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East Boston, Massachusetts


East Boston, Massachusetts

East Boston
Neighborhood of Boston
Logan International Airport in 1973.
Nickname(s): Eastie
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
Annexed by Boston 1836
Population (2010) 40,508
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
Zip Code 02128, 02228
Area code(s) 617 / 857

East Boston is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts with approximately 40,000 residents. The neighborhood was created by connecting several islands using landfill, which was annexed by Boston in 1836. It is separated from the city proper by Boston Harbor and bordered by Winthrop, Revere, and the Chelsea Creek. Directly west of East Boston across Boston Harbor is the North End and Boston's Financial District. The neighborhood has long provided a foothold for the latest immigrants with Irish, Russian Jews and then Italians alternating as the predominant group. In recent years, East Boston has become home to a wave of young professionals seeking residence in Boston in newly renovated condominia along Jeffries Point, Maverick Square, and the Eagle Hill waterfront. The neighborhood is easily accessible to downtown Boston via the MBTA Blue Line.[1]


Early history

The landmass that is East Boston today was originally made up of six islands — Noddle, Hog (later Orient Heights), Breed's, Governor's, Bird, and Apple — that were connected using landfill, the latter three as part of the expansion of Logan Airport during World War II. Not long after the settling of Boston, Noddle Island served as grazing land for cattle.[2]

In 1801, William H. Sumner had proposed to the Federal government of the United States to create a turnpike to connect Salem to Boston via the undeveloped Noddle's Island. He argued that the route over it would be more direct making it easier for the neighborhood to develop. He stated

"…in my opinion that the circular route from Chelsea thro’ Charlestown to Boston is about 1 of a mile farther than a direct course over Noddle’s Island in Boston.... The course suggested will be almost in a direct line, from my knowledge of the land….On the back part of the Island is a muddy creek and the distance of the Island to Boston is not so great by one third, I presume as it is from Chelsea to Moreton Point in Charlestown.... There is no doubt that but that the necessities of the town of Boston will some require a connection with Noddle’s Island with the town of which it is part." [3]
The one issue that Sumner foresaw, but glossed over, was that land in Charlestown was purchased by the federal government as the site for a future naval yard. The ships en route from this yard to the ocean would be blocked by the proposed turnpike. He believed that since a standing navy was in such disfavor at that point in the nation’s history that this issue would not stand in his way. However the War of 1812, which was considered a naval war, changed the public's opinion about the needs for a naval yard. Because the route through East Boston and over the Boston Harbor would block ships route to the future Charlestown Navy Yard the turnpike was planned to go through Chelsea as opposed to Noddle's Island.

Formation of East Boston Company

Sumner began to make his move for the acquisition of all of Noddle’s Island upon the death of Colonel David Stoddard Greenough, who had been a longtime holdout against selling to him. Greenough died of apoplexy, and his wife and children wanted to cede of their portion of the Island. In 1836, Sumner coincidentally married Greenough’s widow, Maria Foster Doane. With the assistance of his new business partners, Steven White and Francis J. Oliver, he purchased the land for $100 per acre or $32,500. This purchase gave Sumner control of one half of the Island. Subsequently in February 1832, the partners formed the East Boston Company. They stated that their part of the Island was to be divided into 666 shares and that it would be managed by a board of directors, who would be able to sell the Company’s interest in the island. Establishing transportation to the area was imperative and they were dedicated to pushing for a railroad connection from Boston to Salem over the Island. They also wanted to establish a ferry system from Boston. Each share of the Company was equivalent to 0.5-acre (2,000 m2). There were 5,280 acres in total, of which, Sumner owned 1320, Mrs. Gerard 880, Steven White 880, and Oliver 440. The rest were spread among twenty-nine other shareholders. By the end of 1833, the East Boston Company had complete control over the entire Island.

Connections to the mainland

In the 1830s, East Boston's largest problem from thriving was transportation. The East Boston Company believed the neighborhood could not become a valuable asset until people had a way to reach the area from the Boston mainland. As a temporary solution, they set up a paddle steamer to carry fifteen people at a time from Boston Proper to the neighborhood. It was used primarily for occasional visits from public officials and laborers. Though they did not have the ridership to support additional boats, the company purchased the Tom Thumb steamboat.

The steam railroad system was still in its infancy at this point, and the East Boston Company was approached by an inventor of a new type of rail system, the suspension railway. This system was one of the earliest suspended railroads to be built. The railroad cars were propelled by a steam engine hanging from a suspended track. Henry Sargent, the inventor, stated "that his invention would make the Island a center of attraction to many people." The Company allowed it to be built on its land and it was an in use for nine days in 1834, then closed citing lack of ridership.

In the mid-1830s, the Company made several investments to further East Boston's desirability. They continued attempts to get the Eastern Railroad to come to East Boston. The Maverick and East Boston ferries began service from Lewis Wharf on the mainland to East Boston. A bridge to Chelsea was built, roads were laid out, and houses were built. Much of this activity was spurred by the formation of the East Boston Lumber Company. During this period, the Boston Sugar Refinery was also founded, which was the first manufacturing establishment in East Boston. They are credited for the creation of white granulated sugar.[4]

The Kennedy Family

President Kennedy addressing the people of New Ross, Ireland, June 1963: —
When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance.

The Kennedy Family lived on Meridian Street in what is now a small home wedged between a Hispanic market and hardware store approaching the Meridian Street branch of the Boston Public Library. The family later moved to a larger home on Monmouth Street. P. J. Kennedy's success enabled him to purchase a home for his son, Joseph, and another for his two daughters at Jeffries Point.

In 1954, John F. Kennedy famously paraded through East Boston with his wife, Jackie, in anticipation for his campaign to run for President of the United States to secure votes from the neighborhood. In a famous photograph, Kennedy is shown walking down Chelsea Street heading towards Maverick Square, waving to the crowd in front of Santarpio's Pizza.[5] He went on to win the election and became the 35th President of the United States.

On numerous occasions, Senator Ted Kennedy mentioned that his families roots are embedded in East Boston throughout his career in the United States Senate.

Later history

Since the mid-19th century, the community has served as a foothold for immigrants to America: Irish and Canadians came first, followed by Russian Jews and Italians, then Southeast Asians, and, most recently, large influx from Central and South American countries. The Orient Heights section of East Boston was the first area in Massachusetts to which Italians immigrated in the 1860s and 1870s, and remains today the heart of the Italian community in East Boston.

The population of East Boston, which was recorded as a mere thousand in 1837, exploded to a high of just over 64,000, according to the 1925 census. The sudden rise is attributed to the immigrants who came from Southern Italy. Today, the neighborhood is home to over 40,000 inhabitants with a median income per household of around $46,000.[6] [7]


Transportation has long played a role in the shaping of East Boston. The world's finest clipper ships were built at the shipyard owned by Donald McKay in the mid-19th century. A subway tunnel connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city opened in 1904 and was the first undersea tunnel of its kind in the United States. Rows of houses were torn down to build the Sumner (1934) and Callahan (1961) tunnels, directly connecting automobile traffic from downtown Boston. An airfield built was built in the early 1920s, which eventually expanded to become Logan International Airport. The eastern terminus of Interstate 90 has been at Route 1A next to Logan Airport since 2003, and the newer Ted Williams Tunnel (1995) links I-90 from East Boston to the rest of the city.

For many years, East Boston’s connections to Boston, which included the Sumner and Callahan tunnels, including the Tobin Bridge by way of Chelsea, were overcrowded. The constant flow of traffic of those who wish to reach the Airport would have to approach one of these passageways, causing traffic jams. The building of the Ted Williams Tunnel has since alleviated much of this traffic problem. The City of Boston has also supplied residents with special transponders, known as Fast Lane (now E-ZPass), that allows them to automatically pay reduced tolls through the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

Logan Airport, New England’s primary international airport and 48th busiest in the world, resides mainly in East Boston (though part of the airfield itself lies in Winthrop). It is almost completely surrounded by water. There has been continual controversy surrounding Logan as constant conflict with the Massachusetts Port Authority has been a source of bitterness among some local residents since its inception. One expansion of the Airport resulted in the loss of Wood Island Park, a green space designed by the noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The expansion of Logan Airport in the late 1960s and early 1970s displaced families along Neptune Road, which is now used for warehouses and rental car property. The airport has since implemented four "airport edge buffers," which include parks and greenery to appease residents.[8]


East Boston is now made up of a range of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the constant waves of immigrants from around the world. As of 2010, East Boston is 60% Hispanic, 18% White, 14% Black, 5% Asian, and 3% other. Unlike other Hispanic communities in the city, which on average are almost exclusively Puerto Rican or Dominican, East Boston has a very diverse Hispanic community with immigrants from various Latin American countries such as Salvadoran East Boston is sometimes regarded as the heart of the city's Hispanic community due to its high concentration of Hispanics compared to other neighborhoods in the city.

Sites of interest

Belle Isle Marsh Reservation

The largest remaining salt marsh in Boston, the 350-acre (1.4 km2) Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, lies in East Boston. The marsh also borders the towns of Revere and Winthrop. It was once a Metropolitan District Commission reservation, but it is now run by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. It is a reserve for a variety of flora and fauna.

Community gardens

East Boston is home to six community gardens managed by various organizations such as the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Boston Natural Areas Network.[9] Participating gardeners are assigned small plots, where they may plant as they choose, in exchange for a nominal annual due. Other gardens, such as the "Nuestro Jardin", across from the Umana School, are reserved for use by school use.

Constitution Beach

Located in East Boston is one of Boston's more popular public beaches, Constitution Beach, located in the Orient Heights section of the community. It is known to locals as "Shay's Beach." The beach underwent renovations in the late 1990s as a new public bathhouse and refreshment stand was added, as well as a new pedestrian walkway over the tracks of the Blue Line onto Bennington Street.

Don Orione Shrine

One of the most recognizable landmarks of East Boston is the 35-foot (11 m)-high statue of the Madonna. The Madonna Shrine, atop Orient Heights, is the national headquarters for the Don Orione order. Constructed in 1954, the statue is a full-size replica of the original statue at the Don Orione Center in the Montemario district of Rome, Italy. It was designed by Jewish-Italian sculptor Arrigo Minerbi, who wanted to show his gratitude to the Catholic Church for having shielded him and his family from the Nazis during World War II. Across the street from the Shrine is the Don Orione Home, a nursing home founded by the Don Orione priests.

Historic places

East Boston has eight places on the National Register of Historic Places.

Piers Park

Piers Park is located on the west side of East Boston overlooking Boston Harbor and downtown Boston. Designed by Pressley Associates Landscape Architects of Cambridge, the 6.5-acre park was conceived to reclaim a former pier to allow the neighborhood direct access to its waterfront. The park consists of multiple trails paved in brick and granite from the pier's original 1870 seawalls, native salt-tolerant New England plants, more than thirty-two tree varieties, seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, and a 600-foot meandering brick pedestrian promenade with four smaller shade pavilions.[10] One of the pavilions is dedicated to Donald McKay. The park also has an amphitheater and a community boating program, Piers Park Sailing Center.[11]

Santarpio's Pizza

Santarpio's Pizza is a well-known restaurant in the neighborhood. Established in 1903 as a bakery, Frank Santarpio began selling pizza three decades later. A landmark to locals and a destination for visitors, the eatery is primarily known for its New York-style pizza, which it has served at its Chelsea Street location since 1933.[12]

Suffolk Downs

Suffolk Downs, opened in 1935, is a thoroughbred race track located in East Boston. For years, they have held a Grade II race event at the track called the MassCap. Because of declining revenues as result of growing Indian Casinos in Rhode Island and Connecticut, Suffolk Downs canceled the 2009 MassCap.[13] On August 18, 1966, the Beatles played a concert before approximately 24,000 people in the infield of the race track.

Government and business

East Boston is the headquarters for District A-7 of the Boston Police Department. The Boston Fire Department has three fire stations in East Boston; Ladder 2 & Engine 9 in Maverick Square, Engine 5 in Day Square, and Ladder 21 & Engine 56 in Orient Heights.

The United States Postal Service operates a branch in East Boston at 50 Meridian Street.[14]

The Logan Office Center, which contains the headquarters of the Massachusetts Port Authority, is adjacent to Logan Airport.[15]

Prior to its dissolution, Air New England was headquartered on the grounds of Logan International Airport.[16]


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

Boston Public Schools operates numerous schools in East Boston.[17] BPS assigns students based on student preference and priorities of students in various zones. Due to the geography of East Boston, for all grade levels, each resident of the neighborhood is guaranteed a seat at a school in East Boston. The district instructs parents wanting to send their children to East Boston schools to place East Boston campuses on their school assignment priority lists higher than non-neighborhood campus.[18]

East Boston Early Childhood Center is a district K0-1 school in East Boston. District elementary schools include Samuel Adams, Manassah E. Bradley, Curtis Guild, Patrick J. Kennedy, Hugh R. O'Donnell, and James Otis.

Mario Umana Academy and Donald McKay K-8 School are the two district K-8 schools in East Boston. East Boston High School is the sole district public high school in East Boston.

Excel Academy Charter School, a charter middle school, is located on Moore St. in East Boston.[19]

Private schools

In spring 1892, a school named after Fr. James Fitton was dedicated on the Holy Redeemer site. In 1974, a school merger occurred, producing the current East Boston Central Catholic School.[20] The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston operates East Boston Central Catholic School on the Most Holy Redeemer Parish site. It is a K1-8 school private school in East Boston. The school is managed by a board from the Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Most Holy Redeemer and Sacred Heart parishes.

Savio Preparatory High School was a private, coeducational high school in East Boston before its closing in 2007.[21] In Spring 2008, the Archdiocese ordered the closure of St. Mary, Star of the Sea School, a K-8 school in East Boston. The parish attached to the school closed three years prior to the closure of the school.[22]

Public libraries

The first public branch library in the United States was established in East Boston in 1870. Boston Public Library currently has two locations in East Boston. The East Boston Branch at 276 Meridian Street,[23] and the Orient Heights branch at 18 Barnes Avenue [24] There are also plans to build a third location in Bremen St Park.[25]

Notable residents

See also People from East Boston, Boston

See also

Boston portal

See also Category:East Boston, Massachusetts


External links

  • City of Boston profile
  • East Boston Times-Free Press

Coordinates: 42°22′30″N 71°02′21″W / 42.37500°N 71.03917°W / 42.37500; -71.03917

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