The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, a house and stable built between 1786-1806 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, shows evidence of the area’s beginnings as an agricultural center. Urbanization and new transportation in the Dorchester area ended most of the city’s rural lifestyle. Yet, this farm’s property still stands today, taken under wing by Historic Boston Incorporated to teach society more healthy ways of living.
cultivated fields of Mattapan (a neighborhood of Boston, within the larger
Dorchester area) were rich in agricultural identity. Purveyors noted the land was
plentiful in vegetation that included gardens, meadows, fruit-trees, a vast number of other trees amounting to nearly
fifteen-hundred, and land used for growing corn. The pastoral way of life of Mattapan’s agricultural past contrasts
with the activity of Boston today.
Today, the preservation of the Fowler Clark
Epstein Farm is a testimony to Mattapan’s former bucolic lifestyle. These
visuals of the long-standing farm carry over a rural past isolated from the
implementation of urban life. The architectural design includes a low level of
sophistication, but with apparent detail in its construction. Above the door of
the main entrance to the house reads Clark Farm in large, bold letters. Design
choices of multiple stories and wood framing bring to mind the familiarity of a
small, rural home. Only one of four farm buildings from Dorchester’s
agricultural era remaining in Boston today, the structure retains a
recognizable relationship with the land. The building coexists with the rural
land as a single entity that memorializes Dorchester’s history.
The history of
familial life at the farm is just as important as the farm itself. Stephen
Fowler, a soldier from the American Revolutionary War, originally owned the
farm. There were many objects left behind after Fowler’s death indicating his participation
in agriculture. These possessions were comprised of many farm animals, tools
for farming, and a heavy supply of vegetables. Evidently, he worked together
with his wife and son Samuel Fowler, Jr. to cultivate his inherited land. After
his initial ownership, an additional four generations of the Fowler family
owned the establishment, along with three other families (including the Clarks)
before being sold to the Epstein family. Jorge Epstein and his wife Ida were
the last family to own the lot of land, the farm becoming unoccupied in 2013. The history of the lineage
of these owners shows a familial identity with human life dependent on the
cultivation of soil and the production of food.
Dorchester began to
change around the turn of the 20th century. The reason for this societal
shift to a more fast-paced culture is attributed to the arrival of the
streetcar on Edward Everett Square. This transportation caused a great increase
in population and, thus, quick urbanization. Additionally, agricultural housing
was auctioned off and used for the promotion of the working-class. Even with
this agricultural removal, the farm lasted throughout the years. It still
exists today as a representation of a lifestyle which, in the central Boston
area, hardly remains. Without the placement of the farm where it is,
Dorchester’s agricultural history would be hard to spot.
Today, the farm is
still in the process of being preserved. Historic Boston Incorporated purchased
the land in 2015 as part of a project to inform the Boston public of farming’s
importance. HBI wishes for modern society to be healthier, to promote more jobs
for the populace, and to provide cooking and farming education through kitchens
and classrooms within the farm. Parts of land will also be set
aside for local food production. As of late, the farm has been unused other
than its presence as a historic landmark. Notably, HBI will help farming to
take place once again at the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm.