Mission Hill is historically part of Roxbury, but it feels more like Jamaica Plain. The neighborhood draws comparisons to sections of San Francisco, with its Victorian houses and glute-burning hills.
Strong university and cultural presence. The neighborhood is anchored by the museums and universities just past the northern edge of the neighborhood, including the Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Garner museums, as well as Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health, Museum School, MassArt, Wentworth Institute, Northeastern University.
The housing stock in Mission Hill reflects the neighborhood's long and rich history, from a few surviving estate houses to blocks of brick rowhouses and later, triple-deckers. Many rowhouses in Mission Hill were influenced by the architecture in Back Bay and South End, and the rowhouses range from Georgian and Romanesque Revival to Queen Anne and Second Empire styles.
The streets with Native American names, including Calumet and Iroquois, were developed between 1890s and the turn of the century with triple deckers in the Queen Anne style.
Mission Hill is regarded as one of the more commuter-friendly neighborhoods of Boston. It is well-served by public transit, with the Green Line running through and near the south, west, and north sides of the neighborhood (with stops at Heath Street, Riverway, Mission Park, and Fenwood Rd., Brigham Circle, Longwood, Museum of Fine Arts). The eastern side of the neighborhood is served by the Orange Line stop at Roxbury Crossing.
Mission Hill is at the edge of Boston and the town of Brookline. To the north is the Boston neighborhood of the Fenway-Kenmore. To the east are Roxbury's Fort Hill neighborhood, and the South End. To the south is Jamaica Plain, and to the west is Brookline.
Before 1630, the area was inhabited by the Wampanoag tribe. Mission Hill was once part of the colonial Town of Roxbury, founded in 1630 by Thomas Pynchon (1589-1661).
Pynchon had an eye for choosing strategic locations for settlements, places that would be well-suited for both farming and trade. But the soil was not suited for farming, as it was full of rocky outcroppings of what would become known as Roxbury Puddingstone. The town's name of Roxbury was a corruption of Rocksberry or Rocksbury (spelling was somewhat optional then), perhaps an expression of frustration with the soil quality here.
Pynchon later founded Springfield, Mass., and became one of the wealthiest men in the colony. However, he was forced to return to England after writing a book which criticized the Puritans. That said, he did manage to be the first author banned in the New World, and the first to have his book burned on Boston Common. One of his descendants, author Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937) carried on the literary tradition but has thus far managed to avoid having his work burned on the Common.
At one point, the colonial town of Roxbury included Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and Roslindale. The borders got even more complicated when the Back Bay was filled to create new land, much of which was still claimed by Roxbury until the late 1840s. The settlement dictated that the land southeast of where Massachusetts Avenue meets the Charles River would remain part of the town of Roxbury. Today, this land includes the Fenway-Kenmore and Mission Hill neighborhoods. However, when Boston annexed Roxbury in DATE, they all became neighborhoods of Boston.
Until the American Revolution, Mission Hill was known for farms and large country estates for Boston families. Much of the area was an orchard farm, originally owned by the Parker family in the 18th century. Peter Parker married Sarah Ruggles, whose family owned large areas of land including most of what became known as Parker Hill (later renamed Mission Hill). His life ended when a barrel of his own cider fell on him. (Much of this story is outlined in "The History of Peter Parker and Sarah Ruggles", a book by John William Linzee, published in 1913.)
The orchard continued for some time thereafter, but gradually pieces of the land were sold and developed. Boston’s reservoir was once located at the top of the hill. Many of the older apple trees along Fisher Avenue and in an undeveloped area of the playground are probably descendants of the Parker family’s original trees. The lower portion of the eastern hill was a puddingstone quarry with large swaths owned by merchants Franklin G. Dexter, Warren Fisher and Fredrick Ames.
Mission Hill was previously known as Parker Hill, and only began to be known as Mission Hill after the Mission Church complex was built in the late 1800s. Much like the Mission District in San Francisco, Mission Hill is also named for a church, or mission. In 1870, the Redemptorist Fathers built a humble wooden mission church that was replaced by an impressive Roxbury puddingstone structure in 1876. In 1910, dual-spires were added that now dominate the skyline. The church was elevated to basilica in 1954 by Pope Pius XII and is one of only 43 in the United States. Officially named Our Lady of Perpetual Help after the icon of the same name, it is uniformly referred to as "Mission Church",
Many German immigrants also immigrated to the US in the early 1900's, quite possibly to escape the effects of the first World War. German immigrants also settled in the Mission Hill area of Roxbury, and were instrumental in developing the many breweries that prospered along the Stony Brook until prohibition. In the early 20th century, a Jewish community was also established.