by Robert Sloane (editor) of WalkBoston (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
This walk leads you through the modern bustle of South Bay and environs—yet if you look past the energy of modern commerce with some imagination, you can still visualize three-masted sailing ships, muscular steam locomotives, aristocratic estates, horse-drawn streetcars, scientific agriculture, and personalities of an earlier age who shaped and were shaped by the evolution of this area. The southern bay— unsurprisingly named South Bay—was a large tidal marsh. Over the nineteenth century these forces transformed the two bays utterly: Back Bay was filled in for homes, churches, colleges, and museums, while South Bay was devoted to industry and commerce.
Oddly, the first change that South Bay saw was an enlargement: in the 1830s the bay was expanded to the south as dirt from the shore was barged to the north side and used as fill for Boston’s first railroad yards. Immediately thereafter the process of filling the bay for industry began—a process that would continue well into the twentieth century. Finally, in the 1950s, the Southeast Expressway was built through the area. Today only the Fort Point Channel remains as a reminder of South Bay’s watery history. This walk lets you explore today’s South “Bay,” the neighborhood that landfill built.
© Robert Sloane (editor) of WalkBoston/Appalachian Mountain Club Books. All Rights Reserved.