A dozen historic homes and carriage barns will swing wide their doors and show off their classic detailing next Sunday for the first Dorchester House Tour in a decade. The Dorchester Historical Society has resurrected the tour, dating back to the 1970s, which features some of the neighborhood gems sitting just shy of the regularly beaten path.
The Dorchester Reporter is proud to be the media sponsor of the Dorchester House Tour, set for Sunday, June 12 in Ashmont Hill.
Attendees will travel between houses on the self-guided tour, which begins at noon from All Saints Church. Many of Ashmont Hill’s homes were built between the early 1870s through about 1900, and the tour includes Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Shingle style homes.
The houses on the tour are privately owned residences. Homeowners and volunteers will be stationed throughout the houses to chat with tour participants about what it takes to live in, renovate, and transform a historic home.
“One of the features of historic preservation is making properties usable for people today,” said Earl Taylor, president of the Dorchester Historical Society. “So it’s very important that a property is rehabbed with a sensitivity to historic preservation, but also to the current use.”
Committing to a historic home sets a homeowner up for a long-term labor of love.
“Some of the houses are as good as they’re gonna get,” said Vicki Rugo with the historical society, “though their owners are constantly doing things to change them just because they enjoy doing it.”
House tours in Ashmont Hill began taking place in the 1970s, Rugo said, which then spun off into Melville Park in the 1980s. “Those sort of set a model for showing people would come to Dorchester neighborhoods to see what was here, and there were all these wonderful 19th and early 20th century houses to be seen.”
Some residents began the Codman Square House Tour in 1996, including houses in Melville Park, Shawmut, and Ashmont Hill. It functioned as a fundraiser for community health organizations based in Codman Square, as well as raising awareness of the local homes.
For the next 10 years, the tour included between eight and 16 houses, shuttling people via trolley from neighborhood to neighborhood. The last tour ended in 2006, after “the last tour just kind of ran its course,” Rugo said.
The Dorchester Historical Society has traditionally undertaken a major fundraiser every few years, going back about six years, Taylor said.
Proceeds from the house tour will go to the historical society’s building restoration fund for maintenance of its historic properties. Taylor anticipates the funding to be used primarily for much-needed renovations and repairs on the Clapp properties on Boston Street.
Priority one is exterior renovations on the William Clapp house and the neighboring Lemuel Clap house, Taylor said.
“We did the Blake House several years ago; we’ve done the barn and the carriage house, and now we really need to focus on these two houses,” Taylor said. “There’s been a lot of deferred maintenance over the last, perhaps, 50 years of neglect, before we started the program and so, we’re now on a real plan to get this done.”
Ashmont Hill is home to a number of the historical society’s board members and a neighborhood which had been included in similar tours in the past. Interest in the unique and often well-preserved homes on the hill inspired the historical society to give the tour another chance at life.
“It seemed like there was an opportunity to bring back the house tour,” Rugo said, “because every time we do the yard sale, people go, “Oh, I love your house. Is there ever going to be another house tour? I remember being here 15 years ago.””
“Someone said that to me this morning,” Rugo said, seated in her kitchen on a toasty Thursday in May. “So it felt like there was kind of a pent-up demand,” she said.
Her Ocean Street home will be among those open on the tour, though all addresses are being kept confidential until the morning of the tour for the homeowners’ privacy.
“It’s really just to kind of share what’s here, increase an appreciation for the history of the neighborhoods, and Ashmont Hill has its own very distinctive history in terms of who owned the land, how it got developed, who lived here, how has it evolved since then,” Rugo said. “But that’s true of every single neighborhood. There are neighborhoods all over Dorchester where hopefully we’ll be able to do this same kind of thing.”
Edens, Inc., the developers proposing the sprawling mixed-use South Bay Town Center project, is the Dorchester House Tour’s lead sponsor. Trinity Financial is a supporting sponsor and the Reporter is the media sponsor, joined by a number of other neighborhood sponsors.
The tour begins at lower hall of All Saints Church, with check-in starting at 11:30 a.m. Ticket holders can travel freely through the self-guided tour, taking place from noon to 5 p.m. To buy tickets in advance, visit dorchesterhistoricalsociety.org.