Is the Hill part of Roxbury? Locals say ‘yes’

February 10, 2012
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Is Mission Hill its own neighborhood? A part of Roxbury? Both?

The exact relationship between Mission Hill and Roxbury is being raised by a new City Council map that would link the two neighborhoods in the same district. Mission Hill’s current district teams it up with the Fenway, Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

Roxbury was a separate town until the 1850s and included Mission Hill as well as modern Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and West Roxbury. Mission Hill has developed a distinct identity over the past 100 years, including getting its own neighborhood zoning code. But it remains connected with Roxbury, as reflected in the names of such institutions as the local “Roxbury Crossing” branch post office.

“I think it’s a distinct neighborhood, but it’s historically part of Roxbury,” said Lydia Lowe, a former Mission Hill resident and spokesperson for the Chinese Progressive Association, one of the groups behind the City Council map.

The map aims to reconnect Mission Hill and Roxbury, at least in City Council terms, as a “community of interest.”

The Gazette asked some prominent locals about the relationship between the neighborhoods. All agreed that Mission Hill is part of Roxbury.

“It’s both. It is a part of Roxbury,” said Craig Lankhorst, the chair of the local Ward 10 Democratic Committee. “But it’s also one of the neighborhoods within Roxbury.”

Mission Hill does have distinct geography and a “sense of identity,” as well as specific issues such as a growing college student population, he said.

“Mission Hill has always been a part of Roxbury,” said Terrance Williams, leader of the Mighty Mission Youth Program and a longtime activist in the Alice Taylor Homes community. He also described a sense of local unity.

“Mission Hill will always be home and family, from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill,” he said. “In Mission Hill, it doesn’t matter your color. If you are from Mission Hill, you are family.”

Richard Rouse, executive director of the Mission Hill Main Streets business group, said that longtime residents consider Mission Hill to be Roxbury.

“I liken it to Savin Hill of Dorchester, Orient Heights in Eastie or Moss Hill in JP, rather than a self-standing, distinctive Beacon Hill,” he said.

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