By Pete Stidman
Ever since brothers Enos and Isaac Field opened
up a little store there almost 200 years ago, the
corner of Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue has
been known as Fields Corner. Today it is a bustling
'urban cluster' of shops, restaurants and other
businesses, many of them owned and run by
Historic Boston Incorporated began looking at
ways to illuminate that arc of history last
December, when it chose the corner as one of two
pilots for historic renovation of neighborhood
centers in the city, and some of the early results
of their research are in.
At Fields Corner Main Streets' annual meeting
last night, HBI presented several historic
highlights around the neighborhood and a work plan
describing how they might bring some of them to
Interesting to anyone who has sat through a
Fields Corner Civic Meeting was the revelation that
at one time, the business community at the corner
had a much higher density than it does today.
Several two- and three-story masonry and wood
buildings have ceased to shadow area sidewalks.
Two three-story buildings flanked the entrance
to Charles Street at Dot Ave. in one undated photo
for example. One held O'Keefe's coffee bean shop
and Wachter's ice cream store. Today the spot is
home to the one-story Structure Beauty Salon and a
In another later photo, HBI noticed that a diner
inhabited the shotgun style building that currently
houses Gallagher's Insurance, also near Charles
"The grill was on the right," said John
Gallagher, who inherited his dad's company with his
brother Bill. "You can still see the vent there.
Lots of people come in here from time to time who
used to come here when it was a diner."
His father John Gallagher Sr. bought the place
in 1960 and moved his insurance business in.
According to John Jr., the place was a flower shop
before the diner, and may have been a "chuckwagon"
before that. A set of old wagon wheels can be seen
underneath the tiny building when the wood paneling
is taken off the side, he said.
Another focus for HBI was the Robinson block,
currently housing D'Bennys Subs & More, Kim-Mai
Beauty Salon and a number of other businesses at
Dot Ave. and Adams. Apparently, the building was
strikingly different when it was built in the mid
1800s as a wooden structure with a mansard roof.
Today the same building is a two-story stucco job
with a flat roof and an entirely different profile.
HBI, in conjunction with Viet-AID and Field's
Corner Main Streets, plans to spend two years or
more identifying historic resources, collaborating
with property owners to rehabilitate or redevelop
buildings such as the O'Hearn Storage building (a
former music hall) or 1500 to 1514 Dot Ave. (which
hides a far more attractive façade than it
shows), and reach out to the wider community with
communication tools like a website and a historic
resource collection at the Fields Corner Branch
"I think it's an interesting project," said Earl
Taylor of the Dorchester Historical Society. "No
one has any control or clout or anything, but what
HBI is trying to do is show what a building could
possibly look like."
The question of whether property owners will
take on the redevelopment projects seems to be on
the minds of many observing HBI's progress, but few
doubt that doing so would bring new possibilities
to the neighborhood.
"It's going to be like anything now, 'What's it
going to cost me,'" said Tom Gannon of Field's
Corner Civic Association, one of the project's
advisors. "Property owners will need to determine
if the projects are financially worthwhile for them
in order to consider making repairs."
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