A Brief history of the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association

By Nancy Harrington

The Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association was founded in 1957 by a small group of neighbors who lived in the neighborhood around Pope’s Hill Street. The streets included Neponset Avenue, Houghton Street, and Victory Road. The President was Jack McCarthy. His wife, Grace and Dick and Marge Murphy, assisted him.

Each summer, the group held a lawn party at the home of Kay and Bill Quigley. As this time, awards were given to those who assisted the residents. One of the first recipients was Judge Paul Murphy when he was a state representative.

The civic group sponsored arts and crafts classes for neighborhood children at the National Guard Armory on Victory Road. The late Marjorie Walsh was the teacher. Jessie Williams of Pope’s Hill Street and a member of the Historical Society wrote articles in the Dorchester papers about the association’s activities.

One of the first major issues was the conversion of a building on Victory Road into a business. This is now the law office on Victory Road and Neponset Avenue.

The group met at the Knights of Columbus Building on Frost Avenue. Some of the issues that occupied time and effort on the part of the officers included housing (the attempt on the part of the City to turn vacant lots into housing without, consideration with abutters).

One of the most important issues was the joining together of neighborhood residents throughout Dorchester to stop the Patriots from building a stadium at the site of the Neponset Drive In. There was a lot of pressure from members of the City Council to allow the stadium.

A lot of football fans and players urged the Council Members to accept the Patriots and the stadium. The Council voted with the neighbor hood and the Patriots went to Foxboro. One can now imagine the congestion on Dorchester streets if the facility was built in Dorchester.

There were a number of hearings and concerted efforts on the part of the neighborhood residents when the Boston Gas Company proposed to build seven propane gas tanks next to the two LNG tanks. The association hired buses and residents went to the Department of Public Utilities’ Hearings to keep the neighborhood without the danger that would have existed with propane tanks next to the LNG tanks.

The hearings in which we have participated are zoning board and liquor board hearings in which the integrity of the neighbor hood has always been the concern of PHNA.

When busing came to Boston, PHNA formed the Action Committee that prepared maps, gave out quotas and statistics on each proposal that the enactment of the Racial Imbalance Act brought primarily to the City.

PHNA adopted a pin saying "Neighborhood Schools for neighborhood Children" which was the primary sentiment of the residents. Many meetings were held including a meeting with the Superintendent of Schools (then Bill Leary) and legislators and PHNA on good Friday Evening when the action proposal of Judge Garrity to the School Committee was to bus kindergarten children.

The Murphy School was named for Dick Murphy, a President of the Association. The School was designed with a lot of input from the area parents. It was agreed that the School would be an open-space type, built for 1,000 children with pool and other amenities absent in most homes.

For the first year of existence, the Murphy was used by the neighborhood with children from other areas having the option to pick the Murphy as their school. A community board was elected to plan the community activities for the school. The Association was a member of D.U.N.A. (Dorchester United Neighborhood Association), which prepared for UMass, Boston being located in Boston. Some of the fears of the Committee did not materialize when they thought residential homes would be turned into rooming houses or homes with lots of students.

One issue that the entire community supported and actively sought was to see the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library built in Dorchester. The community joined forces, wrote letters to members of the Kennedy Corporation, and had a bumper sticker campaign (The JFK Library Belongs in Dorchester).

The day after the official opening, a Dorchester Day was planned for area residents to welcome the Library and tour it. One of the means to keeping area residents informed of activities and news concerning the neighborhood has been the weekly column in the "Dorchester Argus". It is now joined by View from Popes Hill in the "Reporter" both written by Secretary Barbara McDonough).

Pollution at Tenean Beach has been and remains an issue for the area. The improvements at the beach have added to the beauty of the area (the Leahy Basketball Court - the Colby Playground - the Sweeney Shelter), yet it is the hope of many that some day soon, water quality will improve. The PHNA has now grown to a large-active neighborhood association.

It meets monthly at the Murphy School; the lawn party is a big social event and concerns of residents are what occupy the time of the meetings.

City, state and federal officials work closely with Pope’s Hill leaders to maintain the stability of the neighborhood and to ensure residents that their concerns have a place where ideas and issues can be discussed and heard.

The Association is now composed of five hundred families, who are strong enough to handle complex issues, yet small enough to help a neighbor in need.