Roxbury Heritage State Park Signature Park Project

One of six urban park projects identified as a priority for rehabilitation.
Dilloway Thomas House


John Eliot Square
183 Roxbury Street
Boston, MA



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 is one of six urban park projects identified as a priority for rehabilitation. These projects help revitalize urban neighborhoods by opening up or upgrading green spaces for outdoor recreation and by rehabilitating historic community landmarks. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is working with state agencies, municipal governments, and local community leaders to implement these critical urban revitalization projects.

DCR’s goal for the RHSP Signature Park Project is to restore the building and enhance the park experience by creating a community resource center within an inviting park landscape. The priority for repairs and upgrades is as follows:

  • Address exterior repairs necessary to ensure that the building is watertight
  • Restore the condition of the historic components and appearance of the building
  • Upgrade the electrical systems for compliance with current codes, to better serve the new programs and allow for the installation of technologically advanced equipment and fixtures
  • Upgrade interior finishes, furniture, fixtures and equipment in areas dedicated for exhibits, or for public use
  • Address code deficiencies
  • Install exhibits, both static and interactive, that connect people to the past and
  • Improve park amenities to make the landscape more inviting.
welcome panel

The specific elements of the scope include rehabilitation of the existing restrooms and the addition of unisex restrooms on the first and second floor; the creation and buildout of shared program space and public archaeology lab on the first floor to facilitate mission driven programming; and, a community gallery space on the second floor. A new entrance treatment will provide a more welcoming foyer to receive visitors. The work on the building will also include overhaul of the electrical system -- new electrical distribution system and circuitry, installation of new fixtures, illuminated exit signs, telephone and data lines and fire alarm system. Interior finishes will be updated throughout the building. New exhibits and interactive media will be installed inside the building on the first and second floors.

Exterior repairs to the house consist of carpentry repairs, exterior painting and masonry re-pointing. The building addition will receive new energy-efficient windows and exterior door systems. The project will result in a complete rehabilitation of the landscape with a more welcoming entrance, a new path system, lighting, benches, fencing, plantings and interpretive panels.

In 2015, DCR undertook a number of early action projects, including replacement of the roof, gutter and downspouts; chimney repointing; replacement of the boiler and heating distribution system; and, selective interior demolition.

The total cost of design and construction, including early action projects, building rehabilitation, landscape improvements, and exhibit fabrication and installation, is $3.7 million. Funding for the project is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

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 is 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. DCR plans to host additional public meetings to share information on the status of the exhibit development (March 2017), to provide an update on the house construction (May 2017), and to provide an update on the landscape construction (July 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

Project Status

  • Permitting for the project is complete.
  • Design and bidding of building and landscape improvements is complete. DCR has awarded a contract to Campbell Construction Group, LLC.
  • Media development is underway to support interactive exhibit.
  • Exhibit bid package is being finalized.
  • Selective demolition to remove obsolete HVAC systems, replacement of boiler and heating distribution system, and roof and gutter replacement have been completed as early action projects.


  • Mobilization and site prep – February 2017
  • Begin interior restoration efforts – February 2017
  • Begin site work – March 2017 (weather depending)
  • Begin site landscaping – April/May 2017
  • Complete interior restoration/coordinate with exhibit installation – May/June 2017
  • Complete site work – end of July 2017.

Two-week look aheads

September 25, 2017– October 6, 2017

August 14, 2017 - August 25, 2017  

July 24, 2017 - August 7, 2017  

June 30, 2017– July 14, 2017  

June 5, 2017 - June 16, 2017  

May 15, 2017 - May 26, 2017  

April 14, 2017 - April 28, 2017  

March 31, 2017  

March 20, 2017 - March 31, 2017  

March 1, 2017 - March 15, 2017  

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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