Roxbury Heritage State Park Signature Park Project

Opened to the public in Summer 2019
Dilloway Thomas House


John Eliot Square
183 Roxbury Street
Boston, MA

The Dillaway-Thomas House is the winner of a Boston Preservation Alliance 2020 Achievement Award! The annual award honors the best examples of historic preservation that keep our histories alive.


The Dillaway-Thomas House, located in John Eliot Square, is one of the oldest surviving structures in Roxbury. Once the headquarters for General John Thomas, who led troops in the Continental Army during the Siege of Boston, and later the home of Martha and Charles Dillaway, it has a very rich history dating back to the mid-18th century. Over the years, the house has served as a symbol of revolution and activism, and has been a center of learning and education.

The City of Boston acquired the Dillaway-Thomas home and surrounding property in 1927, and in 1937, the Roxbury Historical Society began to utilize the building with the long-term plan to convert it to a museum. A fire in 1979 halted plans to develop the museum. However, in 1984, the Commonwealth founded Roxbury Heritage State Park and provided funding to restore the Dillaway-Thomas House and develop a park. The property was opened to the public in 1992 and became the headquarters for the Heritage State Park.

Project Goals and Scope

view from roxbury hsp

The Roxbury Heritage State Park (RHSP) Signature Park Project was one of six urban park projects identified as a priority for rehabilitation. These projects were selected to help revitalize urban neighborhoods by opening up or upgrading green spaces for outdoor recreation and by rehabilitating historic community landmarks.

DCR’s goal for the RHSP Signature Park Project was to restore the building and enhance the park experience by creating a community resource center within an inviting park landscape. To achieve this, DCR undertook the following:

  • Addressed exterior repairs necessary to ensure that the building is watertight
  • Restored the condition of the historic components and appearance of the building
  • Upgraded the electrical systems for compliance with current codes, to better serve the new programs and the installation of technologically advanced equipment and fixtures
  • Upgraded interior finishes, fixtures and equipment in areas dedicated for exhibits or for public use
  • Addressed code deficiencies
  • Installed new exhibits, both static and interactive, that connect people to the house itself as well as to the neighborhood of Roxbury
  • Buildout of shared program space and public archaeology lab to facilitate mission driven programming, and
  • Improved park amenities to make the landscape more inviting.

Public Engagement


DCR considers public participation crucial to ensure that public needs and input are considered in a project. This process provides not only for the exchange of information, but for opportunities for collaboration, as well. Most importantly, it builds the public’s trust in the agency.

DCR committed to involving the community during all phases of planning and construction of the Roxbury Heritage State Park Signature Park Project. To that end, DCR kicked off a robust community planning process in Spring 2014 to identify critical issues and opportunities related to the project and to assist in the development of new concepts and ideas to revitalize the property and improve visitor services. In addition to multiple targeted stakeholder meetings, the community planning process involved three hands-on public workshops. A public informational meeting was held in January 2017, in anticipation of the start of construction, to provide the community with an update on the project. Additional public meetings to share information on the status of the exhibit development (April 2017), to provide an update on the house and landscape construction (August 2017).

Meetings & workshops

August 14, 2017:  Project Update    Notice   Presentation

April 10, 2017: Project Update     Notice    Presentation

January 19, 2017: Pre-Construction     Meeting Notice    Agenda    Presentation    Follow-up Communication

May 29, 2014: Public Workshop III    Press Announcement       Meeting Notice    Presentation    Follow-up Communication

April 24, 2014:  Public Workshop II  Press Announcement   Workshop Notice    Flyer      Presentation     Architecture Concepts      Exhibit Concepts   Landscape Concepts      Summary – Design Goals, Themes, Guiding Principles    Follow-Up Communication

March 24, 2014: Public Workshop I    Workshop Notice    Press Announcement  Flyer    Public Attendees    Agenda    Presentation     Opportunities & Constraints    Wall Sheets - Your Thoughts    Wall Sheet - Additional Comments    Workshop Notes    Follow-Up Communication

For more information

If you have additional comments or questions, or you would like to receive project updates, please email , or write to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114, or call 617-626-4974.

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