Fort Hill, a historic neighborhood in Roxbury, played an important role during the Siege of Boston. Several thousand Continental soldiers positioned themselves in the area and built a series of forts to guard Boston Neck, a thin strip of land that served as the only land route between Boston and Roxbury. As described in Francis S. Drake’s Town of Roxbury:
Bunker’s Hill demonstrated the value of defensive works, and under the direction of Col. Rufus Putnam, aided by Henry Knox and Josiah Waters, the Roxbury lines, considered marvels of strength in those days, grew rapidly, until at length a complete series of redoubts and batteries protected every exposed point from Dorchester to Brookline. The American militia-men manifested a degree of skill and activity in constructing fieldworks that was a constant surprise to the veteran European soldiers of former wars.1
The High Fort, or Upper Fort, sat on the highest point in Roxbury, providing the colonists with an optimal vantage of the British army. According to Drake, it is believed to have been “regarded by Washington as the best and most eligibly situated of all the works.”2 It is also said that the Fort Hill neighborhood is named for the High Fort.
The fort itself no longer exists, and in that space now stands the Cochituate Standpipe, or Fort Hill Tower. Built in 1869 by Nathaniel Bradlee, the standpipe previously stored water from Lake Cochituate in Natick and helped modernize Roxbury’s water system. It is no longer used as a water tower and has gone through several renovations over the years.3
The Dillaway-Thomas House, which served as General John Thomas’s headquarters during the Siege of Boston, is also located in Fort Hill.
- Francis S. Drake, The town of Roxbury: its memorable persons and places, its history and antiquities, with numerous illustrations of its old landmarks and noted personages(Roxbury: 1878), 77. Archive.org.
- Ibid, 376.
- Boston Preservation Alliance, “Fort Hill Tower in Highland Park,” https://www.bostonpreservation.org/advocacy-project/fort-hill-tower-highland-park.