For the penultimate Boston By Foot Tour of the Month of the 2007 season, and my last as co-chair, we visited Historic Roxbury. This is my favorite tour of all, because it’s full of surprises.
Roxbury was once an expansive city in it’s own right built literally as a borough on the rocks. Those rocks specifically are Roxbury Puddingstone, flung by angry Dorchester Giant children who were fussy eaters. The neighborhood has gone from pastoral retreat for the wealthy to urban ghetto for the poor. Today it is in revival due to local activists (who among other things stopped I-95 from plowing through the neighborhood) and gentrification. Despite the blight of previous decades, it still has it center Eliot Square which resembles the typical New England town green complete with the white clapboard First Church in Roxbury.
Relics of colonial times such as The Parting Stone and the Dillaway-Thomas House mix with modern structures such as the Islamic Society of Boston mosque and the Madison Park High School. Roxbury has been home to lithographer and social reformer Louis Prang, patriotic rider William Dawes, writer and theologian Edward Everett Hale and abolitionist and publisher William Lloyd Garrison. A walk up to Fort Hill takes you past diverse architecture and quiet natural nooks to one of the best panoramic views of Boston. That is if you can tear your eyes away from the Cochituate Standpipe and the park landscaped by Olmsted.
No wonder some residents want to keep this place a secret. Oops, I think I’ve let it out.