his brother General Joseph Warren (1741-1775), of the Battle of Bunker Hill, is built.
  • 1746: The Roxbury Meetinghouse is constructed on Meeting House or Tory Hill. This hill is later used by General George Washington to drill troops during the Revolution.
  • 1747: The Shirley-Eustis House is built at 31 Shirley Street for William Shirley (1693-1771), the English Royal Governor of Massachusetts and commander of British forces in America. Later, Dr. William Eustis (1753-1825), a former student of Dr. Joseph Warren, buys the house and lives there while he is Governor of Massachusetts from 1823 to 1825. The house is designed by Peter Harrison who also designs King's Chapel, Boston.
  • 1750: The Dillaway-Thomas House is built at 183 Roxbury Street as a parsonage for the First Church of John Eliot Square. Charles Knapp Dillaway is the headmaster at the Roxbury Latin School when the first Japanese students come to America.
  • 1775: A fort is constructed on Roxbury Highlands during the Revolution.
  • 1800-1850: 1821: The Roxbury Universalist Church is founded on Guild Row.
  • 1828: Nahum Ward founds a candle making plant using horse tallow. In 1857, his son Francis Jackson Ward (1830-1912), moves the plant and horse graveyard to his family's land on Spectacle Island.
  • 1832: Joseph Sampson Waterman founds what today is the oldest funeral service business in Boston: J.S. Waterman & Sons-Eastman-Waring.
  • 1836: A Greek Revival mansion is built for First Parish Church deacon Alvah Kittredge Later, it is home to Nathaniel J. Bradlee and today is the site of the Roxbury Action Program.
  • 1839: Horse drawn streetcars provide service to Roxbury.
  • 1840s: The section of Roxbury along the Tidal Flats near the Shirley-Eustis House becomes a center for poor Irish Immigrants living in shanties along the flats. An anti-Irish Catholic riot leads to a the killing of an Irish immigrant on Dudley Street. St. Patrick's Parish Church is founded on the corner of Hampden and Dudley streets.
  • 1848: Simon Willard (1753-1848), considered by some to be the greatest clock maker in the United States dies. He is famous for tall encased clocks called Roxbury cases. Also, Mayor Dearborn dedicates Forest Hills Cemetery in the section of Roxbury by the same name. The Cemetery is the second is the United States laid out to be a place to walk and to contemplate nature. Over 150 years, it has become the final resting place for a number of notable Americans including e.e. cummings, Eugene O'Neil and Ruby Foo. The Cemetery has notable sculpture from the late 19th century by William Chester French.
  • 1851: Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury form their own town, withdrawing from the city of Roxbury.
  • 1856: Louis Prang (1824-1909), after fleeing Germany during the failed uprising of 1848, introduces chromolithography which allows oil paintings to be reproduced. In 1875, Prang prints the first Christmas card in the United States.
  • 1857: Henry and Jacob Pfaff found the H & J Pfaff Brewing Company on Pynchon Street (now Columbus Avenue). There, many German and later Irish workers brew lager beer.
  • 1867: Roxbury is annexed to Boston.
  • 1869: Cochituate Stand Pipe is constructed on Fort Hill for water storage. Fort Hill is the site of an impressive defensive fort during the Siege of Boston in 1776. In 1895, Frederick Law Olmsted designs a park around the structure which becomes an observation tower in 1906.
  • 1871: The Hotel Dartmouth is built on Washington and Dudley and today is a historic landmark.
  • 1872: Aaron Davis William's house is built at 300 Walnut Avenue. Today, it is the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.
  • 1873: The Fellows Athenaeum is built on Millmont and Lambert Streets. Captain Caleb Fellows (1771-1852) funds the 5,700 book library in his will. Today, the library is part of the Dudley Street Branch Library of the Boston Public Library.
  • 1876: Andrew Jackson Houghton (1827-1901) founds the A.J. Houghton Company which brews Vienna and Pavonia style beer on Station Street.
  • 1877: Charles Follen Adams (1842-1918) publishes Leedle Yawcob Strauss, a book of popular German stories written from his home on Waverley Street.
  • 1885: The city's largest park, Franklin Park (527 acres), is built. It is designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as the final link in his 2,000 acre Emerald Necklace. The Franklin Park Zoo is a major component of the park.
  • 1886: A flood swamps the town in three feet of water.
  • 1888: All Souls' Unitarian Church is built on Warren and Elm Hill Avenue. Today, it is home of the Charles Street African Methodist Church (originally formed on Beacon Hill in 1833).
  • 1891: The Roxbury Presbyterian Church is built on Warren and Waverley.
  • 1894: The first Jewish temple in Roxbury, Agudas Achem (Intervale Street Synagogue), is built.
  • 1898: The Mishkan Tefila Temple is built.
  • 1900: Saint Monica's, a house for elderly African-Americans, moves into Rockledge, a building on Highland Street that once belonged to abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879).
  • 1901: Saint Hugh's Church is built on Blue Hill Avenue.
  • 1903: Booker T. Washington comes to the Columbus Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Zion church to address the Boston chapter of the National Negro Business League. William Monroe Trotter disrupts the meeting seeing Washington's strategy as too passive in the face attacks on African-Americans in the South. It is a formative event in the development of the NAACP.
  • 1906: The Adath Jeshuran Jewish temple is built on Blue Hill Avenue.
  • 1908: The Shaare Tefilo (Otisfield Street Synagogue) is constructed.
  • 1909: Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), pastor of the South Congregational Church in Boston, dies. The respected author and philanthropist lived at 39 Highland Street in a Greek Revival mansion during his lifetime.
  • 1913: The Beth Hamidrash Hagadol (Crawford Street Synagogue) is built.
  • 1915: Nusach Sfard (Lawrence Avenue Synagogue) is built.
  • 1918: Louis Epstein is elected as the Rabbi of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol, three years after the congregation forms the Crawford Street Synagogue in Roxbury.
  • 1920: Hebrew College is founded on 14 Crawford Street in Roxbury by the Bureau of Jewish Education in Boston.
  • 1923: The Swedish Lutheran Emmanuel (now Resurrection Lutheran) Church is built on Warren Street.
  • 1930s: Malcolm Little, later Malcolm X, lives in his sister's house while a teenager on Dale St.
  • 1932: The Horace Mann School for the Deaf is built on Kearsage Avenue and named for the man who brought the need for schools for the deaf to the attention of the public. Today the building is home to the Phillis Wheatley Middle School, named after the African-American slave of John Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley (c1753-1784) published a book of poems called Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773.
  • 1940-1950s: African-Americans who live in "Lower Roxbury," a part of the South End, begin to move to Elm Hill "Sugar Hill" replacing the Jewish community. Roxbury receives an influx of Southern African-Americans during and after World War II who work in the new defense plants like Raytheon in Newton.
  • 1950: Martin Luther King, Jr, while a theological student at Boston University preaches at the 12th Baptist Church on Warren St.
  • 1963-1969: Roxbury is one of the neighborhoods targeted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority for urban renewal. A number of new streets are built, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
  • 1967: After welfare protesters are removed by Police from the Grove Hall welfare office, a riot begins and some of the stores in Grove Hall are burned. Two nights of riots lead to a heavy police presence.
  • 1969: The Trotter School on Humboldt Avenue is named after William Monroe Trotter (1872-1934), the first African-American Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard graduate, founder of the Niagra Movement for African-American rights, and editor of African-American newspaper The Guardian.
  • 1973: Roxbury Community College opens in the old Chevy Dealership in Grove Hall. Later it moves to 424 Dudley Street and in 1988 moves into its permanent home on Columbus Avenue.
  • 1985: Black Bostonians vote on a referendum to secede from Boston and to form their own city, with Roxbury as a principal part of the new city. The city would be called Mandela. It is voted down.

Further Reading

  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. Roxbury. Images of America Series. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1997.
  • Roxbury. The Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976.

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