2.7 min readBy Published On: February 24th, 2023Categories: Features14 Comments on History Lesson: Why is Savin Hill called Savin Hill?

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?

Rocky 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!

Savin Juniper

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 


  1. Pavlo Kennedy March 26, 2023 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Back in the day , I owned two houses on Savin Hill Ave. One was $8,000 and the other was $11,500. It was 1970.

  2. Cheryl Gannett Tomasso March 29, 2023 at 9:31 am - Reply

    We lived in triple decker at 77 Savin Hill Ave for about 10 years, until our parents purchased their home in ” Lower Mills” aka The Grove. St. Gregory’s parish. We lived right beside Moore’s store. Went to St. Williams church and school. Went to The Avenue Bakery and my dad was friends with Murry at Dorchester TV. Great times growing up there.

  3. John Houihan April 18, 2023 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    56 Tuttle St St, Williams School and parish

    • Stephen Lema August 8, 2023 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Lots of adventures in the woods at Savin Hill ,coasting during winter, summers @ the beach. Riding my bicycle down the steep side of Grampian Way.

  4. Walter White May 7, 2023 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Born in Savin Hill 1952,St William’s parish,Dorchester and Boston are such wonderful places filled with opportunity and great family and neighbors.Have a great summer.

  5. E Skinner August 7, 2023 at 9:29 pm - Reply


  6. Marge Gray August 8, 2023 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    That was quite interesting, often wondered about the name. Thanks for the infoMRge

  7. Bill mcmahan August 9, 2023 at 9:49 am - Reply

    The greatest place to grow up in many pieces of artaround

  8. Debbie Flynn August 12, 2023 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Wow!! Had no idea about the school being a hotel!! Lived on Tuttle St for quite awhile in the sixties then moved over the bridge to Bayside St!! Absolutely loved growing up in Savin Hill ..thanks for the history lesson!

  9. savinhilldave August 12, 2023 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    What is the use of savin juniper?
    Juniperus sabina

    Juniperus sabina is a popular ornamental shrub in gardens and parks, with numerous named cultivars selected. Savin was used in abortifacient drugs in 19th-century America. So itz a morning after tea which you can also use to make Gin. Gin and unwanted pregnancy have been associated in the past.

  10. Kevin September 6, 2023 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    At one time my grandfather was the unofficial Mayor of Savin Hill. My grandparents lived directly across from St. Williams Church; my grandfather was the head usher. My aunt was missioned at St. Williams Convent for a while after entering the convent/ Sisters of Saint Joseph. Golden Brown Doughnuts was across the ally from my grandparents’ house, and it was heaven to wake up to the smell of doughnuts when I would spend my school vacations with nana and gramps. Fond memories of the St. Williams May procession, the Avenue Bakery (their baked beans were amazing!). Times have changed and so hasn’t that neighborhood. SO sad!

  11. roy donovan October 23, 2023 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    I worked at Malibu Beach House. I took the MTA from Newton to Savin Hill. Those were good years. They tore down the bath house. To bad.

  12. bob sullivan December 6, 2023 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    today the Tuttle house is still in Savin Hill ? tell me where?

  13. John J Russo March 27, 2024 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Taking the Ashmont bus to Ashmont station and then train to Savin Hill, we would walk from Savin Hill station to the beach. We would take a short cut by traversing over a large rock formation. It was kind of dangerous because the train tracks were below the formation. We’d chance it because it meant we would get to the beach sooner. We would do this couple of times a week. We’d pack a lunch and spend the day. It was great treat for us kids.

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