12. Roxbury Crossing

Street or Other Address: 1420 Tremont

Nearest Corner: Tremont and Columbus

Digital and Degree Coordinates: 42.331517,-71.094667; N42 19.891 W71 05.680

View Roxbury Crossing: Reggie Lewis Center, Roxbury Community College, and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Roxbury was originally a separate town, connected to Boston only by a narrow neck of land (Roxbury Neck).  In the mid-19th century the whole area was filled in, and you can see the difference in elevation between the original hills of Roxbury and the filled in section.

As Roxbury developed in the 19th century, the northern part became an industrial town with a large community of English, Irish and German immigrants, then German and later Eastern European Jews.  At about the same time black residents began to move from the South and from Boston’s West End/North Slope of Beacon Hill and the South End into Roxbury.

Roxbury became the center of the African-American community in Boston in the 1950s and 1960s.  But a riot in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 resulted in stores being looted and eventually burned down, leaving a desolate and abandoned landscape which discouraged commerce and business development. Rampant arson in the 1970s along the Dudley Street corridor also added to the neighborhood's decline, leaving a landscape of vacant, trash filled lots and burned out buildings. In early April 1987, the original Orange Line MBTA route along Washington Street was closed and relocated to the Southwest Corridor where we now stand.  This was originally supposed to be the Southwest Expressway but community activists blocked it in the 1970s, and we now have this subway line and a nice corridor park and bikeway in its place. More recently, grassroots efforts by residents have been the force behind revitalizing historic areas and creating Roxbury Heritage State Park.  An effort to secede from Boston and form an independent municipality named "Mandela" failed in 1986.

Reggie Lewis Center: The Center is named after the local humanitarian and basketball hero, Reggie Lewis, who played collegiate basketball for neighboring Northeastern University and professionally, for the Boston Celtics.  Celtics Captain Reggie Lewis was revered not only for his athletic prowess but also for his dedication and advocacy for the educational, physical, emotional and social well being of the youth within the Boston community.

Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at an off-season practice on July 27, 1993. . He was only 27 years old. Lewis had shown symptoms of heart problems in the preceding months (including collapsing during the opening game of the Celtics playoff round game against the Charlotte Hornets).  There was much local medical controversy over the possibility that cocaine use might have contributed to his cardiac arrest, but the magnificence of the facility in his honor has outlasted these conflicts.

Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. This the largest Islamic center in New England, and the second largest on the East Coast. The 70,000 square foot building stands tall on Malcolm X Boulevard in the heart of Boston, a Muslim handprint on the city skyline. The ISBCC is not just a mosque, but is also planned to house a school, a library, an interfaith center, an exhibition space and a morgue.  While its founding was mired in controversy, the ISB now is active in dawah or educating the public about Islam. As part of this effort, the community engages in an interfaith project with Temple Beth Shalom in Cambridge. The organization participates in civil rights work with the ACLU and has received a grant from the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) for civil rights and civics training for the Muslim community in Boston.

Roxbury Community College opened its doors in 1973.  It is one of 15 community colleges in Massachusetts, and the only one with a predominance of African American and immigrant students. It moved to the present location in 1988.  At last count it had 1,000 full time and 1,681 part-time students.