Less than 150 years ago, the portion of Dorchester known as Bowdoin-Geneva was rocky countryside with few residents. But quite quickly, it developed into a sprawling residential neighborhood. Using historical maps from the Dorchester Atheneum, the Globe reconstructed the neighborhood to show its evolution. Scroll down to see the maps. (Look for the info bar at the bottom.)
The neighborhood was almost completely built out. A brick garage occupied the site of Friendship Hall. The Hamilton Theater stood on Bowdoin Street. At the corner of Topliff Street, Shell Eastern Petroleum Products operated a small gas station. The large estate of Patrick Carey was absorbed by a new city green space named Ronan Park after the priest who founded St. Peter church.
St. Peter’s brick convent stood on Bowdoin Street. On Mount Ida, large estates began to give way to tightly packed triple deckers. The large lots atop Mt. Bowdoin were subdivided. Friendship Hall remains on Bowdoin Street, but it would soon be razed.
The brick edifice of St. Peter’s parochial school stood on Bowdoin Street. Land included in Governor Bowdoin's summer estate was divided into small plots. Less than a dozen homes were scattered along a roadway where H.W. Homes owned land. The road was named Homes Avenue, which in modern years became the name of a local street gang.
Construction boomed. More than 40 homes lined Longfellow Street, a wide road with a green parkway. A philanthropist and social reformer named Robert Treat Paine launched an urban experiment. Paine’s Workingmen’s Building Association offered factory workers alternatives to the tenement living in the South End and South Boston. Paine built more than 50 residences on Oakley Street, Holiday Street, and Homes Avenue to provide affordable housing for middle- and low-income workers.
Workmen carved a half dozen new roads out of the countryside. More than 40 houses were built along newly laid out Richfield Street. A new L-shaped road was named Norton Street because it followed the edge of a large swath of property owned by Patrick Norton.
The vague outline of a neighborhood had begun to emerge, but much remained a rocky countryside. Wooden buildings, shown in yellow, were clustered along Bowdoin Street. In the lower left, large estates dominated the slopes of Mt. Bowdoin, named, like the street, for Massachusetts Governor James Bowdoin (1785-1787), who had a summer estate on the hill.