Boston, How it Came to Be

Boston is much larger than it once was. For  roughly 100 years, between the early 1800s and early 1900s, the city was expanded either through land-filling projects, what some people call land making, or direct annexation of  neighboring towns.  Charlestown  and Dorchester were once independent municipalities, both slightly older than Boston itself.

Charlestown  wasOriginalOldNorthChurch annexed by Boston in 1874 and Dorchester a few years earlier.  The original town of Dorchester,  founded in 1630, included South Boston, Hyde Park, and Mattapan.   Roxbury, which once included West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and  Roslindale, was absorbed by Boston  in 1868.  Brighton, with the neighborhood  of Allston, was also added to Boston  in the same manner.

Kenmore Square  and the Fenway area were under the control of Brookline until the 1870s.  During that time Brookline  resisted annexation to Boston, but they did  give up Kenmore Square   as well as parts of Commonwealth    Avenue, the latter so that Brighton would be  physically connected to the rest of Boston  after its annexation in 1874.   Interestingly, Brookline was not a  distinct municipality from Boston until 1705, so  Kenmore was part of Boston in the 1600s.

oldBostonMapThe current South End, Chinatown, Bay   Village, and Back Bay neighborhoods of Boston,  as well as large areas of the waterfront including South Bay,  Columbia Point,  the Bulfinch Triangle, and the new Seaport  District, are built entirely on marsh and mud flats once covered by relatively  shallow water.  This includes the Boston Public  Garden, the part of Beacon   Hill west of Charles    Street, and even the land under UMass Boston and  the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

After peeling away all of these places,  each with their own long and interesting histories, what is left is the original English  town of Boston,  built on a peninsula that local Native Americans called Shawmut.  Officially founded in September of 1630, that  smaller town of Boston included a largely  uninhabited West End, which was more or less at the rear of the town, including  Beacon Hill and Boston Common.  There was also a South End that is now the  Financial District and Downtown Crossing shopping area.  Finally there was the North End, which  continues today as a vibrant residential and commercial part of modern Boston.