Walking Tour: The Streets of Mission Hill
From 2008 to 2010, I lived on Hillside Street in Mission Hill. To my mind, Mission Hill is one of Boston’s most interesting neighborhoods. Thousands of people pour into the nearby Longwood Medical Area and the various colleges every day for work and study, yet few of them take the time to wander up and down its narrow streets to pay close attention to the homes, buildings, sidewalks, and other elements of this rather busy and densely populated section of the city. What follows is my highly opinionated and subjective account of a few of Mission Hill’s more notable features.
Gothic Revival on Hillside Street
139 Hillside Street.
Today the house at 139 Hillside Street has been neatly carved into apartments to accommodate the students who conveniently “discovered” Mission Hill after a steep decrease in crime throughout the area in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Its fabulous facade gables, steep roof slope and finials all point to a lively interpretation of the Gothic Revival style that was much in vogue when the house was built in 1845. The home was owned by Reverend Andrew Stone in the 1850s of the Park Street Church, and he subsequently sold it to the Swedenborgian minister Samuel Mills Warren in 1865. For these reasons, it is known by most as the Stone-Warren House.
Keeping Hope VI Alive on McGreevey Way
Today, the Mission Main housing properties have a New Urbanist feel that reflects their late 1990s roots. Before that time, they were largely considered one of the most dangerous housing complexes managed by the Boston Housing Authority. Things looked most grim in 1993 when a building assessment described 56% of the buildings in poor condition. During the Clinton administration, monies became available under the HOPE VI initiative, which sought to remedy the problems faced by some of the oldest public housing projects in the United States. The ambitious project was completed from 1996 to 2002, as the former “superblocks” were undone and the entire complex was rebuilt. Today, Mission Main is managed as part of a public-private partnership between the Boston Housing Authority and an outside management company.
Blast From the Past: Wigglesworth Street
Wigglesworth Street in Mission Hill.
Doorway of 13 Wigglesworth Street, Mission Hill.
The name Wigglesworth is truly part and parcel of proud Boston genealogy, and their distinguished number includes 17th century clergyman Michael Wigglesworth and noted East India merchant Thomas Wigglesworth. This quaint short street runs from Tremont Street to Huntington Avenue and is distinguished by its long run of late 19th century Second Empire rowhouses, complete with mansard roofs. Every doorway offers a slight bit of architectural variation and playfulness, and it is easy to understand why these buildings remain quite desirable, despite the din of the nearby E Line and other aspects of urban ambient noise.
South Whitney Street: A Short Street With Plenty of Grit
South Whitney Street.
Leading away from Tremont Street is the rather short and somewhat unkempt South Whitney Street. I like it because it’s a bit gritty and it dead-ends into Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park, which is a real gem in the community, complete with piles and piles of Roxbury puddingstone scattered about. Walking down the street, visitors will notice a rather well-worn collection of walk-up apartment buildings that have seen much better days. It feels a bit lonely at the end of the street, though you will have a great view of some nice tags and lots of puddingstone.