Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods, Boston
April 24, 2013 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods! I've lived in Boston about ten years and am considering a move to one of those areas, but am pretty ignorant of the different neighborhoods within. Help me rectify this -- what are your favorite spots in Roxbury or Dorchester, and why?

For example, I'm really interested in some of the older architecture in those neighborhoods, as opposed to new construction. We also like being near the T, a town square/town center with restaurants, shops, post office, library nearby. Schools in Boston can be tricky, so if you have any insight about those I'm happy to hear it, too. But, as I'm looking into parts of Boston that are new to me, I don't really have a feel for Grove Hall vs. Codman Square vs. Savin Hill vs. Ashmont etc. I know that crime can be an issue in some areas, but of course not all, so I'd like a balanced idea of what to expect. Please tell me about your favorite spots!
posted by lillygog to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Savin Hill itself is a bit quieter than the rest of Dorchester - it's off on this little corner on the far side of the expressway. And there's a *great* park in the middle of it.

I used to do a bit of work in parts of Dorchester and a lot of work in the Fort Hill and Mission Hill neighborhoods of Roxbury, but that was over 20 years ago, so I have no idea what it's like now. All of the areas have some lovely old homes, some of which have been well restored and some of which have not. And some have surprisingly large yards for the middle of an urban area. There's really not a lot of new construction in most of those neighborhoods.

One thing to look at is 'under the hood', so to speak. Because these have been historically poor neighborhoods for a long time, there's been some *really* bad work done on some of those houses. (I remember a house on Mission Hill where the basement had been rewired in the zip-wire that cheap extension cords are made of.) Old infrastructure in the house isn't inherently bad (some of the houses are old enough to have knob-and-tube electrical wiring, for instance), but poor 'improvements' on it can be.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very cool that you are looking at these neighborhoods - I believe both Dorchester and Roxbury are far underrated as places to live. Not only can your housing dollar go much further, the diversity/mix is a big draw - the 02125 zip code was recently identified as the most diverse in Boston - and the cultural mix is very strong in all parts of the two neighborhoods.

I think one thing that might help you is to go to neighborhood association meetings in areas you find interesting. You'll get a pretty good sense of who lives there (keeping in mind neighborhood meetings tend to skew more towards long term residents), and you'll get to meet people and get feedback in a setting that is much more informative than just real estate agent boosterism or hearsay from people who don't really know the neighborhood.

Neighborhoods in Roxbury or Dot that I would consider, if I were moving here again, would be, in no particular order (my list is by no means exhaustive):

1) Ashmont Hill (my current neighborhood)
2) Carruth Street area
3) Adams Village
4) Melville Avenue, Wellesley Park
5) Savin Hill
6) Lower Mills
7) Jones Hill
8) Polish Triangle
9) Fort Hill
10) Clam Point

For T access, 1,2,4,5,8,9 are probably best. For shops, restaurants, libraries - harder to pick out, but I like 1,2,3,4,6.

I might suggest exanding your search to Milton as well - Milton Hill is right by Lower Mills and has seen a lot of new shops coming in as well.
posted by anelsewhere at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Savin Hill is one of my favorite "Obscure Boston Neighborhoods". Good T access, a nice park, quiet. Not a lot of shops, but not too far to other decent neighborhoods for that.
posted by kaszeta at 1:26 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lower Mills is kind of fun. I haven't been in a few years, but it's a neat little neighborhood on the Neponset.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:48 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Dorchester (and next door, in Milton) and if I ever moved back to Boston, I would definitely live in Dorchester. It's changed a LOT over the years, but the above comments get it pretty much right. One key thing to remember about Dorchester is that it used to be its own city and is actually as big as Cambridge, square miles-wise. So there's a lot to choose from. The general rule of thumb is that close to Dot Ave or to its East are safer neighborhoods, but there are some nice areas to the west as well.

If you're interested in old architecture, the area around Melville Ave is really nice. Lots of old Victorian-era mansions (some of which have been split up into apartments/duplexes), and close to two T stops (Shawmut and Fields Corner).

I lived on Jones Hill (next to Uphams Corner) as a kid and that is a really great little neighborhood full of gorgeous old Victorians. A bit farther from the T, but still pretty close, and apparently there's a commuter rail stop there now. It was a REALLY great place to be a kid. I had a bunch of friends in our immediate neighborhood and we could play safely on the street on summer evenings. This was in the 80s - I bet it's even safer/better now.

Lower Mills has had a lot of investment over the past 10 or so years - it's barely recognizable with all the new restaurants, condos, etc. Still pretty small/neighborhood-feeling though. Drawback is that you have to take the trolley to the red line.

The Northern end of Dot Ave seems to be getting a lot of good businesses lately, including my favorite Indian restaurant in Boston, Shanti. A bunch of good, authentic Vietnamese places, too.

Can't help with schools (my Dorchester elementary school was a magnet and is now in JP), but friends who live near Shawmut send their kids to Mather Elementary and they love it. Coincidentally, they send their kids to the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester's after-school program, where I went too, and their kids love it as much as I did.

As you can see from the answers here, Dorchester has gentrified a lot more easily than Roxbury. One thing about Roxbury is that a lot of real estate agents seem to do that thing where, instead of trying to convince (white, middle-class) people that Roxbury is ok, they just market places as being part of close popular neighborhoods. So a lot of places marketed as "the South End" are actually Roxbury. Mission Hill is also part of Roxbury, and some places close to Dudley Square seem to be marketed as "Jamaica Plain."
posted by lunasol at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

lunasol, I've definitely noticed that. We live closer to Roxbury right now, so are in some ways more interested in that area than others, just because we know it better. And I've already done some looking around there and really noticed what you're talking about.

And thanks to everyone so far for all the fabulous info on Dorchester, that's exactly what I'm interested in. Keep it coming!
posted by lillygog at 3:43 PM on April 24, 2013

Lunasol: oh yeah. In particular, i notice JP now seems to stretch down to tremont st.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:10 PM on April 24, 2013

Dorchester is great! Lower Mills is very much worth looking at - it's neighborhood-y, accessible on the T (via the trolley from Ashmont), has an antique shop and cute coffee shops, and is near the river and a nice walking trail.

I also can recommend the Shawmut/Ashmont/Adams Village area - both Ashmont and Adams Village have nice little collections of shops and things. Adams Village has a public library branch. My impression is that Fields Corner has slightly more crime than Savin Hill (on one end) or Shawmut/Ashmont (on the other end) - I think partly because there's a shopping plaza there and people congregate. But there is also a playground and ball field there.

Can't help you on schools, unfortunately.
posted by marginaliana at 6:38 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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