Roxbury, Massachusetts

Roxbury, Massachusetts

Infobox Settlement
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image_caption = The First Church of Roxbury, built in 1804 and fifth on the site since 1632

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subdivision_name = United States
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subdivision_name1 = Massachusetts
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established_title = Settled
established_date = 1630
established_title2 = Incorporated
established_date2 = 1846
established_title3 = Annexed by Boston
established_date3 = 1868
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timezone = Eastern
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timezone_DST = Eastern
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area_code = 617
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Roxbury is a neighborhood within Boston, Massachusetts USA. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868. [ Roxbury History] . Part of Roxbury had become the town of West Roxbury on May 24, 1851, and additional land in Roxbury was annexed by Boston in 1860.] The original town of Roxbury once included the current Boston neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, the South End and much of Back Bay. Roxbury now generally ends at Columbus Avenue to the north and Lenox Street to the east.The original boundaries of the Town of Roxbury can be found in "Drake's History of Roxbury and its noted Personages". Those boundaries include the Christian Science Center, the Prudential Center (built on the old Roxbury Railroad Yards) and everything this side of the Muddy River including Symphony Hall, Northeastern University, Y.M.C.A., Harvard Medical School and many hospitals and schools in the area. This side of the Muddy River is Roxbury, the other side is Brookline and Boston. Franklin Park, once entirely within Roxbury when Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Roslindale were villages within the town of Roxbury until 1854, has been divided with the line between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury located in the vicinity of Peter Parley Road on Walnut Avenue, through the park to Columbia Road. Here, Walnut Avenue changes its name to Sigourney Street, indicating the area is now Jamaica Plain. One side of Columbia Road is Roxbury the other is Dorchester. Melnea Cass Boulevard is located approximately over the Roxbury Canal that brought boats into Roxbury bypassing the busy the port of Boston in the 1830s.

A store known as The Blue Store was located at the intersection of Washington and Warren streets in Dudley since 1699. Many remember the furniture store there known as Ferdinand's Blue Store, as the elevated train bisected the building. This area was also the home to several famous Boston business firms, W. Bowman Cutter's Hardware Store with the upside down sign, Timothy Smith's Department Store, and J. S. Waterman and Sons, funeral directors to many prominent Boston families.


Early history

Early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a series of six villages in 1630. The village of Roxbury is noted for its hilly geography and the many large outcroppings of Roxbury puddingstone, which was quarried for many years and used in the foundations of a large number of houses in the area. The town was located where Boston connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus called Boston Neck or Roxbury Neck. Since all land traffic to Boston had to pass through it, Roxbury became an important town. It would be home to a number of early leaders of the colony, including colonial governors Thomas Dudley, William Shirley and Increase Sumner. The Shirley-Eustis House, built at Roxbury during the period 1747–1751, is one of only four remaining Royal Colonial Governors' mansions in the United States.

The settlers of Roxbury originally comprised the congregation of the First Church of Roxbury, established in 1632. [ [ First Church in Roxbury, MA. Records, 1641-1956] , Harvard University Library] During this time the church served not only as a place of worship but as a meeting place for government. The congregation had no time to raise a meeting house the first winter and so met with the neighboring congregation in Dorchester. One of the early leaders of this church was Amos Adams. The first meeting house was built in 1632, and the building pictured here is the fifth meeting house, the oldest such wood-frame church in Boston. [ [ Historical Markers: Roxbury] The Boston Historical Society] The Roxbury congregation, still in existence as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, lays claim to several things of note in American history:
* The founding (along with five other local congregations, i.e. Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Charlestown and Dorchester) of Harvard College.
* First Church of Roxbury was the starting point for William Dawes' "Midnight Ride", April 18, 1775 (in a different direction than Paul Revere) to warn Lexington and Concord of the British raids during the Revolutionary War.

Urban and industrial development

As Roxbury developed in the 19th century, the northern part became an industrial town with a large community of English, Irish, and German immigrants and their descendants, while the majority of the town remained agricultural and saw the development of some of the first streetcar suburbs in the United States. This led to the incorporation of the old Roxbury village as one of Massachusetts's first cities, and the rest of the town was established as the town of West Roxbury.

In the early 20th century, Roxbury became more diverse with the establishment of a Jewish community in the Grove Hall area along Blue Hill Avenue. Following a massive migration from the South to northern cities in the 1940s and 1950s, Roxbury became the center of the African-American community in Boston. Social issues and the resulting urban renewal activities of the 1960s and 1970s contributed to a decline in the neighborhood. In particular, a riot in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. resulted in stores on Blue Hill Avenue being looted and eventually burned down, leaving a desolate and abandoned landscape. Rampant arson in the 1970s along the Dudley Street corridor also added to the neighborhood's decline, leaving a landscape of vacant, trash filled lots and burned out buildings. The arrival of the crack epidemic in the 1980s helped make Roxbury one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Boston. The violent crime would not be significantly reduced until the late 1990s. In early April 1987, the original Orange Line MBTA route along Washington Street was closed and relocated to the Southwest Corridor (where the Southwest Expressway was supposed to be built a couple decades before). More recently, grassroots efforts by residents have been the force behind revitalizing historic areas and creating Roxbury Heritage State Park.

The Boston Transportation Planning Review stimulated relocation of the Orange Line, and development of the Southwest Corridor Park spurred major investment, including Roxbury Community College at Roxbury Crossing and Ruggles Center at Columbus Avenue and Ruggles Street. Commercial development now promises reinvestment in the form of shopping and related consumer services. The Fort Hill section experienced significant gentrification when college students (many from Northeastern University and Wentworth Institute of Technology), artists, and young professionals moved into the area in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the present day, there is much commercial and residential redevelopment, but violent crime (especially gang violence) and drug abuse remain consistent problems. Roxbury is widely-regarded as the most dangerous neighborhood of Boston [Citation needed] .


Roxbury is still a majority African-American neighborhood as it has been since 1960, but there is a growing Puerto Rican population. As of the 2000 census Roxbury was 5% Non-Hispanic White, 63% African-American or Black, 24% Hispanic or Latino who can be of any race, 1% Asian-American, 3% from other races and 4% from two or more races.

Notable residents

Among Roxbury's most notable inhabitants was famed clockmaker Simon Willard (1753-1848), whose prolific output included the invention of his patented banjo timepiece, or banjo-shaped wall clock. He is also honored for the tall-case clocks he made in the "Roxbury style," which he produced until about 1815.

Other notable residents include:
* Amos Adams, clergyman
* Joseph Alexander Ames, portraitist and artist
* Will Blalock, NBA player for Detroit Pistons
* Bobby Brown, musician and TV performer
* Melnea Cass, Civil Rights activist
* Cid Corman, poet
* Sparrow Driver, football coach
* Rev. John Eliot, minister, "Apostle to the Indians"
* Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, orator, and author
* Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam
* Edo G, rap artist raised on Humboldt Avenue
* William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist and publisher of "The Liberator"
* Charles Dana Gibson, graphic artist (of Gibson Girl fame)
* Edward Everett Hale, editor, author and clergyman
* Roy Haynes, jazz drummer
* William Heath, Major General, Continental Army, American Revolutionary War
* Marcia Hines, American-Australian musician
* Karl Hobbs, basketball coach
* Jonathan Kozol, author, educator, and activist
* Samuel Pierpont Langley, astronomer, physicist and aviation pioneer
* Josephine Shaw Lowell, philanthropist
* Malcolm X, minister, Black nationalist
* Charles Sedgwick Minot, anatomist
* New Edition, R&B/Pop music group
* Louis Prang, artist, printer, engraver, maker of the first Xmas card.
* John L. Sullivan, heavyweight boxing champion from 1882-1892
* Joseph Warren, doctor, soldier and patriot
* Simon Willard, renowned clockmaker
* John Wilson,dn artist
* Rev. Dr. Soliny Védrine, Founder of Haitian Ministries International

ites of interest

* Franklin Park Zoo
* Shirley-Eustis House
* John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science
* Long Crouch Woods
* [ Roxbury Historic Markers]

ee also

* Dudley Square
* Roxbury Film Festival
* St. Joseph's Church
* West Roxbury
* Former Mayors of Roxbury


* [ Roxbury History -- Boston Landmarks Commission]

External links

* [ Bailey Co. Map] -- 1888 bird's-eye view map of Roxbury area
* [ Discover Roxbury] -- tours and information
* [ Shirley-Eustis House] -- Massachusetts' Royal Governor's Mansion
* [ Roxbury Crossing Historical Trust] -- historical society

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