If you’ve spent any time on the MBTA’s Red Line (Savin Hill Station was first opened in 1845 as a commuter rail station!) or if you live in Boston, you’ve heard of Savin Hill. The name has a large reach for a Dorchester neighborhood that is about one square mile in size. But why the name? Why is it called Savin Hill? Savin doesn’t sound like a particularly Irish or Anglican last name. Was it at one point Savin’s Hill? Is there a Savin hiding somewhere in Boston’s past? We here at CaughtinDot decided to do some sleuthing for our next History Lesson: Why is Savin Hill called Savin Hill?
Europeans started settling what is now known as Savin Hill in June of 1630, a few months before Boston was founded on September 7, 1630. They called the area Rocky Hill. The area where they first settled is very close to modern Savin Hill Park.
In 1635, Thomas Wiswell came to Rocky Hill from England and had a nice life here in Massachusetts. Thomas died in 1657 and left his Dorchester property to his son Enoch. None of this is super important to the naming of Savin Hill, but who doesn’t love a story with a guy named Enoch (Hello Boardwalk Empire)? The Wiswall family built a lovely estate, and eventually, in the early 1800s, Joseph Tuttle purchased it. Joseph Tuttle was a mason but left that behind when he decided to become a hotelier. Tuttle transformed and enlarged the Wiswall House into a seaside hotel for the wealthy. He called it The Tuttle House. The Tuttle House was on a stagecoach line and eventually on a railroad line (remember Savin Hill Station opened in 1845). Go figure – transit options helped to make it a pretty successful business!
It was Joseph Tuttle who changed the name of this section of Dorchester to Savin Hill. He decided to start calling it Savin Hill because the top of the hill was covered in a type of Juniper tree known as Savin Juniper (if a Boston distillery doesn’t start making a gin named after Savin Hill, I’m going to be VERY disappointed). Savin Hill has a “fancier” sound to it than Rock or Rocky Hill, doesn’t it? A smart move by the hotelier.
The hotel stayed in business until the 1920s and the name, Savin Hill, is obviously still here with us today. The site of the Tuttle House eventually became St. Williams School and is now the site of Cristo Rey High School. You can drive or bike down Tuttle Street today.
In 2003, Savin Hill was added as a Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places, the United States government’s official list of sites deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. Rock Hill wouldn’t have sounded as posh on a Historic Registry, would it?! So while there was no Mister or Madam Savin, there was a hotel for the wealthy and, thankfully, a bunch of junipers!
So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this history lesson!
You can read more about Savin Hill here via Bill Walczak.
Image of Juniper House in Savin Hill