Mission Hill Housing – Lydia Hauser



Reflective Essay

Overtime, the evolution and expansion of neighborhoods in Boston has been great. One of these neighborhoods, Mission Hill, is known for its development from a prosperous farm land to a heavily suburban neighborhood to the home of many innovative religious, education and medical institutions. Because this neighborhoods borders a multitude of different communities with varying socio-economic classes, it is truly a mixing pot of people and cultures.

The Mission Hill area has a rich history, in general, but in terms of housing and development, the change over time has been great. Although the hill started out as a haven for the rich, upper-class people to build their estates in the 18th century, it quickly became a place for Irish and German immigrants to find shelter. Up until the American Revolution, this area supported a number of large country estates of wealthy  Boston families. Much of the area was an orchard farm, originally owned and operated by the Parker family in the 18th century. When Peter Parker married Sarah Ruggles in the early 1750s, the area was named Parker Hill and you can still find remnants of this name throughout the hill. The borders of the neighborhood began to be defined as Parker’s land was sold and developed. When Mission Church was built in 1874, the neighborhood began to flourish.

The suburbanization of this area began as Irish and German immigrants moved into the area. As the 19th century progressed, more and more city dwellers flocked to the suburbs. Many of them were not as affluent as Peter Parker or Timothy Hoxie. They created a demand for more housing and therefore brought this up and coming neighborhood to the forefront. Due to the abundance of the material, many of these new homes were constructed using the same Roxbury puddingstone used to construct the church. Many of these structures were created in a the short span of 7 years around 1890. Overtime this neighborhood flourished and brought more and more people to the outskirts of Boston. The first housing development, Mission Main, was built in 1940 and allowed for more low socio-economic residents to move into the area. However, in the 1950s, many of these residents struggled with the urban renewal that began on Mission Hill. Urban renewal was a policy enforced by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, to create more efficient living conditions. Unfortunately it ended up only upsetting the community, by demolishing houses, creating dense tenements, and attempting to stimulate business.

Since then it has been known for being somewhat underdeveloped area of Boston and filled with disgruntled residents. One of the worst times for this area was during the the late 1900s, when there was a large racial conflict. During this time, many people of color were moving to this area and were not being accepted by the older, white residents that had lived there for years. Due to its proximity to historically African-American communities like Roxbury and Dorchester, the conflict only continued. At the height of the crime and violence on the hill, Charles Stuart, a white man, accused a black man of murdering his pregnant wife, when it was in fact Stuart who did this. This only worsened Mission Hill’s already deteriorating reputation.   

As the surrounding areas grew a developed, many of the residents of this area have been displaced. The Longwood Medical area has developed greatly over the years which brought about the beginnings of gentrification to the area. Another factor that played greatly into the gentrification is the many universities in the surrounding regions. Schools like Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Massachusetts College of Art and Design have all brought an abundance of students seaking off-campus housing to the area. This influx of students, willing to pay  more for housing, priced out many of the longtime residents on Mission Hill. These events also brought about development of many houses into luxury condos and lofts. A fair amount of the triple-deckers were converted into condominiums.

It’s connection to major neighborhoods of Boston is what has allowed this neighborhood to flourish over the years. Many people are attracted to the housing here due to its proximity to many amenities as well as the whole of Boston.  Not only does it connect Fenway and Roxbury, it borders the Riverway and Olmsted Park. This allows even more connection to Boston through the Emerald Necklace. With the two MBTA train lines, residents of Mission Hill are able to access all of Boston and many of the surrounding neighborhoods of Greater Boston. Today, Mission Hill has a very unique identity because of all the different people that live there. From affluent professionals to students to the original long-time residents. This diversity has allowed for the community to build many great connections and relationships.


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