History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Blighted Legacy Taunts Alvah Kittredge Square

The annual clean-up of Alvah Kittredge Square is scheduled for this weekend. From 9 to 11 am this Saturday, 24 April 2010, the "neighborhood scrub down" takes place. A sweet little announcement came to the neighborhood email list asking the neighbors to turn out, to bring flowers to plant and ideas for an after-school program, and to shovel around some city-provided mulch.

If there is enough time and willing hands, folk will walk down to Highland Ave and Centre Street to dress up that corner. The email even includes a pretty picture from Roxbury Highland's glory days.

The Friends of AK Park report they have secured commitment of significant funding from several foundations, have received a promise of help from Mayor Menino, and are confident of additional funding for a reconstruction of the park.

That's not all. The Project Review Committee of Highland Park is considering plans for the construction of a new rowhouse, "a landmark green building, producing more clean energy than it consumes" on the square at the corner of Highland and Linwood streets.

But, wait ... there's still more. It seems that the community garden at Alvah Kittredge Square is soon to be upgraded with a water supply, a concrete walk-way, a (wrought-iron!) fence and gate, and division into thirteen garden plots.

It's been a struggle over the years, but with the development of the apartment buildings facing the square, the investment of many owners and renters, the work of Historic Boston with the rowhouses on the square, the community garden, and other efforts, Alvah Kittredge Square has come a long way.
Except for one small detail: Alvah's house.

This poor derelict presides over the square from its address of 10 Linwood Street. It is a wreck and it continues to slide toward destruction right before our eyes. Here is the facade on a recent morning, propped up with scaffolding.

Here are photographs of the rear of the building and of its west side.

Will the scaffolding be sufficient to keep the rotted wood from tumbling onto the sidewalk? Does the blue tarpaulin partially draped over the roof really keep the rain out?

In a photograph from the web site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, dated July 2004, the Alvah Kittredge House looked like this.
Given the current scandalous neglect, in a very few more years there will be nothing left of this historic treasure to restore.

The Roxbury Action Program (RAP)—whose name adorns the front of the building—owned this house in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Preoccupied elsewhere in the neighborhood, RAP sat on the house and allowed it to deteriorate like any feckless, absentee landlord. Since that time RAP has pulled up stakes from 10 Linwood Street and has conveyed the property (probably in 1999) to Alexander Leroy who is trustee of something called the Linwood St Realty Trust.

10 Linwood Street is listed with the city as commercial property, assessed at $179,900.00, with an annual property tax of $5,285.46 for fiscal year 2010—plus interest and fees of $271.95, as nothing has been paid against the tax bill this year. See the roller-coaster valuation history at the City of Boston On-line Assessing web site.

Mr. Leroy, and his do-nothing trust, are dreadfully misusing this historic house and the neighborhood in which it sits, just as the Roxbury Action Program did when it was the custodian.

Diligent neighbors can plant flowers and plan gardens, committed owners can invest, build, and renovate, and responsible and successful charities can lend a hand.

But, until Linwood St Realty takes its civic duty seriously, Alvah Kittredge Square will continue to be taunted by the irresponsibility manifested in this wreck.

Or, Alexander Leroy & trust can get out of the way and convey this piece of historic Fort Hill to someone who can do the job.

This status quo is shameful.

An addendum: On page 40 of this Notice of Taking, [1.465KB pdf] the Collector-Treasurer announces that it is his "intention to take for the City of Boston On Tuesday, the Fifteenth day of December, 2009" 10 Linwood Street, among other "parcel(s) of real estate for non-payment, after demand, of the taxes thereon" of $5,975.20.


  1. I agree completely. Thanks for detailing its history here.

  2. As a property owner in the area it would be a great pleasure to see not only this property restored but the park renovated as well. These restorations would make a huge positive impact to this area of Roxbury and might actually promote more civic pride in the neighborhood.

  3. I rent in the area and was happy to see some activity this week. I spoke with a worker who said his boss had purchased the property two years ago. he said there had been several fires and that the roof was open for almost two years. I did see the RAP mural which looked remarkably vibrant. Anyone know who painted it or what happened to RAP?. Anyway happy to see ANY work being done and look forward to seeing the square in its former glory.

  4. It can be redone as well as the park. But what can be done about the huge concrete housing facing the park.

  5. It is historical ignorance such as this that ruins the rich diversity of Boston. RAP was a center of community organizing that was one of the first to recognize and advocate for change in Roxbury. RAP lead education and organizing efforts far more critical to the Boston community then rehabilitating a park. Fort Hill was once a vibrant center of African-American Boston and it is the gentrification of this neighborhood that been the greatest tragedy.

  6. To the Anonymous poster of 7 Feb 2011:

    You might want to tune up whatever stereotypes you've got. They're not working well.

    "historical ignorance"? We're afraid not.

    "RAP was a center of community organizing"? You bet. Take a stroll up Highland Ave.

    RAP led education and organizing efforts? Yup. But, that 'diamond in the rough' still needs some polishing.

    The simple fact is that RAP failed as custodian of the Alvah Kittredge House. And, it failed to convey the historic property to an organization that could succeed. The post wasn't about RAP's successes; it was about a blighted house anchoring a key public park.

    "Fort Hill was once a vibrant center of African-American Boston"? We think it still is, but then you may be yearning for some imaginary Golden Age. Fort Hill also used to be a hotbed of Yankee mercantilists escaping the foetid Boston summers. And, a hotbed of Jews. And, of Irish Catholics. And, of collectives. And, of homosexuals. And, of Lithuanians. Why, we've even seen some Chinese making the neighborhood vibrant.

    "gentrification of this neighborhood [has] been the greatest tragedy."?! Oh, really? We thought the greatest tragedy was the time our neighbors were burned out of their houses (three of them) by the BFD arsonist. Or, the countless other arson fires that destroyed so much housing stock. Or, maybe it was that double murder that happened on our doorstep.

    We don't know about you, but we're liking the fact that the B&Es are no longer a weekly occurrence. We like the fact that the police now come when we call 911. We like the fact that when the BFD arrives at a fire, their first order of business is to put it down, and not to break out all the windows in the house. We're liking the street sweepers. We've even reconciled ourselves to the new Orange Line.

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