First Church of Roxbury
|Annexed by Boston||1868|
|- Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC)|
|Area code(s)||617 / 857|
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. 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.
Roxbury is now one of 21 official neighborhoods of Boston, used by the city for neighborhood services coordination. The city asserts that it "serves as the heart of Black culture in Boston."
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 south and east 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 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 settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a series of six villages in 1630. The village of Roxbury (originally called “Rocksberry”) 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. 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. 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:
"Roxbury had many resources the colonists were looking for: open farmland, timber and stone for building, and the Stony Brook for water power. In the 17th and 18th centuries, farming was the basis of Roxbury's economy. The town was locally famous for its fruit trees, and noted varieties were developed on local farms -- including the Roxbury Russet apple, particularly prized for cider. The apple orchard grew at the site of the current Orchard Gardens housing project."
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 home to recent immigrants - A thriving Jewish community developed around Grove Hall, along Blue Hill Avenue, Seaver Street and into Dorchester along Columbia Road. A large Irish population also developed, with many activities centered around Dudley Square, which just before and following annexation into Boston, became a central location for Roxbury commerce. 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. The center of African American residential and social activities in Boston had formerly been on the north slope of Beacon Hill and the South End. 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 which discouraged commerce and business development. 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.
Roxbury is still a majority African-American neighborhood as it has been since 1960, but there is a growing Puerto Rican population. In 1987, Nelson Merced, a Puerto Rican, was elected from the fifth Suffolk district in Boston. As of the 2000 census Roxbury was 5% Non-Hispanic White, 63% Non-Hispanic 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.
Roxbury Preparatory Charter School is a public charter school that serves 6-8 grades on Mission Hill in Roxbury, MA.
Roxbury High School was once located on Greenville Avenue.