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Independence Square

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In 1822, shortly after the incorporation of Boston as a city, the area that became Independence Square was allocated as the site for a variety of public institutions, including a jail and almshouse. The location of these facilities for the undesirable elements of society hindered growth at this end of Broadway. Between 1830 and 1850 the population of South Boston increased from 2,200 to 13,300, and the residents pressured the city to find other locations for these institutions (relocated to the Charles Street Jail, Deer Island Almshouse, and elsewhere). In 1854, E. Broadway was extended to the end of the peninsula, and Independence Park was created out of 4.5 acres. Improvements to the park were made so gradually that it was not until 1874 that 150 trees were planted and granite steps installed at two corners. Later an iron fence and a fountain were added, but these are no longer extant.

In 1861, Harrison Loring erected the first house on Independence Square at 789 E. Broadway (LL). Loring, who owned a shipyard in South Boston, built a mansard house of brick with classical sandstone trim. About 1865, Solomon Gray, part owner of a woodworking machinery plant in South Boston, erected 788 East Broadway with richly embellished sandstone windows and doors in a Rococo style. The windows themselves are extraordinary for their early use of curved sash, probably fabricated in his factory. The dormers are recessed into the mansard roof with small colonettes supporting segmental-arched cornices.

Within three years, a local builder erected a long block of mansarded row houses directly opposite the park on E. Broadway, typical of the row houses being built throughout the city at this time. A row of five houses at 766–774 E. Broadway is extraordinary for richly carved marble and sandstone facades incised with Néo-Grec detailing. This block was built as an investment in 1874 by Francis Cobb and John Case of the Cobb Lime Company of Rockland, Maine. The majority of houses around Independence Square were erected by 1880 during a fifteen-year period following the Civil War, when it was one of the most elegant neighborhoods of South Boston.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Independence Square", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 228-229.

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