PUBLIC AND INSTITUTINAL ARCHITECTURE IN WASHINGTONPARK URBAN RENWAL AREAEdit
Of all the 21 urban renewal districts in Boston, Washington Park was planned as a complete community of housing, a health center, retail and commercial centers, civic plaza connecting court house, library and police station, indoor and outdoor recreation centers and schools. Only one of the three proposed schools was built, yet everything but the Dudley library branch was opened by 1975; the library wasn’t fully operational until 1978.
THE CIVIC CENTEREdit
Planned and built almost as a town government, it was set at the apex of the district boundary triangle opposite the elevated train station.
The site was a trapezoidal 6 acre parcel acquired and cleared between 1964 and 1965 in the course of which the Dudley Street Baptist Church, Rivoli Theater, Dudley Street Opera House and 65 other homes and business buildings were demolished for a complex that was almost one half parking lots and blank plaza space on two levels.
In 1964, Kallman + McKinnell. Architects of the New Boston City Hall, were selected by the BRA, together with Hoyle, Doran & Berry as consultants, to prepare the master plan for a complex of three public buildings - police district headquarters, branch library and courthouse.§
The master plan for the $14 million center set the buildings in a rectangle within the trapazoid: the police station near Washington Street and the corner of Dudley Street; the library facing Warren St and wrapping around to Dudley ,The library was designed as two square boxes and the courthouse as a triangle with its apex facing Warren Street.
The new Roxbury Boys and Girls Clubhouse was separated by a parking lot opposite the courthouse.
Cutting the rectangle into two unequal parts was a long narrow concrete corridor
that led to steps down to the police station and a second flight between the library and police station to Dudley Street. The corridor and steps are little used and uninviting to this day, although the recent new entrance to the courthouse ( discussed below) adds more life than in previous years.
BOSTON POLICE DISTRICT B-3 - 135 DUDLEY STREETEdit
A gloomy windowless gulag with one tiny doorway burrowed in the back, this is architecture of fear right out of the Stalin era. The new police division hdq. was began in 1968. The architects wee Kallman, McKinnell with Hoyle Doran & Berry. It opened in March, 1971 with a 300 officer force. ( Bay State Banner. March 18, 1971).
MUNICIPLE COURT OF ROXBURY DISTRICT – 85 WARREN STREETEdit
This was built consecutively and as a companion piece with the stationhouse in a vastly different and more friendlier style with large windows facing the interior plaza. Kallman McKinnell were the architects of record and it was opened on Tuesday Oct 26, 1971. It originally contained 6 courtrooms, 7 judges chambers and 12 psychiatric clinic offices.
( Bay State Banner. Oct 28, 1971,front page. Photograph and story).
In 1994, the courthouse underwent a $10 million expansion with a 3-story addition and new broad entrance facing the plaza corridor. The original door was a little hatch facing Warren Street that many thought was the janitors entrance. ( Boston Globe January 16, 1993).
On December 10, 1989, a steel sculpture called “The Judge” was dedicated at the Warren Street entrance to the courthouse designed and made by the sculptor Vusumuzi Madona. It is a circular mask with two sweeping right angle arms at the crown. The sculpture was slightly relocated closer to the library in 1996.
(Bay State Banner, July 25, 1996. City Record. December 25,1989.)
DUDLEY SQUARE BRANCH LIBRARY – 65 WARREN STREETEdit
The last building completed in the Washington Park Urban Renewal District. The library was not opened until April 3, 1978 in part because of a five year debate between an emerging new black leadership in Roxbury and the Library Department over the purpose of the library: a general collection of books or a teaching center of black literature and culture. In the end it became an amalgamation of both with an addition of an auditorium and classrooms in a separate wing. Kallman, McKinnell and Wood designed the first and final plans; the latter design finished in December, 1974. The library is a box wrapped around another box in step down shapes with a connecting high lighted corridor that connects the reading room with the auditorium and classrooms and upstairs offices originally used by staff from the mayors office. The most distinguishing feature is the huge wall of glass bricks facing Warren Street and the courthouse plaza. Facing east the reading room is flooded with light most of the day.§
The Grove Hall Branch Library, 5 Crawford Street, was built opposite Freedom House and opened on December 11, 1970. The architect was Peter McLaughlin.
ROXBURY BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB - 115 WARREN STREET
Built on the same tract as the civic center ,it was the first building begun in that complex after clearance. Designed by the Architects Collaborative The foundation was laid in November, 1966 where the old Cliff Street met Warren Street. Completed and opened in 1968. Sleek, long, elegant and low, built of tan Roman brick with a ribbon of inset windows high above the watertable, it is a close as anyone can get to Frank Lloyd Wright in Boston. It cost $1.3 million to build.§
It replaced an 8 family brick apartment house with ground floor stores. William H. Hatch, architect. Completed Dec. 14, 1918.
MARTIN LUTHER KING TOWERS 289 ML KING BLVD.
The only public housing the Freedom House leadership would permit was for the elderly and the BRA provided a central site between the health center and shopping mall and a main bus route on the new crosstown near Warren Street. Originally called Warren Towers, the 14 story, 150’tall, square brick highrise of 104 units was deigned by Freeman Flansburg in 1967. It was opened on July 8, 1969. $1.4 million. Building permit Aug 16, 1967.
ROXBURY COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CENTER
435 WARREN STREET, CORNER OF TOWENSEND ST.
PARD Team ,architects. Building permit April 18, 1973
Estimated cost $750,000
Opened in 1975.
The Roxbury Community Council formed a Health Services Committee in 1966 and after several temporary locations, it opened its first clinic in the new mall on January 23, 1970.
Opposite the Health Center at 420 Warren Street was Unity Bank, the first black-owned bank in the Commonwealth opened on March 11, 1967. It was converted from the former Westminster Motors show rooms by Don Stull, architect. The bank moved to 2343 Washington Street in 1979. The site is now a Walgreens.
Bay State Banner, March 16, 1967.
GREATER BOSTON YMCA - 410 WARREN STREET
CORNER OF ML KING JR BLVD.
The Architects Collaborative, architects. Pre- stressed, poured –in-place concrete walls. Dedicated May 16. 1965 by Mayor John Collins. Building permit May 26. 1964.
Estimated cost $307,000
100’x 83’gymnasium added in 1971. Permit Nov. 5, 1970
Completed Jan.18, 1972. The Architects Collaborative.
Two story addition including enlarged new entranceway dedicated June 23, 2001.
Primary Group, Architects.
The YMCA also included a large playground for baseball and football.
JOHN R. SHELBOURNE CENTER - 2700 WAHINGTON STREET
On April 16, 1970, the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Parks Dept. announced a joint venture to expand Washington Park – the original 1867 Roxbury park- with 10 acres of facilities and playing fields to cost $1million. Tennis and basketball courts would face ML King Jr. Blvd., the flat space cleared of homes and streets at the base of the original park would be graded into softball and football fields and finally a new childrens’ playground on the rocky ridge above the boulevard at Walnut Avenue.
Fay,Spofford and Thorndike with Jerry Spencer landscape architect for the BRA prepared preliminary plans and the completed work cost $957,000.
The gymnasium and recreation center at the corner of Dale Street was designed by William Nelson Jacobs and plans were approved in February, 1971. It ws named in homr of John R. Shelborn ( b 1894 ) the youth director of the Robert Gould Shaw Settlement House in the South End for many years.
Melnea Cass Pool and Rink was opened in June of 1968. and was designed by the engineering section of the Metropolitan District Commission ( renamed the Division of Conservation Resources in 2002.), a state agency. The plans were approved in August 1967.It was the only facility funded and managed by the state in the urban renewal area and the land it was built in was also transferred to the Commonwealth.
Pool and rink cost $1.1 million to build/ The rink has not functioned for decades.
WASHINGTON PARK MALL
The seven acre, $1.5 million shopping center was developed by the Roxbury supermarket Blairs Foodland with the Atlantic Corporation. The architects of the 400’ x 230’ enclosed multi store building was Associated Architects and Engineers ,Henry Boles priniciple architect. The first two anchor tenants were Blairs and Zayres Department Store.
Originally the mall was proposed in the summer of 1963 as a venture of the Purity Supreme Supermarket Company with Cambridge Seven as architects.( Roxbury Citizen, August 16, 1963).
The building permit was issued Sept. 23, 1965 and it was completed with 17 stores on August 17, 1967.
Zaryes, Family Foodland and Thom McCann Shoes were the first three stores to open on Sept. 29, 1966. At the opening ceremonies a jubilant Otto Snowden said “This mall represents the largest business investment in this area for years. Now everyone can see what urban renewal is about.”§
WILLIAM MONROE TROTTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
135 HUMBOLDT AVENUE
This was the only school built out of three planned. One was proposed at Harold, Hutchins and Seaver Street to replace the Williams School on Homestead Street, and the third was proposed for Circuit and Fountain Streets near Warren Gardens.
The Humboldt Avenue School ( as it was originally named) was proposed as a magnet school, for youngsters across the city.
Designed by Drummey, Rosanne and Anderson, the plans for the $1.3 million school were presented to the School Dept. on March 10, 1967.Groundbreaking took place the following August, 1967 and the school opened for classes in Sept. 1969.§§
The adjacent playground was designed by Fay Spofford & Thorndike and built between 1973 and 1974. Redesigned by landscape architect Paul CK Lu in 1991 and rebuilt at a cost of $288,000; this was completed in Sept. 1991. The playground was built on the site of the Humboldt Theater at 153 Humboldt Avenue where Freedom House had its first offices in upstairs commercial space. The playground was redesigned and rebuilt yet again in the summer of 2005.
The school was named after the journalist, editor and civil rights advocate William Monroe Trotter (1876- 1934). In 1901 he founded The Guardian a militant newspaper for racial equality in direct opposition to the more accommodationist methods of Booker T Washington. Trotter was a native of Hyde Park, Mass and he fell ( some claimed he jumped ) to his death from the roof of his Lower Roxbury apartment house on Cunard Street in 1934. §§§
Opposite the Trotter School at 130 – 140 Humboldt Avenue a long row of brick stores was razed to create Parcel H-9 ,originally proposed for unspecified institutional use After a failed housing attempt in 1970, the BRA designated Cruz Management and Construction Company to develop Cass House, a long ,4 story ,brick apartment house. Stull Associates, architects. Building permit April 11, 1986. Completed in 1988.
This was originally Ellson’s Block.
To get a sense of what Roxbury looked like when the Highlands was mostly Jewish, look at the Jewish Advocate of March 13,1914, in which it promotes Ellson’s Block as
” Roxbury’s New Market District” that included.
“ Davidson’s Periodicals
The Fashionable Barbershop and Hairdressers
Mrs Silversteins’ Chicken Mkt. and Fruit Store
Mrs Siegal’s Fancy Groceries
Mdll Strauss NY Dress Maker
Robbins Up-To-Date Handy Laundry and dry Cleaning.”
§ The new courthouse was built to replace the one removed in part to build New Dudley Street, completed in 1973; today most of the site is a parking lot. Suffolk County deeds. Book 8678 ,Pg 479 + 483.
Police District B was built to replace Stationhouse 9 + 10 on Columbus Avenue and Elmwood Street, taken to prepare the way for the aborted I-95.The Media Arts Center of Roxbury Community College sits on most of the site today. § BRA Director Edward Logue told the writer in 1990 that he recommended to Kallman, McKinnell they design a high glass curtain wall so that the public could see people reading and studying inside. Sturdier glass bricks were chosen after Logue left the BRA. § Bay State Banner, November 19, 1966.
The first Roxbury Clubhouse was on Roxbury Street nearly opposite Kenilworth St., designed by Harold Field Kellogg and built in 1914-1915. Championed by Judge Nathan Williams,Chief Justice of the Roxbury District Court, he selected the site but died in 1913 before it was underway.
Boston Herald, Nov 9,1914. Pg 9.Line drawing of the clubhouse
Boston Herald May 6, 1928 Pg. 16 photograph of Judge Williams.
Gutted by fire in January, 1989. Boston Globe Jan,30,1989.
On January 21, 2001 the old clubhouse was reopened as offices with a new entrance wing facing Dudley Street. Designed by Luna Design Architects, it cost $3.5 million.
Boston Globe Feb 1, 2001
Bay State Banner Feb 8, 2001. ribbon cutting ceremony and photograph of Fred Fairfield, developer. Standing near Mr, Fairfield in the photograph is Gail Snowden, only child of Otto and Muriel Snowden.
§ Bay State Banner Sept 27, 1966; Oct 1, 1966 page 7 ; Oct 8, 1966.
First National Stores replaced Blairs Family Foodland in December, 1971. (Bay State Banner Dec. 9, 1971. Page 9). None of these stores – including Zayres and Thom McCann Shoes - exist in 2005 as this is written. §§ Bay State Banner Aug. 21. 1967 and Sept 4, 1969.
In Sept ,2003 two new middle schools opened in Mattapan and Dorchester both designed by Drummey, Rosaanne and Atwood as architects in chief: Mildred Avenue in Mattapan and the Columbia Road Middle School at 264 Columbia Road near Ceylon Street in Dorchester. The Columbia Road site was planned as housing by the Freedom House Development Corporation in June, 1971. Called Brunswick Gardens, the architects were to be Associated Architects and Engineers. The plans never materialized and the site sat vacant until the school was built 30 years later.
Bay State Banner. June 24, 1971. Page 2.
§§§ Story on naming of the school. Boston Herald Dec 21, 1967. Biography of William Monroe Trotter,see Bay State Banner Sept 24, Oct 1, and Oct 8, 1966.