December 12, 2016 Looking Around Upham’s Corner
2016 has been an exciting year for HBI. The historic Roslindale Substation is nearing completion, Mattapan’s Fowler Clark Epstein Farm begins construction next month and Upham’s Corner Comfort Station‘s rehabilitation begins in March.
There’s more to do and 2017 brings a new pipeline of historic places that need HBI’s attention: the 1880s Owen Nawn Factory in Dudley Square; architect Ralph Adams Cram’s 1909 St. Luke’s Chapel in Roxbury’s Highland Park; and the 1893 Fox Hall in Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner.
This week we decided to highlight the four-story Fox Hall, located at 554-562 Columbia Road. Built circa 1894, Fox Hall was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Loring & Phillips and has, over the last century, served a variety of uses. Known at various times by the names Wheelock Hall, Fox Hall, and Odd Fellows Hall, the building has served both residential and commercial uses.
The southern third of today’s Fox Hall contains a storefront and three floors of single room occupancy (SRO) housing. The contiguous northern two thirds of the building have two storefronts on the ground floor and a popular pool hall on the second floor. Frozen in time on the third floor is a former candlepin bowling alley with standing pins, balls and dusty bowling shoes. Last used in the 1980s, owner Nick Verenis says the bowling alley and pool hall were both present since the 1930s.
Records show that a meeting hall, licensed by A.P. Wheelock for music and dancing entertainment existed as early as 1896. A 1920s advertisement for dancing at Fox Hall hangs on the top floor entry to the two-story dance hall. Mr. Verenis says that the hall has not been used for more than 80 years, since his grandfather purchased the building in the 1930s.
Fox Hall sits across from the historic Strand Theater and close to several bus lines and the Fairmount Indigo Line. Valued both for its historic character and proximity to transit, Historic Boston has begun to explore the property as a prospective re-development project that would provide much-needed housing and retail space for Upham’s Corner.
“HBI’s interest goes beyond the facade to include the overall site where new residential development could improve the financial basis for rehabilitating Fox Hall,” says HBI’s Henry Moss. “The site’s reactivation can benefit from improved transportation and proximity to central Boston. And it’s re-use links to Sip-n-Spoke Bike Kitchen, HBI’s project at the former Upham’s Corner Comfort Station.”