A City of Neighborhoods
While many cities are defined by their skylines, Boston is distinguished by its vibrant neighborhoods. Indeed, Boston's strength, diversity and vitality are all rooted in her neighborhoods, where neighborhood pride and cultures from all over the world are cherished and celebrated. Although each neighborhood has its own personality and distinct appeal, all of the neighborhoods demonstrate Boston's changing face, as this historic capital has become a magnet for all of the world's citizens. These new immigrants have joined native Bostonians and transplants from across the country to make Boston the world-class city it is today.
"Chinese medicine has a history of thousands of years…
with time, there are always changes, but even with tall buildings, things stay the same.”
The 1870 strike of the Sampson shoe factory in New Adams, Massachusetts, present day North Adams, brought 75 men from California via the railroads which they helped build to take advantage of a very unusual work opportunity. The strike breakers, who were greeted at the Fitchburg railroad station by hundreds of angry residents calling them rats, would eventually change the face of Boston and propel the city to become one of the world’s most visited cosmopolitan cities. Upon their arrival in Boston, the Chinese immigrants pitched tents along Ping On Alley (“street of peace and security”) and established a commune.
They worked the least attractive jobs in the city, and eventually turned their tent city into one of the country’s largest Chinatowns.
The story of Chinatown’s origin is much like that of most of Boston’s neighborhoods. From the tidal marshes the land was filled using soil trucked in from Roxbury and the neighboring suburbs. First came the Puritans from England, then the Irish, the Jews, the Syrians and the Italians. But Chinatown’s most famous residents turned this urban enclave into a bastion of world class cuisine, social justice achievements, rich history, and a capsule of Asian culture and heritage.
“Who is responsible for this? I simply don’t know! Every week, on my little block between Adam and Burgoyne streets, someone keeps bringing in the trash barrels when I’m at work. We put them out in the morning, and when we get home at night, they are neatly stacked, one inside the other, near our patio. It happens every week, and my entire family is baffled. Who keeps on doing this? Who is responsible for this? Because I’d really like to thank them!”
As Boston’s largest neighborhood, Dorchester subsumes Uphams Corner, Harbor Point, Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Four Corners, Franklin Field, Codman Square, Ashmont, Lower Mills and Neponset. Dorchester hosts an internationally diverse population including Americans of Irish, African, West-Indian, East Asian, Southeast Asian, Latin and Cape Verdean descent. The nation's first Vietnamese Community Center is located in Fields Corner, the heart of the Vietnamese community in Boston. As a sign of community pride, “OFD” (Originally From Dorchester) is printed on residents’ T-shirts. Dorchester Avenue anchors the neighborhood business district with a unique mix of ethnic restaurants, beauty salons,
electronics stores, and pharmacies. Bordered by the Neponset River and Boston Harbor, Dorchester residents enjoy the riverfront amenities of Pope John Paul II Park as well as harbor beaches and boating opportunities.
Dorchester's residents have seen and participated in every event in our country's history including the Salem witch trials, the King Philip War in 1675-76, the French & Indian Wars, Shay's Rebellion and many others. The population has grown from 2,347 in the year 1800 to 8,000 in 1850 to 40,000 in 1892 to 125,000 in 1917. Historically a rural farming community, the explosive increase in numbers occurred after...
"We want a ground to which people may easily go when the day's work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them..."
One of the classic “streetcar suburbs”, Jamaica Plain, or “JP” as know to the locals, has always been marked by diversity, but has truly evolved into a Boston neighborhood defined by its dynamism. Jamaica Plain has had a large immigrant population for almost its entire existence. In 1900, its population consisted of 25% Irish, 14% German, and 12% Canadian. Later in the 1900s, before and after World War II, a large Jewish population became part of JP’s melting pot. Today’s immigrants come from different places, speak different languages than a century ago, but have no less had a wonderful influence on the culture of the neighborhood. The ethnically diverse area is still home to many Latinos and young families, and now hosts a growing
gay and lesbian community, as well as significant Spanish-speaking populations from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This blend of cultures is reflected in local businesses, such as the many different restaurants that line Centre Street, one of its main thoroughfares.
What was first settled in 1630 for farming purposes, outside the hustle and bustle of Boston, the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain has gone through many remarkable changes. Once subsistence farming gave way to market-based farming in the 1700s, many prominent and wealthy Bostonians began purchasing estates in Jamaica Plain and because of JP's increasing development, broke...
“I stay fresh in the square standing on all threes. Yes, on my a-d-i-d-a-s-e-ses, carry me where I need to be. Footlocker, Hair Stop and maybe the movie store. Mobil gas station for a Slurpie. Now off to Simco’s, ‘cause you know I'm getting hungry. Time for church, you know, ‘gotta stay prayed up. Bow my head in prayer to the Morning Star in hopes that one day we'll dance in Jubilee for taking back our streets. Although the violence, I gotta admit, I sometimes don't see, ‘cause I'm so in love, so in love. I'm so wrapped up…wrapped up in my hood…Mattapan, the best place to be.”
Mattapan means, “a good place to be” or “a good place to sit”.
Like Dorchester, Mattapan was a “streetcar suburb,” which developed into a residential hub as transportation lines extend out from Boston. Still a largely residential neighborhood today, Mattapan mixes public housing, small apartment buildings, and a range of single, two and three family homes. A stable, middle-class population resides in Wellington Hill. The neighborhood south of Morton Street and east of Blue Hill Avenue stocks triple-deckers and a large immigrant population. Franklin Hill (arguably recognized as part of Dorchester) hosts high-density public and
private apartment complexes in close proximity to the Park. In Mattahunt, single-family homes intersperse with woodlands, and new development is underway.
Blue Hill Avenue and Mattapan Square make the commercial heart of the neighborhood, composed of banks, law offices, restaurants and retail shops. Mattapan residents are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. Mayor Menino established the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative, a collaboration of city agencies, residents, non-profits, and businesses to encourage investment, create jobs, and promote business development in the area.