Neponset ScStr - History

Neponset ScStr - History

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(ScStr: dp. 16,008; 1. 450'; b. 577'; dr. 28'1"; s. 10.5 k.; cpl. 86; a. 1 5", 1 3")

Neponset (No. 3581), launched as Shawmut by the Sun Shipbuilding Co., Chester, Pa., 4 July 1918, was transferred to the Navy at New York 28 October 1918, and commissioned the same day, Lt. Comdr. Charles H. Lawrenee, USNRF. in command.

After conversion to an animal transport, Neponset, with a
general cargo and horses, cleared New York for France 13 November, arriving Bordeaux the 30th.

Upon returning to the United States she was ordered out of service, decommissioned 4 February 1919 at Norfolk, and returned to USSB.

Historic Resources

The Neponset River has a long and rich industrial history, the remainders of which we continue to experience today.

Approaching the old Baker Chocolate factory buildings along the Lower Neponset River, May 2004. Photo by Tom Palmer.

The Baker and Tileston & Hollingsworth Dams

The Baker Dam is located within the Dorchester/Milton Lower Mills Industrial Complex, which is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. This Lower Mills Complex was added to the National Register in recognition of the distinctive architecture of many of the mill buildings, and in recognition of the role Lower Mills played in influencing the course of events in American History.

Because of its modern construction (i.e., built in the 1960s), the Baker Dam is not listed as a “contributing element” to the Lower Mills Industrial Complex. That said, the dam and mill pond do contribute to the ambiance of the area, and thus any dam removal project would incorporate measures to protect and document adjoining historic resources and to more actively interpret the key role of water power as the driving force behind the river’s industrial period.

Unlike the Baker Dam vicinity, the area around the Tileston and Hollingsworth (“T&H”) Dam does not carry any particular historic designation. Like the Baker Dam, the T&H Dam was built in the mid-1960s.

Let’s talk a little about the history of development along the Lower Neponset River.

Neponset River, One of the First in New England to be Harnessed for Power

As a relatively small river located near Boston, it is not surprising that the Neponset was one of the first rivers in New England to be harnessed for water power. The first dam on the Neponset River, which was probably the second or third dam in the new world, was erected in 1634 by Israel Stoughton.

These early dams tended to be significantly less permanent structures than their modern counterparts, apparently regularly washing out during spring floods, only to be promptly rebuilt. Over time, a whole series of dams was built on the Lower Neponset from “Lower Falls ” (now Lower Mills) to “ Upper Falls” (now the area near the Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam). Lower Falls and Upper Falls each had at least two dams, at one point, as compared to the modern single dams. Each of the dams would have supported several mills on either side of the river.

These early dams helped the Neponset River earn a string of industrial “firsts,” including the country’s first paper mill, first gun powder mill and (most important of all!) first mechanized chocolate production. During its heyday, around the time of the American Revolution in the late 1700s, the Neponset River was arguably the center of American industrial production, and the Neponset River was more or less continuously impounded from Readville to Lower Falls by a series of at least seven dams.

Over time, other larger rivers such as the Merrimack eclipsed the Neponset as the major engines of the American Industrial Revolution, but industrial development along the Neponset and its tributaries continued steadily through the 19th century. Today, there are still more than 100 dams on the Neponset and its tributaries, almost all of them vestiges of the water power era, and a testament to the diligence and entrepreneurial spirit of our forefathers.

During the 1800s and into the 1900s, industrial activities along the Neponset River went through a period of consolidation, as the many smaller independent mills were taken over by a few larger industrial concerns. In the 1900s, industry began moving into the fossil fuel era and the river became less important as a source of power, though it was still critical to industry as a source of water and as a means to dispose of waste products. Today, virtually all heavy industry has left the Neponset. It has been nearly a century since the weight of falling water was the driving energy source in industrial production for this area.

Walter Baker Chocolate Company

The Walter Baker Chocolate Company eventually came to completely dominate the industrial scene in the Lower Mills area, constructing the network of attractive brick mill buildings that still dominate the architecture of both Dorchester and Milton Lower Mills today. The Walter Baker Company closed the doors of its Neponset manufacturing facilities for good in 1965 and moved to Delaware. Nonetheless, many local residents still fondly remember the perfume of chocolate that permeated Lower Mills for more than a century. The buildings created by the Walter Baker Chocolate Company are now being used for a variety of residential and commercial purposes.

For an extensive account of the history of Lower Mills, visit the Bostonian Society’s online exhibition, “Sweet History.”

Tileston and Hollingsworth Paper Company

At Upper Falls, the Tileston and Hollingsworth Paper Company ultimately came to dominate the industrial scene with facilities located on both sides of the river.

Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam, post-Hurricane Diane. Photo by Barbier, 1956.

Tileston and Hollingsworth was succeeded by a number of other corporate names over the years, with the most recent incarnation being the Bay State Paper Company.

Bay State Paper continued making recycled corrugated cardboard at their plant on River Street in Hyde Park until roughly the year 2000, making the Neponset the site of the oldest continuously operated paper production in the United States. However, Bay State Paper succumbed to the larger changes in the global economy that have nearly eliminated the heavy industry that once existed along the shores of the Neponset River from Foxborough to Dorchester.

The mill since has been replaced with a shopping plaza.

The Aftermath of 1955’s Hurricane Diane

In 1955, Hurricane Diane inflicted heavy flood damage throughout Massachusetts, including along the Neponset River. It appears that poor design and/or improper operation of privately owned industrial mill dams on the Neponset River were likely contributing factors in the severity of the flood damage on the Neponset.

In the wake of hurricane Diane, the state, acting through the Metropolitan District Commission, took virtually the entire river corridor of the Lower Neponset by eminent domain, including what appear (from MDC historic photographs) to have been five dams that were located on the Lower Neponset at the time. These dams included the dam at upper falls (predecessor to the T&H Dam), two small dams just above and below Blue Hill Avenue, the Jenkins Dam which was located just upstream of Central Avenue, behind what used to be the Star Market Plaza in the area of the river now know as the Braided Channel, and finally the Water Baker Chocolate Factory dam.

The former Jenkins Dam, as viewed from downstream Central Ave. bridge, July 1956. Photo: Barbier, MDC.

The MDC flood control project begun in 1962 removed the two small dams near Mattapan Square and the Jenkins Dam near the former Star Market. The T&H and Baker Dams were then demolished and rebuilt.

It appears that the T&H Dam was of a completely different design than its predecessor. The Baker Dam appears to have been rebuilt in the same general style as the original, though the crest of the dam was apparently lowered by at least three feet to improve its discharge capacity during storm events. It also appears from MDC historic photos that the “normal” water level at Baker was reduced by roughly three feet, again providing better flood protection.

At the same time, the Neponset River was straightened, deepened, widened and partially relocated. Along the edge of the river, wetlands and floodplain areas were filled in and the banks of the river were raised and armored to create a deep flood control channel. A number of other miscellaneous structures such as small bridges also appear to have been removed at about this time, including a sizeable building suspended on a bridge between the Baker Dam and Adams Street. This structure would have completely blocked the view of the dam and the mill pond from the perspective of someone standing on Adams Street.

As discussed above, the Dorchester/Milton Lower Mills Industrial Complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1980s. While the dams themselves are not considered significant by historians, certainly the buildings and the river’s industrial past are important.

River Restoration

The restoration of free flowing river conditions and anadromous fish runs would approximate the appearance and ecological functions that the Neponset River provided to Native Americans and early colonists during the pre-industrial period. This would make Lower Mills unique in Massachusetts as an area with a rich visual representation of both the industrial and pre-industrial periods.

Before removing the dams, the River Restore Project would obtain appropriate permits from the Mass. Historic Commission. The project would be designed to ensure that no damage would occur to the adjacent historic buildings during the construction process. The footprint of the construction area would be minimized to reduce the potential for disturbing any historic artifacts which may remain below the riverbed. Finally, the project would include the installation of interpretive features that would recognize and highlight the area’s industrial heritage. There is currently no interpretive information installed onsite. As further discussed elsewhere, dam removal would also eliminate the substantial risk posed to the adjoining historic buildings if the Baker Dam were to fail.

Natural History

Our watershed is made up of a striking array of landscapes, habitats and species – despite 10,000 years of human habitation and over 375 years of industrialization. Notable features of the Watershed include:

  • the 30 mile long Neponset River
  • Fowl Meadow
  • Blue Hills
  • Baker Dam
  • Tileston and Hollingsworth Dam
  • the Neponset Estuary
  • Neponset RiverWalk and Greenway
  • Squantum Point Park

Fowl Meadow

The Watershed contains a relatively large swathe of undeveloped land that runs through Canton, Hyde Park and Milton, and along the Neponset River, called the Fowl Meadow, which together with the Blue Hills, provides the most extensive area of wildlife habitats in Greater Boston.

Northern Fowl Meadow, late-November 2011.

Fowl Meadow is a large wetland system comprised of diverse landscapes, wildlife and plants, that is home to rare and endangered species. The river is placid along most of its Fowl Meadow path, falling only slightly, and with a lazy current. Interestingly, the Fowl Meadow contains several remnant “oxbows” of a former riverbed, which support a diverse community of wetland plants, aquatic life and terrestrial wildlife.

This large, undeveloped section of the Meadow was spared from the bulldozers by a coalition of organizations including the Watershed Association, which rallied to stop construction of the final leg of Interstate 95. A plan was for Interstate 95 to continue from its current terminus at Route 128, all the way in and through Boston, re-routing a mile of the Neponset River and filling the extensive marshes of the Fowl Meadow.

Dams, current and past

Over the centuries, the Neponset River and its streams have been modified to suit various human activities and we experience the legacy of these modifications today.

Portaging around the Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam, 2003

For instance, the remains of old dams on the river – as well as artificial widening of the river channel – continue to make waterway travel challenging for both wildlife (e.g., fish) and humans (e.g., paddling a boat) more difficult, especially during times of low flow. The site of the collapsed “rubble dam,” about 200 yards downstream of the Truman Parkway canoe launch, is one such challenging site.

At the Watershed Association’s urging, there is an ongoing effort to get herring and shad (and recreating humans) past the Baker and Tileston and Hollingsworth Dams, especially by modifying or removing the dams.

If the dams are removed or modified sufficiently, and the channel partially restored to a more natural shape, paddling through this stretch of the river will become much safer, easier, and less susceptible to low flows.

At other points in the river, there are small, vegetated islands – another legacy of old dams. For example, downstream from Ryan Playground in Mattapan, the river enters a stretch of braided or “anabranch” channel where it splits into numerous small threads that weave their way through tiny islands covered primarily with Reed canarygrass. This area is sometimes referred to as the “wild rice islands,” although no wild rice has been observed here.

Before 1955, this area would have been underwater, part of the mill pond created by the Jenkins Dam, which sat just upstream of the modern day shopping plaza on River Street near Central Avenue. The Jenkins Dam collapsed in 1955’s Hurricane Diane and ultimately was removed by the state. The small islands and braided channel were formed as the river carved a new route for itself through the thick deposits of silt that had accumulated behind the Jenkins Dam.

The Estuary

The river changes character radically below Lower Mills, as we enter the Neponset Estuary. The intimate freshwater river, closed in by its buffer of overhanging trees, gives way to a wide-open waterway with sprawling salt marshes and sweeping views. Seasonal water levels are replaced by a twice-daily 10-foot change in the water level as tides ebb and flow. Finally, the river is no longer the solitary domain of paddle-powered craft, as larger motor and sailboats are now also able to ply the waters of the Neponset.

An estuary is the area where a river meets the ocean.

Freshwater and saltwater mix here, creating a unique habitat that is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on earth. The marshes filter stormwater runoff, capturing nutrients and sediments and purifying the water. The estuary is a protective bulwark against flooding, as resilient salt marsh soils and grasses dissipate storm surges, protecting upland organisms as well as real estate.

Paddling the Estuary, Sept. 2009. Photo: Tom Palmer.

The Neponset Estuary provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including all manner of sport fish and over 200 different bird species.

Despite its proximity to Boston, many of the estuary’s open spaces and habitats are still intact, thanks to the vision of Charles Eliot, founder of the Metropolitan District Commission, who recognized the need to protect the Neponset’s marshes more than 100 years ago.

In March, April, and May, the area just below the Lower Mills Dam is one of the most productive spawning areas for rainbow smelt in Massachusetts Bay. Smelt are small “anadromous” fish, which spend most of their lives in the ocean, but return to brackish water to spawn. The smelt spawning area stretches from the railroad bridge near the Milton Landing, right up to the toe of the Baker Dam, in a natural gorge where night herons, cormorants and even eagles congregate on overhanging limbs to get their share of the spring fish feast.

Turning downstream from the Milton Landing, paddlers will be surrounded by the marshes of the Neponset River Reservation for 1.2 miles until reaching the Granite Avenue Drawbridge. Along the way, the first major tidal creek entering on the right is Gulliver’s Creek, which drains part of Milton and is another important smelt spawning area

Pope John Paul II Park comes up on the left. This area used to be the Hallet Street Dump and Neponset Drive-in movie theater. The State converted the former landfills into parkland, which now serves as the active recreation centerpiece for the Neponset Greenway. Before these areas were turned into the park, the old landfills were first sealed off with a waterproof cap to prevent rainwater from soaking into the old landfill and then leaching into the river. Davenport Creek emerges into the Neponset in the middle of Pope John Paul II Park.

Paddling the estuary by Squantum Point Park, May 2007.

From here out, the river continues to widen and deepen as it travels two more miles to its mouth at the beginning of Dorchester Bay. On the Quincy side of the river to the right, is the Neponset RiverWalk, which connects with the Neponset Greenway on the Boston side of the river. The first creek on the Quincy side is Sagamore Creek, which emerges from the buildings and vast parking lots of the State Street South development. Further downstream on the Quincy side is Billings Creek, which is surrounded by salt marsh.

At the landmark, painted gas tank, the river is flanked by Tenean Beach in Dorchester on the left and Squantum Point Beach in Quincy on the right.

Neponset ScStr - History

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) MassParks owns much of the shoreline as the Neponset River Reservation. This includes an abandoned railway line which became the ISTEA-funded first segment of the Neponset Trail, a rail-trail from the mouth of the estuary at Tenean Beach in the Port Norfolk neighborhood of Dorchester, through the Pope John Paul II Park, along a salt marsh, then parallelling the "High Speed Line" trolley toward Mattapan as far as Central Ave. in Milton, part of the Lower Neponset River Masterplan.

Pope John Paul II Park, next to the Southeast Expressway on the estuary of the river, which contains 1/4-mile of the Trail, opened on May 1, 2001. The rest of Phase I of the trail, downstream to Port Norfolk and upstream to Central Ave. in Milton, had to be cleared of contaminated soil which was found along much of the railroad right of way.

Construction went out to bid in April 2001, bids were received by May 2, and construction started in September 2001. By January 2002, the trail was paved except for a stretch along the salt marsh. Paving of that segment, with a permeable pavement resembling crushed stone, was completed during the second week of October 2002. The last piece of this segment, a traffic light where the trail crosses Granite Ave., was completed by the fall of 2006. By 2015, the permeable pavement turned out not to be, and was replaced by asphalt, which actually drains pretty well, even after it is covered by high tide for a few hours more and more times a year.

On Earth Day 2008, Governor Patrick announced that construction would soon begin on the "Neponset River Esplanade," from Mattapan Square to Paul's Bridge, the plan for which had been completed in June of 2006. A section of this Esplanade from the Martini Shell to Mattapan between the Truman Parkway and the Neponset River was started in the fall of 2009 and opened in 2012 (see photos). An extension along the river all the way to the Neponset Valley Parkway in Readville at the southern edge of Boston was completed in 2015 by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and this whole section was opened cermoniously in August 2015.
Here is the latest plan, as of June 15, 2006 as a 1,470,966-byte PDF file.

Further northward extensions along Tenean Beach and through Port Norfolk Park were completed in 2010 and 2015, respectively.

In 2018, the section of the trail between Central Ave. in Milton and Mattapan Square was completed. This section, with its signature Harvest River Bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians, was designated a Great American Place by the American Planning Association in September, 2019.

The next future extension along the harbor almost to Columbia Point, where the Neponset estuary becomes Boston Harbor, was split into three parts.

The next one likely to be built will run from Victory Road in Dorchester to Morrissey Boulevard, half on an easement between the colorful gas tank and the Southeast Expressway and half on DCR property. It was designed and funding came through in the fall of 2001, but post-9/11 security concerns about the trail being too close to a gas transmission facility cancelled the project for almost 20 years. The DCR has a potential easement from National Grid, which now owns the facility, construction plans almost ready, and most of the permits in place.

In 2019, the Neponset Trail from Tenean Beach to Victory Road, which is on Massachusetts Department of Transportation property adjoining the Southeast Expressway to its west, was combined with the section to the south. with DCR handling the design and MassDOT handling the funding. This also put off construction until 2023, though it is hoped that with a design in hand, the path will be build sooner.

The last section north, from the Morrissey Blvd. drawbridge to Columbia Point, is to be built as part of the once-fast-tracked reconstruction of the boulevard and should, like the new roadway, be built above high tide. Higher high tides which have already arrived with global climate change have delayed this design for several years.

The final piece of the trail on the south end, the one that actually connects it to the Blue Hills State Reservation, will parallel the Neponset Valley Parkway and the Neponset River to Paul's Bridge, at the border between Boston and Milton and the beginning of the Fowl Meadow section of the Reservation. Routing is currently being studied, and it is hoped that design will begin in fiscal 2020.

A new connection northward toward Boston's Seaport District has begun with a bike path opened by Massport in 2017 along First St. in South Boston. Future bike lanes and cycle tracks are planned along Summer St., Northern Ave., and Congress St. to the Fort Point Channel section of the South Bay Harbor Trail and to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

A path along the Mother Brook, a major tributary of the Neponset in Dedham and Hyde Park, has been studied, but is not going to happen soon. Dedham could also be reached via a potential cycle track along the Neponset Valley Parkway and the proposed Dedham Greenway. The Neponset Trail could also continue up the Neponset along the marsh on the Boston side of the river, under Route 128/I-95 to Westwood and Norwood.

The Neponset River Watershed includes all or portions of the communities of Boston, Canton, Dedham, Dover, Foxboro, Medfield, Milton, Norwood, Quincy, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, and Westwood.

The Boston Natural Areas Network (formerly the Boston Natural Areas Fund) and The Trust for Public Land had sequential 4-year and 3-year grants to develop community support and a vision for a greenway in support of the MDC's (and now DCR's) ongoing projects. The Neponset River Greenway Council, which spun off on its own after BNAN was taken over by The Trustees, continues to work to build public support for a greenway from the mouth of the river in Dorchester, through Mattapan and Milton to Readville, Boston's southernmost neighborhood, and beyond.


Join [email protected] to take part in discussions between Greenway Council meetings
Join the Neponset River Greenway Council group on Facebook to keep track of Greenway events
Follow us on Twitter at @nepgreenway Check out our website at

Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) :
Project Manager: Stella Lensing (email)
Massachusetts State Police:
Milton Barracks (Trail west of Lower Mills bridge): (617)698-5840
South Boston Barracks (Trail east of Lower Mills bridge): (617)740-7710
From a cell phone anywhere on the trail: *SP
Neponset River Watershed Association (617)575-0354 (email)

Maintained by Neponset River Greenway Council President Jessica Mink (email)
Last updated November 5, 2019

Dorchester History Lesson: Neponset Drive-In

When you were home reading over Governor Baker’s Phase 1 reopening list you may have been surprised to see drive-in movie theaters listed. Drive-ins! Remember those? Swing sets, cartoon dancing tubs of popcorn telling us to get a snack, two movies, all from the comfort of your car? You might not there are only two active drive-ins left in Massachusetts, but there was a drive-in in Dorchester for 35 years! That is the subject of this Caught in Dot History Lesson!

The Neponset Drive-In opened on September 14th, 1950! The first movies seen on its big screen were Comanche Territory, a biopic of Jim Bowie starring Maureen O’Hara, and Outside the Wall, a crime thriller! The theater had one screen and the lot could accommodate 1,350 cars.

The Neponset Drive-In was a popular spot for decades but by the 1980s it was losing its luster. To increase revenue the site was also used as the site of a flea market for a while – but by 1985, the whole thing closed down. Eventually, the Commonwealth bought the site and the multi-acre Hallet Street Dump that was next door.

Extensive work was done and on May 1st, 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) opened Pope John Paul II Park. While the playground and the athletic fields are closed right now, as a result of COVID-19, it is the perfect site to take a socially distant walk, a bike ride or to go fly a kite. It is also a great place for bird watching – omething we know Maureen is into right now!


The Neponset Choral Society was formed in the fall of 1949 as the Bird & Sons "Bird Club" chorus. Originally for company members only, the group was soon opened to the community to allow for more participation, and was christened The Neponset Choral Society. Six months after its inception, the first NCS concert was held at the old Walpole High School auditorium. The first director, Leonard Weaver, conducted a variety of music, accompanied by pianist Walter Rockwood. In the spring of 1952, the first staged operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, was performed. Thus began a long history of G & S productions by NCS. Another first for NCS came in the fall of 1960, when radio station WCRB recorded their performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio St. Paul. The recording was broadcast, along with the NCS performance of G.F. Handel's Judas Maccabaeus in March and September 1963 as part of WCRB's "Choruses of New England" series. In the fall of 1965, NCS reached another milestone with their first orchestrated performance of Brahm's German Requiem, featuring soloists Pricilla Cann and David Weaver. Leonard Weaver's love of music and performance was the beginning of NCS. A graduate of MIT and formally trained as an engineer, he always had an intense interest in music. He sang with the MIT glee club, the Milton Choral Society, and various church choirs. Through his efforts as an amateur musician and conductor, NCS was allowed to grow and firmly establish itself as a strong musical performance group in the area which continues to this day.

NCS continued to grow, and in 1974 was incorporated and elected a Board of Directors to oversee the organization. Mr. Weaver retired as Music Director in 1982, and was replaced by Assistant Music Director Richard Travers, who held the position for one year.

From 1983 until 1989, Victoria Wagner, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, was Music Director of NCS.

In 1989, Catherine Connor-Moen was appointed to the position and served until June 2000. Under her guidance, NCS broadened its performance repertoire and exposure by instituting appearances at The Great Woods summer program at Wheaton College, performances with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra and Rhode Island's Ocean State Symphony, and by creating the Young Artists Performance Program.

In July 2001, Rachel Samet was hired as Music Director.

Michael Turner was named the Society's new Music Director in the Summer of 2003 following Ms. Samet's departure to pursue a doctorate.

In 2013, following Mr. Turner's departure to concentrate on other professional, musical and family commitments, Christopher Martin was hired as Music Director.

More About The Health Center

All are welcome! We serve everyone, regardless of ability to pay or insurance status.

Harbor Health’s Daniel Driscoll – Neponset Health Center is located at 398 Neponset Avenue in Dorchester, Massachusetts where you can find caring and convenient care for your whole family close to home!

Nothing should stand in the way of your health.

Harbor Health accepts MassHealth, Health Safety Net, self-pay, and most private insurances to make sure you can get high-quality, affordable health care.

No insurance? We can help you apply for insurance if you are eligible!

For patients without insurance, we offer a sliding scale of fees and can work with you on an affordable payment plan. Discounts are available based on family size and income.

Parking is free and the health center is accessible by MBTA bus.

Get the care and services you need all in one convenient location.

At Daniel Driscoll – Neponset Health Center, you will find adult and family medicine, behavioral health, women’s health, and pediatrics and many other health services for people of all ages.

The health center also has an on-site pharmacy, nutrition services, a WIC Nutrition Program, and other support resources to help you and your family.

We speak Vietnamese! Chúng tôi nói tiếng Việt!

Neponset ScStr - History

The Neponset Neighbors Together Fund, established by community leaders in partnership with United Way of Massachusetts Bay, will help individuals and families who have been financially impacted by this coronavirus pandemic with a focus on our most economically vulnerable neighbors.


Bridges build community. The Harvest River Bridge along the Neponset River Greenway brings together the communities of Mattapan and Milton, embodying a history marked by opposition, advocacy, fear, prejudice and ultimately, resilience.

COVID-19 affects us all, and we’re stronger when we work together. For this reason, the communities of Milton, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Dorchester are uniting to raise funds that will support our neighborhoods as one. Our families have been deeply impacted by this public health crisis, with a high incidence of infection, serious illness and casualties, and when we work together, we can ensure that the most vulnerable among us have the resources they need to weather this crisis.


This crisis is evolving quickly and the priorities of this fund may change as the needs of our community evolve. The funds will be focused on the needs of individuals rather than capacity funds to nonprofits. They can be used to support families’ basic needs such as rent, food, utilities, internet connectivity for families with school-aged children, essential supplies and medications and other basic needs. Priority will be given to those who are most economically vulnerable to this crisis. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working with the United Way and several local human services agencies to raise and distribute funds as quickly as possible to individuals and families in need.


You can give to the fund by clicking the yellow GIVE TODAY button above or by clicking here. All gifts are tax-deductible and 100% of the proceeds (net credit card fees) will go to individuals seeking assistance via nonprofits already working in our community. You may also give via your Donor Advised Fund by including “The United Way Neponset Neighbors Together Fund” in your recommendation details. Our tax ID number is 04-2382233.

You can also send a check to the following address: United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Inc., P.O. Box 412866, Boston, MA. 02241-2866 . Please make checks out to “United Way of Massachusetts Bay” and include “Neponset Neighbors Together Fund” in the memo of your check.


All donations will be collected by United Way and distributed by established nonprofit organizations with a track record of administering assistance funds. These funds will pay for rent, food, utilities, internet connectivity for families with school-aged children, childcare, medications and other basic needs.


The Neponset Neighbors Together Fund exists to mobilize those who can give to support their neighbors. We are forming a coalition of local providers who will distribute emergency financial assistance. In the coming days, visit this space for more detailed information on fund eligibility requirements and information about where to inquire for support. Until then, if you need immediate help, please contact United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline or visit for comprehensive information and referrals related to the virus.

Heartfelt Support

As a part of this community fundraising initiative, a Milton HS student has produced front door heart signs for purchase with all proceeds donated to the Neponset Neighbors Together Fund. When you see these signs, they represent our saying thanks to all frontline workers and supporting our neighbors impacted by this crisis. We are hoping to have all area houses and houses of worship as well as businesses showing this visible heartfelt support. Use the above yellow button link to donate and fill out the form here to obtain your sign. For donations by Cash or Check use this link for information and to make those arrangements. Supplies are limited.

Photo, Print, Drawing Neponset Drive-In, Dorchester, Massachusetts

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Indigenous peoples Edit

Prior to European colonization, the region around Dorchester was originally inhabited by the indigenous Massachusett. [9] They lived in settlements established alongside the Neponset River estuary, which proved to be a plentiful source of fish for the Massachusett they also gathered shellfish from the riverbed, hunted beavers, deers and trouts and established farms in nearby hills. [10] During the initial period of colonization of the region by Puritan settlers, the Massachusett experienced a rapid decline in population due to the introduction of foreign diseases to which they had no immunity to. [11] The Massachusett sachem, Chickatawbut, negotiated land treaties with the Puritan settlers before dying of smallpox in 1633, and his brother, Cutshamekin deeded further land to the settlers. [12] [13] [14] The remaining Massachusett in the region, including Cutshamekin, became Praying Indians and settled in the town of Natick, likely as a means of survival. [15] [16]

European settlement in the 17th century Edit

In 1626 David Thompson settled his family on Thompson Island in what is now Dorchester before Boston's Puritan migration wave began in 1630. [17] May 30, 1630, Captain Squib of the ship Mary and John entered Boston Harbor and on June 17, 1630, landed a boat with eight men on the Dorchester shore, at what was then a narrow peninsula known as Mattapan or Mattaponnock, and today is known as Columbia Point (more popularly since 1984 as Harbor Point). [18] Those aboard the ship who founded the town included William Phelps, Roger Ludlowe, John Mason, John Maverick, Nicholas Upsall, Capt. Roger Fyler, William Gaylord, Henry Wolcott and other men who would become prominent in the founding of a new nation. The original settlement founded in 1630 was at what is now the intersection of Columbia Road and Massachusetts Avenue. (Even though Dorchester was annexed over 100 years ago into the city of Boston, this founding is still celebrated every year on Dorchester Day, which includes festivities and a parade down Dorchester Avenue).

Most of the early Dorchester settlers came from the English West Country, and some from Dorchester, Dorset, where the Rev. John White was chief proponent of a Puritan settlement in the Americas. [19] The town that was founded was centered on the First Parish Church of Dorchester, which still exists as the Unitarian-Universalist church on Meeting House Hill and is the oldest religious organization in present-day Boston. [20]

On October 8, 1633, the first Town Meeting in America was held in Dorchester. Today, each October 8 is celebrated as Town Meeting Day in Massachusetts. Dorchester is the birthplace of the first public elementary school in America, the Mather School, established in 1639. [21] The school still stands as the oldest elementary school in America. [22] In 1634 Israel Stoughton built one of the earliest grist mills in America on the Neponset River, and Richard Callicott founded a trading post nearby. In 1641, Dorcas ye blackmore, a servant to Israel Stoughton, was the first recorded African American to join a church in New England, and she served as an evangelist to Stoughton's Native American servants, and the First Parish Church of Dorchester attempted to help Dorcas gain her freedom. [23] [24]

In 1649, Puritan missionaries, including John Eliot, began a campaign to convert the Indigenous people in Dorchester to Christianity with the help of Cockenoe and John Sassamon, two Indian servants in Dorchester. Eliot was given land by the town of Dorchester for his mission, where he established a church and school.

The oldest surviving home in the city of Boston, the James Blake House, is located at Edward Everett Square, which is the historic intersection of Columbia Road, Boston Street, and Massachusetts Avenue, a few blocks from the Dorchester Historical Society. The Blake House was constructed in 1661, as was confirmed by dendrochronology in 2007. [25]

In 1695, a party was dispatched to found the town of Dorchester, South Carolina, which lasted barely a half-century before being abandoned.

18th century Edit

In 1765, chocolate was first introduced in the American colonies when Irish chocolate maker John Hannon (or alternatively spelled "Hannan" in some sources) imported beans from the West Indies and refined them in Dorchester, working with Dr. James Baker, an American physician and investor. They soon after opened America's first chocolate mill and factory in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester. The Walter Baker Chocolate Factory, part of Walter Baker & Company, operated until 1965. [26] : 627 [27] [28] [29]

Before the American Revolution, "The Sons of Liberty met in August 1769 at the Lemuel Robinson Tavern, which stood on the east side of the upper road (Washington St.) near the present Fuller Street. Lemuel Robinson was a representative of the town during the Revolution and was appointed a colonel in the Revolutionary army." [30] Dorchester (in a part of what is now South Boston) was also the site of the Battle of Dorchester Heights in 1776, which eventually resulted in the British evacuating Boston.

19th century Edit

Victorian era Edit

In Victorian times, Dorchester became a popular country retreat for Boston elite, and developed into a bedroom community, easily accessible to the city—a streetcar suburb. The mother and grandparents of John F. Kennedy lived in the Ashmont Hill neighborhood while John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald was mayor of Boston.

The American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote a poem called "The Dorchester Giant" in 1830, and referred to the special kind of stone, "Roxbury puddingstone", also quarried in Dorchester, which was used to build churches in the Boston area, most notably the Central Congregational Church (later called the Church of the Covenant) in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. [31] [32] : 116

In 1845, the Old Colony Railroad ran through the area and connected Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts. The station was originally called Crescent Avenue or Crescent Avenue Depot [33] as an Old Colony Railroad station, then called Columbia until December 1, 1982, and then again changed to JFK/UMASS. It is a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rail line station for both the Red Line subway and the Plymouth/Kingston, Middleborough/Lakeville and Greenbush commuter rail lines.

In the 1840s and 1850s, a new wave of development took place on a strip of waterfront overlooking Dorchester Bay (Park and Mill Streets at the Harrison Square Historic District, later known as Clam Point.) Renowned architects who had contributed to one of the most significant and intact collections of Clam Point's Italianate mansards include Luther Briggs, John A. Fox, and Mary E. Noyes. By the 1890s, Clam Point gained prominence as a summer resort with the Russell House hotel as its centerpiece and the establishment of the Dorchester Yacht Club on Freeport Street.

In the 1880s, the calf pasture on Columbia Point was used as a Boston sewer line and pumping station. This large pumping station still stands and in its time was a model for treating sewage and helping to promote cleaner and healthier urban living conditions. It pumped waste to a remote treatment facility on Moon Island in Boston Harbor, and served as a model for other systems worldwide. This system remained in active use and was the Boston Sewer system's headworks, handling all of the city's sewage, until 1968 when a new treatment facility was built on Deer Island. The pumping station is also architecturally significant as a Richardsonian Romanesque designed by the then Boston city architect, George Clough. It is also the only remaining 19th century building on Columbia Point and is in the National Register of Historic Places. [18] In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental Europe.

Annexation to Boston Edit

Dorchester was annexed by Boston in pieces beginning on March 6, 1804, and ending with complete annexation to the city of Boston after a plebiscite was held in Boston and Dorchester on June 22, 1869. As a result, Dorchester officially became part of Boston on January 3, 1870. [34] This is also the historic reason that Dorchester Heights is today considered part of South Boston, not modern-day Dorchester, since it was part of the cession of Dorchester to Boston in 1804. Additional parts of Dorchester were ceded to Quincy (in 1792, 1814, 1819, and 1855) and portions of the original town of Dorchester became the separate towns of Hyde Park (1868 and later annexed to Boston in 1912), Milton (1662), and Stoughton (1726, itself later subdivided).

In 1895, Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of the Boston Public Garden/Emerald Necklace and Central Park, was commissioned to create Dorchester Park, to be an urban forest for the residents of a growing Dorchester. [35]

In 1904, the Dorchester Historical Society incorporated "Dorchester Day" which commemorated the settlement of Dorchester in 1630. An annual event, Dorchester Day is a tableau of community events, highlighted by such activities as the Landing Day Observance, the Dorchester Day Parade along Dorchester Avenue the first Sunday in June, and as a grand finale, the Community Banquet. [36]

Turn of the 20th century Edit

There was also increased social activism in Dorchester during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dorchester became home to the first racially integrated neighborhood, on Jones Hill. One of the residents of that neighborhood, William Monroe Trotter, with W.E.B. Du Bois, helped to found the Niagara Movement, the precursor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. [37] Many leading suffragettes also lived in Dorchester, including Lucy Stone. [38]

In the early 20th century, Dorchester also saw a large influx of new immigrants from origins such as Ireland, French Canada, Poland, Italy, and migrant African Americans from the south. This is the era when the trademark Dorchester triple decker apartment buildings were built. [ citation needed ]

1950s–present Edit

In the early 1950s, Dorchester was also a center of civil rights activism. Martin Luther King Jr. lived there for much of the time he attended Boston University for his PhD. "With Boston’s Baptist community riveted by his preaching and Coretta [Scott King] at his side, King’s circle grew. The Dorchester apartment drew friends and followers like a magnet, according to [friend and roommate John] Bustamante, with 'untold numbers of visitors coming from the other schools.' The roommates housed and fed the visitors, who would join in civil rights discussions." [39]

During the 1960s–1980s, the ethnic landscape of Dorchester changed dramatically. The Jewish, Italian, and Irish populations were replaced with African, Asian, and Caribbean populations.

The first community health center in the United States was the Columbia Point Health Center in Dorchester. It was opened in December 1965 and served mostly the massive Columbia Point public housing complex adjoining it. It was founded by two medical doctors, Jack Geiger who had been on the faculty of Harvard University then later at Tufts University and Count Gibson from Tufts University. [40] [41] [42] Geiger had previously studied the first community health centers and the principles of Community Oriented Primary Care with Sidney Kark [43] and colleagues while serving as a medical student in rural Natal, South Africa. [44] The Columbia Point Health Center is still in operation and was rededicated in 1990 as the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center. [45] [46] [47]

In 1974, the University of Massachusetts Boston moved from Park Square in downtown Boston to the Columbia Point in Dorchester. In 1982, Boston State College was incorporated into UMass Boston. Since the 1970s, UMass Boston has expanded substantially, including building a new campus center in 2004 and a new science center in 2015. It has also hosted numerous important social and civic events. In 2000, for example, the university hosted a presidential candidates’ debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore. [48]

In 1977, after an unsuccessful bid to have the John F. Kennedy Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, close to Harvard University, ground was broken at the tip of Columbia Point for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, designed by the architect I. M. Pei, and dedicated on October 20, 1979.

By the 1980s, the Blue Hill Avenue section of Dorchester had become a predominantly Black community.

During the 1990s, the city administration increased police presence and invested city money into the area for more street lighting. [ citation needed ]

On March 30, 2015, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate was dedicated by President Barack Obama. [49] The Institute opened to the public on March 31, 2015. [50]

Dorchester is located south of downtown Boston and is surrounded by the neighborhoods of South Boston, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, South End, and the city of Quincy and town of Milton. The Neponset River separates Dorchester from Quincy and Milton. According to the U.S. Postal Service, Dorchester includes the zip codes 02121, 02122, 02124, and 02125.

Neighborhood sections and squares Edit

Dorchester is Boston's largest and most populous neighborhood [51] and comprises many smaller sections and squares. Due to its size of about six square miles, it is often divided for statistical purposes in North and South Dorchester. North Dorchester includes the portion north of Quincy Street, East Street and Freeport Street. The main business district in this part of Dorchester is Uphams Corner, at the intersection of Dudley Street and Columbia Road. South Dorchester is bordered to the east by Dorchester Bay and to the south by the Neponset River. [52] The main business districts in this part of Dorchester are Fields Corner, at the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Adams Street, and Codman Square, at the intersection of Washington Street and Talbot Avenue. Adjacent to Fields Corner is the Harrison Square Historic District, also known as Clam Point, noteworthy for its collection of substantial Italianate Mansard residences.

Dorchester Avenue is the major neighborhood spine, running in a south-north line through all of Dorchester from Lower Mills to downtown Boston. [53] The southern part of Dorchester is primarily a residential area, with established neighborhoods still defined by parishes, and occupied by families for generations. The northern part of Dorchester is more urban, with a greater amount of apartment housing and industrial parks. South Bay and Newmarket industrial area are major sources of employment and the Harbor Point area (formerly known as Columbia Point) is home of several large employers, including the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Distinct commercial districts include Bowdoin/Geneva, Fields Corner, Codman Square, Peabody Square, Adams Village and Lower Mills. Primarily residential areas include Savin Hill, Jones Hill, Four Corners, Franklin Field, Franklin Hill, Ashmont, Meeting House Hill, Neponset, Popes Hill and Port Norfolk.

Up until the 1960s, the Blue Hill Avenue part of Dorchester from Roxbury to Mattapan was primarily composed of Jewish Americans who had lived there for generations. [54] The Neponset neighborhood was primarily Irish-American. During the 1920s–1960s, many African-Americans moved from the South to the North during the Great Migration and settled on Blue Hill Avenue and nearby sections. While some Jewish-Americans were moving "up and out" to the suburbs, certain Boston banks and real estate companies developed a blockbusting plan for the area. The Blue Hill Avenue area was "redlined" so that only the newly arriving African-Americans would receive mortgages for housing in that section. [55] "White flight" was prevalent. Later, Dorchester had another wave of immigrants, this time from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, Cape Verde, as well as other Latin American, Asian, and African nations. Dorchester continued to experience immigration from Northern European countries such as Ireland, Germany and Poland. This made Dorchester more diverse than at any point in its long history, and home to more people from more countries than ever before. These immigrants helped revive economically many areas of the neighborhood by opening ethnic stores and restaurants. [56]

The sections of Dorchester have distinct ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic compositions. The eastern areas of Dorchester (especially between Adams Street and Dorchester Bay) are primarily ethnic European and Asian, with a large population of Irish Americans and Vietnamese Americans, while the residents of the western, central and parts of the southern sections of the neighborhood are predominantly African Americans. In Neponset, the southeast corner of the neighborhood, as well as parts of Savin Hill in the north and Cedar Grove in the south, Irish Americans maintain the most visible identity. [57] In the northern section of Dorchester and southwestern section of South Boston is the Polish Triangle, where recent Polish immigrants are residents. Savin Hill, as well as Fields Corner, have large Vietnamese American populations. Uphams Corner contains a Cape Verdean American community, the largest concentration of people of Cape Verdean origin within Boston city limits. Western, central and parts of southern Dorchester have a large Caribbean population (especially people from Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago). They are most heavily represented in the Codman Square, Franklin Field and the Ashmont area, although there are also significant numbers in Four Corners and Fields Corner. Significant numbers of African Americans live in the Harbor Point, Uphams Corner, Fields Corner, Four Corners and Franklin Field areas. [58] In recent years Dorchester has also seen an influx of young residents, gay men and women, and working artists (in areas like Lower Mills, Ashmont Hill/Peabody Square, and Savin Hill). [59] [60] [61] [62] [63]

American Community Survey – Estimates – 2013 Edit

The American Community Survey (ACS) for Dorchester, from 2007–2011, estimates the total population is 113,975 people. Slightly more than half are female, 52.6% or 59,914 [8] and 47.4% or 54,061 [8] are male.

In Dorchester, 68.4% or 77,980 of the residents are native born and 31.6% or 35,995 [8] people are foreign born, of which 50.1% or 18,024 [8] are not U.S. citizens. The largest racial group in the neighborhood is Black or African-American with 49,612 people or 43.05% [8] of the population. People who self-identify as white represent 26,102 or 26.99% [8] of the community. Hispanic/Latino account for 19.09% of the population with 19,295 [8] resident. The Asian enclave represents 9.6% of 10,990 [8] of the citizenry. The smallest racial group is bi/multi-racial and they make up 1.9% (2,174 [8] ) of the population.

According to the ACS survey, Dorchester has a large under 25 population with 38.1% or 43,472 [8] people and 33,162 (29.1% of the total population) [8] of them under the age of 19 years old. Between the ages of 25 to 64 years old there are 59,788 or 52.6% [8] people and 10,715 people or 9.3% [8] are over the age of 65 years old. In Dorchester, approximately 61.9% or 70,503 [8] people are over the age of 25, 23.5% or 16,582 people [8] do not have a high school diploma or GED, 30.5% or 21,479 [8] have a diploma or GED, 18.5% or 13,045 people [8] have completed some college, and 27.5% or 19,397 people [8] have a college degree.

The ACS Survey estimates there are 40,443 [8] households in the neighborhood of Dorchester, the per capita income of $22,120 and a median income of $44,136. 13.1% or 5,286 [8] households have reported income of less than $10,000. 27.3% or 11,020 [8] households earn less than $19,999. 19.1% or 7,720 [8] households earn between $20,000 to 39,999.16.5% or 6,651 [8] households in the earn between $40,000 to 59,999. 19.7% or 7,977 [8] households earn between $60,000 to 99,999. 15.3% or 6,174 [8] of household report annual incomes of $100,000 to 199,999. [8] Only 2.2% or 901 [8] households in Dorchester earn $200,000 or more per year. The ACS reports as of 2011, Poverty affects 23.5% or 9,511 households and 24.3% or 9,820 of [8] households are receiving SNAP Benefits.

Race Edit

Dorchester-Mount Bowdoin (02121) Racial Breakdown of Population (2017) [64] [65]
Race Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
Black 70.9% 8.8% 13.4% +62.1% +57.5%
Hispanic 28.7% 11.9% 18.1% +16.8% +10.6%
White 8.2% 81.3% 76.6% –73.1% –68.4%
White (Non-Hispanic) 2.6% 72.1% 60.7% –69.5% –58.1%
Asian 0.8% 6.9% 5.8% –6.1% –5.0%
Native Americans/Hawaiians 0.2% 0.6% 1.5% –0.4% –1.3%
Two or more races 5.2% 2.4% 2.7% +2.8% +2.5%
Dorchester-Fields Corner (02122) Racial Breakdown of Population (2017) [66] [65]
Race Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
White 37.7% 81.3% 76.6% –43.6% –38.9%
White (Non-Hispanic) 34.1% 72.1% 60.7% –38.0% –26.6%
Black 30.9% 8.8% 13.4% +22.1% +17.5%
Asian 18.4% 6.9% 5.8% +11.5% +12.6%
Hispanic 11.9% 11.9% 18.1% +0.0% –6.2%
Native Americans/Hawaiians 0.0% 0.6% 1.5% –0.6% –1.5%
Two or more races 3.5% 2.4% 2.7% +1.1% +0.8%
Dorchester-Codman Square-Ashmont (02124) Racial Breakdown of Population (2017) [67] [65]
Race Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
Black 64.4% 8.8% 13.4% +55.6% +61.0%
White 22.6% 81.3% 76.6% –58.7% –54.0%
White (Non-Hispanic) 16.3% 72.1% 60.7% –55.8% –44.4%
Hispanic 15.8% 11.9% 18.1% +3.9% –2.3%
Asian 6.2% 6.9% 5.8% –0.7% +0.4%
Native Americans/Hawaiians 1.1% 0.6% 1.5% +0.5% –0.4%
Two or more races 2.9% 2.4% 2.7% +0.5% +0.2%
Dorchester-Uphams Corner-Savin Hill-Columbia Point (02125) Racial Breakdown of Population (2017) [68] [65]
Race Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
White 34.2% 81.3% 76.6% –47.1% –42.4%
White (Non-Hispanic) 30.4% 72.1% 60.7% –41.7% –30.3%
Black 29.7% 8.8% 13.4% +20.9% +16.3%
Hispanic 20.3% 11.9% 18.1% +8.4% +2.2%
Asian 12.8% 6.9% 5.8% +5.9% +7.0%
Native Americans/Hawaiians 0.5% 0.6% 1.5% –0.1% +1.0%
Two or more races 5.1% 2.4% 2.7% +2.7% +2.4%

Ancestry Edit

According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, the largest ancestry groups in ZIP Codes 02121, 02122, 02124, and 02125 are: [69] [70]

Ancestry Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
West Indian 15.53% 1.96% 0.90% +13.57% +14.62%
Puerto Rican 10.76% 4.52% 1.66% +6.24% +9.10%
Sub-Saharan African 7.82% 2.00% 1.01% +5.82% +6.81%
Haitian 7.18% 1.15% 0.31% +6.02% +6.87%
Jamaican 4.22% 0.44% 0.34% +3.78% +3.88%
Cape Verdean 3.92% 0.97% 0.03% +2.95% +3.89%
American 2.84% 4.26% 6.89% –1.42% –4.05%
Somali 1.57% 0.06% 0.04% +1.50% +1.52%
Ancestry Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
Irish 18.94% 21.16% 10.39% –2.22% +8.55%
Vietnamese 16.67% 0.69% 0.54% +15.98% +16.13%
Sub-Saharan African 10.85% 2.00% 1.01% +8.85% +9.84%
Cape Verdean 8.57% 0.97% 0.03% +7.60% +8.54%
Italian 6.43% 13.19% 5.39% –6.75% +1.04%
West Indian 5.61% 1.96% 0.90% +3.65% +4.70%
Puerto Rican 4.67% 4.52% 1.66% +0.15% +3.01%
American 3.55% 4.26% 6.89% –0.71% –3.34%
Haitian 2.36% 1.15% 0.31% +1.21% +2.05%
Polish 1.93% 4.67% 2.93% –2.73% –1.00%
English 1.66% 9.77% 7.67% –8.12% –6.01%
Jamaican 1.59% 0.44% 0.34% +1.15% +1.25%
German 1.39% 6.00% 14.40% –4.61% –13.01%
Asian Indian 1.19% 1.39% 1.09% –0.20% +0.10%
French 1.09% 6.82% 2.56% –5.74% –1.47%
Ancestry Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
West Indian 19.04% 1.96% 0.31% +17.08% +18.14%
Haitian 8.14% 1.15% 0.31% +6.99% +7.83%
Irish 7.97% 21.16% 10.39% –13.18% –2.41%
Sub-Saharan African 7.54% 2.00% 1.01% +5.54% +6.52%
Puerto Rican 7.50% 4.52% 1.66% +2.98% +5.84%
Jamaican 5.39% 0.44% 0.34% +4.95% +5.04%
Vietnamese 4.83% 0.69% 0.54% +4.14% +4.29%
Cape Verdean 3.96% 0.97% 0.03% +2.99% +3.93%
American 2.74% 4.26% 6.89% –1.53% –4.16%
Trinidadian/Tobagonian 2.62% 0.10% 0.07% +2.52% +2.55%
English 2.23% 9.77% 7.67% –7.54% –5.44%
Italian 2.16% 13.19% 5.39% –11.03% –3.23%
German 1.29% 6.00% 14.40% –4.72% –13.12%
Barbadian 1.14% 0.08% 0.02% +1.05% +1.12%
Guyanese 1.11% 0.03% 0.07% +1.08% +1.04%
Ancestry Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
Sub-Saharan African 15.27% 2.00% 1.01% +13.27% +14.26%
Cape Verdean 13.02% 0.97% 0.03% +12.05% +12.98%
Irish 9.34% 21.16% 10.39% –11.82% –1.05%
American 9.07% 4.26% 6.89% +4.81% +2.18%
Vietnamese 7.33% 0.69% 0.54% +6.64% +6.79%
Puerto Rican 6.90% 4.52% 1.66% +2.38% +5.24%
West Indian 5.26% 1.96% 0.90% +3.30% +4.36%
Italian 3.18% 13.19% 5.39% –10.00% –2.21%
Chinese 3.03% 2.28% 1.24% +0.75% +1.79%
Polish 2.92% 4.67% 2.93% –1.75% –0.02%
German 2.32% 6.00% 14.40% –3.69% –12.08%
English 2.12% 9.77% 7.67% –7.66% –5.55%
Haitian 1.94% 1.15% 0.31% +0.79% +1.64%
Albanian 1.50% 0.28% 0.06% +1.22% +1.44%
Arab 1.44% 1.10% 0.59% +0.35% +0.85%
Mexican 1.29% 0.67% 11.96% +0.62% –10.67%
Asian Indian 1.20% 1.39% 1.09% –0.19% +0.11%
French 1.05% 6.82% 2.56% –5.77% –1.51%

The neighborhood is served by five stations on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Red Line (MBTA) rapid transit service, five stations on the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line, five stations on the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, and various bus routes. Over the last decade, the Dorchester branch of the Red Line had major renovations, including four rapid transit stations being rebuilt at Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Shawmut, and Ashmont. [71] [72] At Ashmont station, the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts partnered with private investors to create The Carruth, one of the state's first Transit-oriented developments (TOD). [72] [73]

Interstate 93 (concurrent with Route 3 and U.S. 1) runs north–south through Dorchester between Quincy, Massachusetts, and downtown Boston, providing access to the eastern edge of Dorchester at Columbia Road, Morrissey Boulevard (northbound only), Neponset Circle (southbound only), and Granite Avenue (with additional southbound on-ramps at Freeport Street and from Morrissey Blvd at Neponset). Several other state routes traverse the neighborhood, e.g., Route 203, Gallivan Boulevard and Morton Street, and Route 28, Blue Hill Avenue (so named because it leads out of the city to the Blue Hills Reservation). The Neponset River separates Dorchester from Quincy and Milton. The "Dorchester Turnpike" (now "Dorchester Avenue") stretches from Fort Point Channel (now in South Boston) to Lower Mills, and once boasted a horse-drawn streetcar.

A number of the earliest streets in Dorchester have changed names several times through the centuries, meaning that some names have come and gone. Leavitt Place, for instance, named for one of Dorchester's earliest settlers, eventually became Brook Court and then Brook Avenue Place. [74] Gallivan Boulevard was once Codman Street and Brookvale Street was once Brook Street. [75] Morrissey Boulevard was once Old Colony Parkway.

Throughout its history, Dorchester has had periods of economic revival and recession. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dorchester was particularly hard hit by economic recession, high unemployment, and white flight. [76]

In 1953, Carney Hospital moved from South Boston to its current location in Dorchester, serving the local communities of Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton and Quincy.

In 1953, a major public housing project was completed on the Columbia Point peninsula of Dorchester. There were 1,502 units in the development on 50 acres (200,000 m 2 ) of land. It was later known for high rates of crime and poor living conditions, and it went through particularly bad times in the 1970s and 80s. By 1988, there were only 350 families living there. In 1984, the City of Boston gave control of it to a private developer, Corcoran-Mullins-Jennison, who redeveloped the property into a residential mixed-income community called Harbor Point Apartments which was opened in 1988 and completed by 1990. It was the first federal housing project to be converted to private, mixed-income housing in the USA. Harbor Point has won much acclaim for this transformation, including awards from the Urban Land Institute, the FIABCI Award for International Excellence, and the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. [77] [78] [79]

During the housing crisis of 2008 in the United States, Dorchester's Hendry Street became the epicenter in the media [80] In reaction, the city of Boston negotiated to buy several of the houses for as little as $30,000. It is moving to seize other foreclosed properties on which the owners have not paid taxes. The houses were renovated and added to the inventory of subsidized rental housing. [81]

In 2008, plans and proposals were unveiled and presented to public community hearings by the Corcoran-Jennison Company to redevelop the 30-acre (120,000 m 2 ) Bayside Exposition Center site on the Columbia Point peninsula into a mixed use village of storefronts and residences, called "Bayside on the Point". [82] [83] [84] [85] However, in 2009, the Bayside Expo Center property was lost in a foreclosure on Corcoran-Jennison to a Florida-based real estate firm, LNR/CMAT, who bought it. Soon after, the University of Massachusetts Boston bought the property from them to build future campus facilities. [86] [87]

The corporate headquarters of The Boston Globe was also located in Dorchester, having moved there in 1958 from downtown Boston. In 2009, then-owner The New York Times Company put the paper up for bid, leading to concern from local community members, who had seen other major employers close their doors. [88] After negotiations with their union and cost reduction measures, the owner's plans to sell the Globe were abandoned in October 2009. [89] In 2013, the paper was bought by John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, and in 2017 the Globe headquarters returned to downtown Boston. [90]

In the 20th century, many of the labor unions in Boston relocated their headquarters to Dorchester. This includes the Boston Teachers Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718, among others.

Dorchester, with a population of approximately 130,000, is home to nearly one fifth of all Boston residents. In the early 1990s, Dorchester, along with Roxbury and Mattapan neighborhoods, had the highest percentage of victims with violence-related injuries. Since the early 2000s, crime rates across Boston declined. In the first three months of 2013, Boston crime rates reportedly dropped 15 percent, compared to the same time period in 2012. [91] According to Dorchester Reporter crime maps, the more dangerous areas in Dorchester are located to the west of Columbia Road, with criminal activity centered on Blue Hill Avenue area. Safer parts of the neighborhood include Savin Hill the historic neighborhood of Clam Point Columbia Point, which is populated by mostly UMass Boston students Ashmont Hill Saint Mark's Pope's Hill Cedar Grove Lower Mills, around the Neponset, Gallivan, and Morrissey Boulevard areas and the Jones Hill neighborhood (with the third largest percentage of same-sex households in Boston after the South End and Jamaica Plain). [92] [93]

According to the website Area Vibes, [94] [95] the overall crime rate in Dorchester is 30% higher than the national average, and for every 100,000 people there are 10.55 daily crimes that occur in Dorchester such as violent crimes and property crimes. Property crime is much higher than violent crime. 831 out of 100,000 people are involved in violent crime, and 3,021 out of 100,000 are involved in property crime.