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1299 Massachusetts Avenue in Edward Everett Square - Early History and Today

Existing Conditions and Proposed Restoration

1299 Massachusetts, located in Edward Everett Square, was purchased by Living Stream Ministry for joint use with a local Christian congregation, "Church in Boston." Construction / restoration work has been underway for several years. 

Architect William (Buddy) Christopher states that the church has been working with the BRA to restore the building authentically, consistent with its original look and complimentary to the existing artistic presentation in EE Square.  While there are subtle differences in windows, for example, and a new third floor, the overall appearance hearkens back to the building's original appearance close to 100 years ago.

Photos below were taken at the site on December 21, 2010.  Roche-Christopher Architecture, LLC had placed printed visual renderings in the windows.  Apparently these were damaged by condensation which is why the image on the right appears "a bit streaky."  Still the comparison of the two images is striking especially with the backdrop of the Boston skyline.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

Road Changes at Turn of the Century Created 1299 Mass Ave

Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Road and Boston Street are the primary streets associated with the intersection known as "Edward Everett Square."  Today, Cottage Street is rarely mentioned, and most traffic is unaware that this street even exists on both sides of Columbia Road.  Yet historic maps of Boston from 1874 through 1933 show that Cottage Street was once the dominant N/S crossroad of the intersection.

By 1904, Edward Everett Square had come into existence along with a major change to the road system including a new extension of Massachusetts Avenue terminating there.  Out of this new road grid was created a triangular-shaped plot of land where Mass Ave and Cottage Street intersected. In 1917, the owner, John Gillespie, built a garage on the site and as of 1929, the new owner was issued an official occupancy of "Garage Repair Shop and Show Room."  Two addresses were used interchangeably for the garage  - 708 Columbia Rd and 1299 Massachusetts Avenue.

Since then, the building has seen multiple uses, most of them related to car repair and car sales but it was also used as an employment agency and a fruit stand.  Note the photos below and the photo captions.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester
Even as late of 2010, the Newmarket Employment sign can be seen clearly in the second floor
window while the New Market Farm Stand is advertising "Oranges - 4/$4.00"

Notice that the original building had two stories at the curve but only one story back along both sides.
In the new design, all of that has been filled in to create a full three floors for the entire building.

The Dorchester Historical Society presents a nice historic summary of the building as part of their DIOTD - Dorchester Illustration of the Day.  Click here.

Was the Original Building (Garage) Built in 1917 or 1929?

The Living Stream Ministry website states that the garage was built in the late 1920's.  Others have suggested the garage existed at the turn of the century. 

Boston Inspectional Services documents and historic maps provide helpful information that pinpoints a construction date of 1917 for the first building and that it was a garage.

April 12, 1929 John Gillespie, owner, applies for a building permit with current and future uses "garage."  Note:  Map shows owner is M Wilber Gillespie.
June 18, 1929 M Wilbur Gillespie, owner, applies for building permit.  He states a current use of "garage, repair shop, stores" and a future occupancy of "Garage - Repair Shop - Show Room."
May 16, 1947 The building owner is Walter McDonough Co, the address is 708 Columbia Rd and the permit applicant sites a "garage permit"  issued 6/28/1917.  McDonough Co is owned by Walter M. McDonough who lived at 21 Melbourne Rd in Dorchester.  At that time, he stated that the building is currently used as a garage.
June 9, 2003 Permit requests that five lots (#  3597, 3598, 3599, 3600 and 3601) be combined into one lot.  This permit cites a legal occupancy of "Garage repair shop and show room"  Doc # 236 / 1929.


  • A garage permit was issued June 28, 1917 to owner John Gillespie and a new brick building appears on the 1918 map covering the entire plot of land but does not label the building as "garage."  An April 1929 permit indicated "current use" as garage.  
  • In June, 1929 the new building owner, M. Wilbur Gillespie, took out a permit that also upgraded occupancy to "Garage - Repair Shop - Show Room."   A garage does show on the 1933 map.

Click here to view 1299 Mass Ave website

Note:  The Dorchester Historical Society's blog suggests an original construction date in the range 1910 to 1918.  According to Earl Taylor, they used that range because the 1910 map did not show a brick building while the 1918 one did.   Historical Society Blog

"The original building, built between 1910 and 1918 as a garage, had two stories at the curve but only one story back along both sides."

History of 1299 Massachusetts Avenue through Maps

Beginning with 1874

In 1874 Stoughton Street served as the northerly route from Pleasant Street through Uphams Corner, still retaining the name Stoughton Street until past Brook Ave where the name changed to Dudley Street.   Columbia Street ran east / west through Uphams Corner but as it intersected Stoughton Street, the name changed to Boston Street because it ran directly to South Boston.

Further east and parallel to Stoughton Street was Cottage Street.   Starting at Dorchester Ave, Cottage Street served as a primary north/south crossroad.  At its intersection with Pleasant Street, Cottage Street continued north on the west side of a parcel of land, most of which was owned by John Richardson (from whence the name, Richardson Park), while Pond Street, a lesser road, ran on the east side.  Just past Sumner Street, both Cottage and Pond Streets intersected with Boston Street.  Pond Street terminated there while Cottage Street continued north through the intersection into Boston. 

Bringing it current: 
  • The name "Stoughton Street" stops at Columbia Road, changing to "Dudley Street" as it crosses the intersection.
  • Columbia Street is now Columbia Road
  • Columbia Road continues east through the Uphams Corner intersection while Boston Street doesn't start until Edward Everett Square

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

Closeup of Intersection in 1874

A closeup of the intersection of Boston and Cottage Streets shows that it is already "busy." While Cottage Street is the major street on the west side of the Richardson parcel, Pond Street is adding to the complexity of the intersection.

Notice the large parcel of land at the intersection of Cottage and Boston Streets on the east side.  (Where is Mass Ave?)

Bringing it current:
  • The large parcel of land at Cottage and Boston Streets on the east side was reconfigured when the road that became Massachusetts Avenue dissected the parcel into two separate parcels, one of which became 1299 Massachusetts Avenue.   See map of 1889.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

1889 Saw the Beginnings of Massachusetts Avenue in EE Square

East Chester Park, as shown on the map of 1889, is the first iteration of what eventually became Massachusetts Avenue.  The triangular plot of land that now remains at the intersection of East Chester Park and Cottage Street is owned by Hrs. (Heirs of) Ellen Gillespie, likely the original owner of the land in that form. 

The intersection has grown more complex: 
  • Boston and Cottage Streets are cross streets, each continuing through the intersection
  • East Chester Park and Pond Street terminate at the intersection

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

By 1904 Significant Changes had taken place Including the Naming of EE Square

The 1904 map shows significant changes.  Edward Everett Square has been named and East Chester Park has been renamed to Massachusetts Avenue.

Heirs of Ellen Gillespie are still the owner(s) of the property though it would appear that a second building has been constructed on the site.  According to the Index map, the color yellow indicates a building of frame construction.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

1910 - Property Changes Hands but Stays in the Family

The property appears the same six years later in 1910 but the owner has changed to John Y Gillespie.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

Boston Map of 1918

By the time of the 1918 map, the owner(s) had constructed a brick building (color red indicates brick) covering the entire plot of land.  The map indicates that M Wilber Gillespie is the owner but a building permit in April 1929 indicates that John still is.  At a minimum the property remains within the Gillespie family.

Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester

1933 Map Shows Property as Garage

The property is still owned by the same person but his name has changed in spelling from "M. Wilber Gillespie" to "M Milbur Gillespie."  The same building still exists, but has been updated to indicate the building is a "garage."  
Edward Everett Square Section of Dorchester
Compare the two maps from 1918 and 1933.  The newer map has many small "brown boxes."  While the Index map does not provide an explanation, these likely are garages.

2012 Map - EE Square Intersection Redesigned

A major redesign of Edward Everett Square in the late 1900's isolated Cottage Street so that neither side terminates in the intersection.  Outside of that, Edward Everett Square remains pretty much the same in 2012 as it looked in 1933.
Edward Everett Square

Note:  Map images are from various issues of The Bromley Atlas and may be found at the Dorchester Atheneum
as well as HistoricMapWorks.com


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Posted: November 28, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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