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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Old Sad Dudley Manor on Centre Street

The Board of Regents & Roxbury Community College (RCC) are making their mark in Highland Park.

As the owners of record of 167 Centre Street, the Regents had been leasing out the premises to to long-time tenants, F.I.R.S.T Askia Academy. For many years FIRST Academy held a Christmas Tree sale from the adjacent RCC parking lot. They were decent neighbors, keeping to themselves and keeping the grounds in reasonably good shape.

But some time before February 2010, FIRST Academy pulled up stakes and left. We had first noted that the building was vacant toward the end of February. [The Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center and The Dimock Center seem to be the only non-aggregating sites on the web that describe FIRST.]

It is a gracious house and we wanted to write about it, but hesitated to bring attention to it when it was vacant and disused.

We needn't have worried.

The picture at the beginning of this post is what in-bound commuters on Columbus Avenue see when they look across the parking lot after passing the intersection with Centre Street. The careless, unpainted boards of plywood fairly cry out to those passing by Abandoned! Disused! Vacant! Disinvestment!

We know times are tough for everyone. We're sure that at the time this boarding up was done, it was done with the best intention of securing an important community asset. The plywood, no doubt, seemed a responsible guard against squatting, vandalism, and worse.

And yet, we wish there had been more thought given before these plywood sheets were slapped up. When RCC was being built there was talk of making the Dudley Manor into the president's house. What a grand president's house it would have been. But a "residential treatment program for recovering substance abusers" was a righteous use, too.

At the end of August, City Councillor Rob Consalvo proposed (with Councillors Maureen Feeney and Steve Murphy concurring) an amendment to a city ordinance governing maintenance of foreclosed property. It would have enabled the Inspectional Services Department to require owners of foreclosed property to secure the windows and doors from the inside to make the property look more secure and less offensive. If the City government considers compelling absentee landlords to treat the streetscape with respect, RCC might do well to reconsider how it has defaced the Dudley Manor. [Universal Hub article from ]

This summer RCC undertook a significant program of resetting all the granite coping on its three brick buildings. No doubt there was other work done at the roof line as well that was not obvious from the ground. The community is happy that the college is taking care of its buildings.

But, the old Dudley Manor house should receive at least as much care from RCC as do the new buildings. Perhaps there is a plan for this historic house. It would be nice to learn what it is.

Here is the Dudley Manor on a warm February afternoon before its plywooding.

Curiously, there is very little to be found about the Dudley Manor on the web. Except for the mention on the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center site, it is not even clear that the building should be called the Dudley Manor.


  1. It really is a shame that this amazing building should be left to rack and ruin. If I had any disposable income, I'd buy it and turn it into a nightclub. Or a casino.

    Seriously, though, it's even more of a shame that RCC doesn't take its membership in our community more seriously.

  2. If you look at the Bromley Maps from the earlier part of the last century, it shows that there used to be a large German Catholic church on or near where the parking lot is today. I believe that the building used to serve as its rectory.

  3. Thanks for the note, Neal. Are the Bromley Maps available online? The ones at the BPL Leventhal site don't show the area in sufficient detail. If they're not available online, what the best library to view them at?

    The Archdiocesan web site lists the Ethnic parishes, but shows no German parish for Roxbury. The only German parishes are Holy Trinity in the South End and Assumption in Lawrence.

    I've heard tell of an All Saints' parish in Roxbury. The Archdiocesan website tells of its establishment in 1894.

    I can locate each Roxbury parish (or its successor), but not All Saints.

  4. You can try toying with the Boston Atlas on the BRA website: http://www.mapjunction.com/bra/ , or go to the Land Court (currently located at 226 Causeway St, but moving to the Suffolk Courthouse in December), where there are Bromley map books in the map room there.

  5. I had heard growing up in the neighborhood that this mansion was once the residence of either the mayor or governor. I have been in it and i recall a "dumbwaiter."

  6. My father, William John Hazel, was married in September of 1915 to Inez Dudley Rogers, the daughter of the owner of Dudley Manor at that time...I would sure like to see pictures from that time!

    Vivian Hazel Adzaku (not the daughter of Inez!)