Our Mission and Programs
Four Corners Main Streets strives to support and promote a vibrant, healthy, and active commercial district in the Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester (Boston) through the following four-pronged approach: improving the district’s economic vitality by supporting existing businesses and attracting new ones; marketing the district to attract new and repeat visitors that support local businesses; enhancing the physical appearance of the district with an emphasis on safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and; increasing community connections to the district through events and involved businesses and residents.
Four Corners Main Streets is about People, Place, and Opportunity. Our mission is guided by our principles of equity and inclusion, and carried out by our Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers via the focused efforts of four standing committees: Design, Organization, Promotions, and Economic Restructuring.
A Four Pillar Approach
Our committees of the Board play unique and complimentary roles, including:
Enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging and supporting new construction, developing sensitive design and management systems and long term planning.
Building consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals who have a role in the revitalization process, tapping talent and volunteer support on behalf of this collective vision and values.
Marketing the traditional commercial district’s assets to customers, potential investors, new businesses, local residents, and visitors.
Strengthening the district’s economic bases while finding ways to expand it to meet new opportunities and challenges from outlying development.
Key Areas of Work
The work of our organization is rather nontraditional for a main streets program. It has evolved over the years based on our core mission and our connection to the community. More importantly, it is approached through our racial equity lens, ensuring that we work to include as many voices and networks from within our community. Our work can be grouped into the following areas:
Small Business Development
Support local businesses with access to to resources via referrals, application support, direct technical assistance, and translation. Identify and engage potential businesses that complement the current district mix and bring goods and services identified as important to the community.
Facilitate development that support long term community vision for the built environment and creates opportunities for new commercial space. Organize events and campaigns that positively profile our neighborhood and attract foot traffic that may result in increased revenues for local businesses.
Jobs, Transit, and Environmental Justice
Facilitate access to jobs and transportation options that support our vision for economically strong and healthy community. Transform vacant parcels into green spaces that produce food for local residents, contribute to positive mental health, and create opportunities for engagement of residents of all ages.
Four Corners Early Years
Dorchester Town Historian Four Corners is the junction of Washington, Bowdoin and Harvard Streets. Simply named, it is the intersection of four corners, yet the history of this neighborhood is fascinating. Washington Street was originally known as the Upper Road, laid out in 1654. Most of what was surrounding land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was farmland, with Governor James Bowdoin’s summerhouse surmounting Mount Bowdoin; the area remained largely undeveloped until after the Civil War. Four Corners was a crossroads, with Harvard Street leading to the Brush Hill Turnpike (Blue Hill Avenue), which was laid out as a toll road connecting Roxbury and Milton in 1805. Washington Street was laid out to connect Roxbury at Grove Hall to the Lower Mills, and Bowdoin Street connected Four Corners to Kane Square just below Meeting House Hill.
However, after the Revolution, the area around Four Corners was a prime location, as the view from the Upper Road toward the harbor was unparalleled. This panoramic view, seen from Boston all the way to Squantum, was a reason to build houses along the road. One of the first houses belonged to Edmund Pitt Tileston, a partner in the firm of Tileston & Hollingsworth, a paper mill on the Neponset River. He had a large Federal mansion at the corner of Washington and Dakota Streets that had a splendid view. The well-manicured grounds included terraces and a goldfish pond on the present site of Claybourne Street.
Adjacent to this estate was a small cottage that was once the home of Edwin and Mary Devlin Booth. He was a noted Shakespearean actor and brother of the notorious John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. The Booths had moved to Dorchester from Boston for the “healthy air,” as Mrs. Booth suffered from consumption. In Booth’s biography, The Prince of Players, it is said that the Booths moved to Dorchester to be near Dr. Erasmus Miller, a noted consumptive doctor who lived at the corner of Washington and School Streets.
The commercial development of Four Corners was slow. William Wilcox (1781–1820), a tinsmith, had his shop and home at the corner of Washington and Harvard Streets in the early nineteenth century. It was Wilcox who apprenticed Roswell Gleason in this trade. Gleason eventually purchased his former master’s business before starting his own business, a Britannia ware factory, at what is now Mother’s Rest, just south of Four Corners. He eventually employed upwards of fifty men producing Britannia ware, and later silver-plated teapots, coffeepots, cruets and serving pieces, until the factory was closed in 1871. With the residential development in the 1890s of the former Tucker estate, Gaylord, Algonquin and Bradley Streets were laid out, and the land was subdivided for building lots. The houses along these streets, built between 1890 and 1920, are substantial examples of Victorian and Colonial Revival architecture.
The annexation of Dorchester to Boston in 1870 allowed new residents to live in a planned suburban neighborhood, and the area around Four Corners attracted a diverse group of residents. To serve the needs of this growing neighborhood, Albert and S. Newman Chittenden opened the Mount Bowdoin Market at Four Corners, and Engine 18 built a new firehouse on Harvard Street. Four Corners is a crossroads between Codman Square and Grove Hall, two large shopping districts. The very name “Four Corners” seems simplistic regarding an intersection, but I can well remember walking to Four Corners for medicine, to the Chinese laundry with its thick steam rising from the backroom, to visit cousins on Algonquin Street or to borrow books at the Mount Bowdoin Reading Room of the Boston Public Library, just north of the corners.
This article was written by Anthony M. Sammarco