A Brief History of Dorchester


  • Settled in 1630 by Puritan farmers
  • Hills & surrounding valleys define villages
  • Roads built, the oldest along an Indian trail
  • Colonial English growth & aggression force Native American relocation, although…
  • … “King Phillips’s War” takes huge toll in 1675
  • Millworks develop along the Neponset


  • “Southern Grants” result in spinoff towns
  • Prosperous farmers & millers hate British taxes
  • Sons of Liberty organize Dorchester patriots
  • Dorchester’s fortified hills defend the harbor
  • Washington slept here, Evacuation Day is born


  • Town meetings established, with limited voting
  • USA’s 1st tax supported public school (for boys)
  • Future landmarks start appearing
  • Light industry makes the scene, with more “1st’s”
  • Yankees prevail ‘til mid-century, until…
  • … Railroad lines open Dorchester as a suburb
  • Successful “new” immigrants migrate, although looking back to Boston for political power
  • Dorchester annexes itself to Boston in 1869
  • Olmsted designs Franklin Park (in 1879)
  • Streetcar suburbs take hold
  • Catholic presence increases
  • Housing diversifies, population density increases, market districts evolve
  • Wonderful architecture, especially homes


  • More wonderful architecture
  • Settlement houses develop
  • Catholic parish system is firmly rooted
  • Jewish presence increases to 90,000
  • Ward politics thrive
  • Civic associations appear
  • African Americans become a presence
  • B-BURG, redlining, blockbusting in 1960’s
  • Massive & rapid neighborhood turnover
  • Riots, civil disturbances, abandonment
  • Political clout narrows
  • School system collapses, busing is mayem
  • Civic renewal begins in 1970’s, 1980’s
  • Enter: Haitian, Jamaican, Caribbean, Southeast Asian, Hispanic, Cape Verdean