Introduced by Brian Corcoran, managing editor
Neighborhood studies reveal dynamics and principles which reflect the unique shape—culturally, geographically, and socially, for example—of a given place. By highlighting neighborhood-specific histories, heroes, and innovations, we can add story to statistics, and help complement, interrelate, and animate data in ways that better inform and inspire the development of community responses to community challenges. The Emmanuel Gospel Center has produced various neighborhood studies to this end. In recent years, we have supported the Youth Violence Systems Project by conducting research on a half dozen neighborhoods that are known to have had a history of youth violence. These studies help provide a wider framework for viewing each neighborhood as they touch on many aspects of what makes that particular neighborhood unique.
The Grove Hall Neighborhood Study, Second Edition (2013) offers both story and statistics on many facets of life in this one Boston neighborhood. Following a brief history of the immediate area, the study offers data on racial trends; facts about the current population including, for example, the breakdown of ages of the residents and how they compare with other areas; and facts about the economy, housing, and education. There are also updated, annotated directories of the neighborhood’s churches, schools, and agencies including those agencies particularly concerned with violence prevention and public safety. Fourteen tables, nine new graphs designed by Jonathan Parker, four maps, over a dozen images, and an extensive bibliography help tell the story.
In this issue of the Emmanuel Research Review, we offer excerpts from the Grove Hall study with bullet points and graphics. The complete report can be viewed or downloaded HERE as a pdf file.
Understanding the Grove Hall Neighborhood
by Rudy Mitchell, Senior Researcher, Emmanuel Gospel Center
About the Grove Hall Neighborhood Study
Continuing in its commitment to foster stronger communication, agreement, and cooperation around a community-wide response to youth violence in Boston, the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC) has recently released an updated research study on Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood.
The Grove Hall Neighborhood Study, Second Edition, copyright © 2013 Emmanuel Gospel Center, was written and researched by Rudy Mitchell, senior researcher at EGC, and produced by the Youth Violence Systems Project, a partnership between EGC and the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston. A first edition was released in 2009 and titled Grove Hall Neighborhood Briefing Document. As the first edition was produced prior to the 2010 U.S. Census, much of the information was based on the 2000 Census. By returning to Grove Hall now, not only is EGC able to study the latest numbers, but changes over the past decade may indicate either new concerns or evidences of progress.
This neighborhood study is one of six Boston neighborhood studies. The others in this series are: Uphams Corner (2008), Bowdoin-Geneva (2009), South End & Lower Roxbury (2009), Greater Dudley (2010), and Morton-Norfolk (2010).
These studies were produced as part of the Youth Violence Systems Project. Two important results of the Project are a new framework for understanding youth violence and an innovative computer model. Both of these were designed in and for Boston to enable a higher quality of dialogue around understanding and evaluating the effectiveness of youth violence intervention strategies among a wide range of stakeholders, from neighborhood youth to policy makers.
The Grove Hall Neighborhood Study, Second Edition, presents thoughtful information on many facets of life in this Roxbury neighborhood. Following a history of the immediate area, the study offers data on racial trends; facts about the current population including, for example, the breakdown of ages of the residents and how they compare with other areas; and facts about the economy, housing, and education. There are also updated, annotated directories of the neighborhood’s churches, schools, and agencies including those agencies particularly concerned with violence prevention and public safety. Fourteen tables, nine new graphs designed by Jonathan Parker, four maps, over a dozen images, and an extensive bibliography help tell the story.
The first 200 years of settlement (1650-1850) was characterized by farms, summer estates, and orchards, including, in 1832, the estate of horticulturalist Marshall P. Wilder who used the land to experiment with many varieties of fruit trees, plants and flowers. The name “Grove Hall” is derived from the name of another estate and mansion owned by Thomas Kilby Jones, a Boston merchant who developed the property around 1800. That estate dominated the Grove Hall crossroads for a century and later served the community for many years as a health center. The growth and decline of New England’s largest Jewish community centered in this neighborhood is documented as the most important facet of the neighborhood’s history between 1906 and 1966, and the Mothers for Adequate Welfare protests and subsequent riot of 1967 were pivotal events that had an enduring and significant impact on the neighborhood. Although, in recent years, the neighborhood has faced problems and violence, its history can generally be characterized by revitalization and economic development. This 13-page history is offered because it is valuable to understand the people and groups who built Grove Hall and helped shape its current identity.
The center of Grove Hall is commonly understood to be the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue with Washington Street and Warren Street. For the purposes of this study, Grove Hall is defined as the neighborhood which includes the area of the five U.S. Census tracts that surround that central crossroads. These five census tracts are 820, 821, 901, 902, and 903.
What follows is a list of the major topics covered in the study, with a few bullet points highlighting some of the facts uncovered.
Racial and Ethnic Trends
During the last decade, the number of Hispanics in this area increased from 3,414 to 5,171, an increase of over 50%, representing an increase from 20% to almost 30% of the entire population.
While the area has a Black or African American majority, the overall percentage of people in this area who are Black decreased from 73% to 64% since 2000.
Linguistic isolation refers to households where no one 14 and older speaks English very well, therefore facing social and economic challenges. Households in Grove Hall are more likely to be linguistically isolated than households across the nation and households across the state. Approximately 15.2% of households in Grove Hall are linguistically isolated.
Regarding age characteristics, the study shows that Grove Hall has a significantly higher percentage of young people than the city of Boston as a whole, as well as the state and nation. The area has 5,450 youth under the age of 18 years, who represent 30.6% of the total neighborhood population, compared with 16.8% in the city, 21.7% in the state, and 24% in the nation.
The number of youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in Grove Hall is 2,243 or 12.6% of the population, compared to only 7.5% in this age group for Boston overall.
After a steady decline in population from 1940 when the population was 30,307 to the year 2000 when there were 16,771 residents, the 2010 census shows an increase with a 6% climb over the past ten years to 17,823.
In Grove Hall, 71.9% of families with children under 18 are headed by single females and 7.2% are led by single men. Only about 21% of Grove Hall families with children under 18 have two parents present.
Single parent families with children under 18 in Grove Hall represent the majority of all families, 79%, compared with the national percentage of 34%, the state percentage of 32%, and the city of Boston percentage of 53%.
Economy and Poverty
The percent of people below the poverty level in Grove Hall is much higher than the city of Boston as a whole. The average of the percentages of people in poverty in each of the five census tracts is 37% compared to the city of Boston’s rate of 21%, the state’s rate of 10.5% and the national rate of 13.8%.
For youth and children under 18, 73.1% were under the poverty level in census tract 903 and 56.1% in census tract 902. This compares with 28.8% in the city of Boston overall and 13.2% for the state.
There is a higher percentage of households receiving public assistance in Grove Hall than in the city, the state, and the nation. Since 2000, the number and percentage of households receiving public assistance has increased in four of the five census tracts. The Grove Hall census tract with the highest percentage of households receiving public assistance is census tract 903 with 21.7%.
Across the U.S., 65.1% of housing units are owner-occupied and 34.9% are renter-occupied. In Boston, 33.9% of all housing is owner-occupied, roughly half the national average. However, in Grove Hall, only 18.8% of the housing units are owner-occupied (1,274), while 81.2% are renter-occupied (5,495).
Education and Schools
Residents of Grove Hall have a lower level of educational attainment than the population of Boston, the state, or the nation. The percentage of people in Grove Hall with a bachelor’s degree or higher is only about 1/3 the percentage of the city or the state, and about 1/2 the national percentage.
More than one quarter of the residents of Grove Hall have not graduated from high school, whereas statewide, only 11% are not high school graduates. In census tract 901, over 32% of the population has not graduated from high school.
The Burke High School had only a 43.4% four-year graduation rate, one of the lowest in the city. This falls far below the overall Boston Public School four-year graduation rate of 64.4%. The Burke High School also had a very high dropout rate of 33.7% compared to 15.1% for Boston (in 2011).
To learn more about Grove Hall, read a Harvard University report here: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/content/download/68818/1248082/version/1/file/hotc_finalreport.pdf.
To view or download the complete Grove Hill Neighborhood Study, from which this article is derived, click HERE.
Barnicle, Mike. “A Street Forgotten.” Boston Globe, 1 April 1987, 17.
Billson, Janet Mancini. Pathways to Manhood: Young Black Males Struggle for Identity. Expanded 2nd edition. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1996. Billson studies five young boys who grew up in Roxbury in the late 60s and early 70s.
“Blue Hill Avenue: Progress, 1993-2003.” City of Boston, Dept. of Neighborhood Development. www. cityofboston.gov/dnd/pdfs/BHA_Map_3FLAT.pdf (accessed 15 June 2009).
Boston Globe, June 2-June 6, 1967. Various articles on the Blue Hill Avenue Riots.
The Boston Plan: Revitalization of a Distressed Area: Blue Hill Avenue. Boston: City of Boston, 1987.
Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Blue Hill Avenue Corridor: A Progress Report and Guidelines for the Future. Boston: B.R.A., 1979.
Boston Redevelopment Authority. City of Boston Zip Code Area Series, Roxbury/Grove Hall, 02121, 1990 Population and Housing Tables, U.S. Census. Boston: B.R.A., 1994.
Boston Redevelopment Authority. Roxbury Strategic Master Plan. Boston: B.R.A., 2004 ( January 15). While not specifically on Grove Hall, the Master Plan is important for its overall vision and impact, which will affect Grove Hall. See www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org.
Cooper, Kenneth J. “Blue Hill Avenue: A Dream Gathers Dust; 4 Years Later, Business, Housing and Transit Plans Haven’t Happened.” Boston Globe, 22 October 1981, 1.
Cullen, Kevin, and Tom Coakley. “A Month of Fear and Bullets.” Boston Globe, 5 November 1989, 1.
Cullis, Charles. History of the Consumptives’ Home and Other Institutions Connected with a Work of Faith. Boston: A. Williams, 1869. About the Cullis Consumptives’ Home at Grove Hall.
D.A.R. Roxbury Chapter. Glimpses of Early Roxbury. Boston: Merrymount Press, 1905.
Drake, Francis Samuel. The Town of Roxbury. Boston: Municipal Print Office, 1908.
Fields, Michael. “Blacks in a Changing America; Wrights of Roxbury: A Family Making It.” Boston Globe, 28 June 1982, 1.
“Freedom House: A Legacy Preserved,” Northeastern University Library Archives, www.lib.neu.edu/archives/freedom_house/team.htm (accessed 1 June 2009).
French, Desiree. “Revitalization Gets Serious at Grove Hall: A $7.8 Million Program Formed to Aid Roxbury Business District.” Boston Globe, 26 March 1988, 41.
Gamm, Gerald. Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. This book has maps showing trends and changes in Jewish and African American settlement, median rent trends, and locations of institutions.
Gordon, Edward W. Boston Landmarks Survey of Dorchester: Grove Hall, 1995. www.dorchesteratheneum.org/page.php?id=622 (accessed 18 May 2009).
“Grove Hall,” Heart of the City, Harvard University (original page missing, but see: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/content/download/68818/1248082/version/1/file/hotc_finalreport.pdf for what appears to be a similar report at the Kennedy School of Government. Search document for “Grove Hall.” Includes information on conditions, context, history, social issues, planning, processes, testimonies, organizations and specific places.
Hayden, Robert C. Faith, Culture and Leadership: A History of the Black Church in Boston. Boston: Boston Branch NAACP, 1983.
Hentoff, Nat. Boston Boy: Growing Up With Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. Philadelphia: Paul Dry books, 2001 (originally published 1986). Henthoff was born in the Grove Hall neighborhood in 1925, and in this memoir gives a vivid account of growing up in the Jewish community of the 1930s and 1940s.
Levine, Hillel, and Lawrence Harmon. The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions, pb. edition. New York: The Free Press, 1993. While Levine and Harmon’s book gives many insights and details about life, religion, and politics in the Jewish community in the area, its analysis of the causes of its decline has been challenged and shown to be inadequate by Gerald Gamm in Urban Exodus.
Pasquale, Ron. “Grove Hall’s Renaissance; New Development Caps Hub Area’s Revival as a Commercial Mecca.” Boston Globe, 10 February 2007, E-23.
Project RIGHT, Boston Ten Point Coalition, Health Resources in Action, and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. Connecting the Disconnected: A Survey of Youth and Young Adults in Grove Hall. Boston: City of Boston, 2010. A survey and report on out-of-work and out-of-school young adults ages 16-24 in Grove Hall.
“Report of the Committee to Investigate the Welfare Dispute,” 7 July 1967. A 16-page report to Mayor Collins in the form of a letter. Available at the Boston Public Library, Government Documents Dept. This relates to the 1967 Grove Hall riots.
Roxbury Crossing Historical Trust. “A Brief History of Roxbury, MA.” www.rcht.org/roxbury_history.htm (accessed 26 May 2009). See also database.
Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. Dorchester. Images of America Series. 2 vols. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 1995, 2000. See vol. 1, chapter 2. See also Dorchester: Then and Now.
Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. “Grove Hall’s Clean Air Once Gave Respite to Consumptives, Dorchester Community News, 24 June 1994. A brief two-page history.
Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. Roxbury. Images of America Series. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 1997. Chapter 5.
Sarna, Jonathan D., and Ellen Smith, eds. The Jews of Boston. Boston: The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston/Northeastern Univ. Press, 1995.
Stegner, Wallace. “Who Persecutes Boston?” The Atlantic Monthly, July 1944, 45-52.
Tager, Jack. Boston Riots: Three Centuries of Social Violence. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 2000.
Taylor, Earl. Dorchester. Postcard History Series. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2005. Ch. 8.
Watson, Jamal E. “New Mall a Mecca of Hope in Roxbury’s Grove Hall, $13 Million Project Signals Long- Awaited Turnaround.” Boston Globe, 22 December 2000, A-1.
White, Theodore H. In Search of History: A Personal Adventure. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1978. White describes his early years growing up in the Grove Hall neighborhood.
Young, Whitney M., Jr. Task Force Report on a Preliminary Exploration of Social Conditions and Needs in the Roxbury-North Dorchester General Neighborhood Renewal Plan District. Boston: Action for Boston Community Development, 1961.