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East Boston
An airplane approaching Logan International Airport in 1973
An airplane approaching Logan International Airport in 1973
Neighborhood map of East Boston, Massachusetts
Neighborhood map of East Boston, Massachusetts
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
Annexed by Boston 1836
 • Land 4.7 sq mi (12 km2)
 • Density 8,618/sq mi (3,327/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
Zip Code
02128, 02228
Area code(s) 617 / 857

East Boston, nicknamed Eastie, is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts with over 45,000 residents. Annexed by the city of Boston in 1836, it is bordered by the cities of Winthrop, Revere, and Chelsea to the east, north, and northwest. It is separated from the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown and downtown Boston by Boston Harbor to the west and south. The footprint of the East Boston neighborhood as it is known today was created in the 1940s by connecting five of the inner harbor islands using land fill.

East Boston has long provided homes for immigrants with Irish, Russian Jews and later, Italians. John F. Kennedy's great-grandfather was one of many Irish people to immigrate to East Boston, and the Kennedy family lived there for some time. From 1920 to 1954, East Boston was the site of the East Boston Immigration Station, which served as the regional immigration hub for Boston and the surrounding area. The 1990s into the early millennium brought new Latin American immigrants, who today compose more than sixty-five percent of the neighborhood population.

Logan International Airport is located in East Boston, connecting Boston to domestic and international locations.


Early history

The landmass that is East Boston today was originally made up of five islands — Noddle's, Hog's (later known as Breed's Island, would become Orient Heights), Governor's, Bird, and Apple — that were connected using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.

William H. Sumner

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."

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 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

East Boston in 1838
East Boston in 1879

In the 1830s, the largest problem keeping East Boston 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 15 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 in use for nine days in 1834, then closed citing lack of ridership.

Most Holy Redeemer Church-East Boston
Most Holy Redeemer Church was built in East Boston in 1844.

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.

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 US Senate, 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.

On numerous occasions, Senator Ted Kennedy mentioned that his family's 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 today the heart of the Italian community remains 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.


Eastern Terminus of Interstate 90 Close-Up
The eastern terminus of I-90 in East Boston

Transportation has long played a role in the shaping of East Boston. 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 Tunnel in 1934 and the Callahan Tunnel in 1961, directly connecting automobile traffic from downtown Boston. In the early 1920s, an airfield was built, and eventually it was expanded to become Logan International Airport. The eastern terminus of Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) 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.

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). 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.

The neighborhood is easily accessible to downtown Boston via the MBTA Blue Line. The MBTA's Blue Line stops in East Boston include Maverick, Airport, Wood Island, Orient Heights, and Suffolk Downs. Massport provides free shuttle buses from the Airport MBTA station to all Logan Airport terminals and the Rental Car Center. The East Boston Greenway, a shared use path and park along a former rail line, connects to the Airport station.


Cottage Street, Boston (1)
Residences on Cottage Street

East Boston's population is ethnically diverse, reflecting the immigrants from around the world who moved there. Since the early 1900s, immigrants have been a part of the East Boston community. First Irish and Canadians, then Russian Jews and Italians, Southeast Asians, and finally Latinos. In 2011, East Boston was estimated to have 41,128 residents living in 14,832 housing units.

Hispanic/Latino people speaking Spanish or Portuguese are the largest language groupings (can be of any race and from more than 20 countries), making up 54.4% of the population, followed by non-Hispanic white (35.5%). Other races include Asian (4.4%), black or African American (2.9%), biracial or multiracial individuals (1.9%), and other races (0.9%).

The median household income for an individual in East Boston was $45,849, while the median income for a family was $47,198.

Race and ancestry

East Boston (02128) Racial Breakdown of Population (2017)
Race Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
White 62.5% 81.3% 76.6% –18.8% –14.1%
Hispanic 57.7% 11.9% 18.1% +45.8% +39.6%
White (Non-Hispanic) 32.0% 72.1% 60.7% –40.1% –28.7%
Asian 3.5% 6.9% 5.8% –3.4% –2.3%
Black 2.9% 8.8% 13.4% –5.9% –10.5%
Native Americans/Hawaiians 1.0% 0.6% 1.5% +0.4% –0.5%
Two or more races 26.8% 2.4% 2.7% +24.4% +24.1%

According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, the largest ancestry groups in ZIP Code 02128 are:

Ancestry Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
United States
ZIP Code-to-State
ZIP Code-to-USA
Italian 13.03% 13.19% 5.39% –0.15% +7.64%
Irish 7.29% 21.16% 10.39% –13.87% –3.10%
Mexican 3.83% 0.67% 11.96% +3.16% –8.13%
Puerto Rican 3.06% 4.52% 1.66% –1.46% +1.40%
Brazilian 2.49% 1.03% 0.12% +1.46% +2.37%
Arab 2.27% 1.10% 0.59% +1.17% +1.68%
American 2.26% 4.26% 6.89% –2.00% –4.63%
English 2.06% 9.77% 7.67% –7.71% –5.61%
Chinese 1.79% 2.28% 1.24% –0.49% +0.55%
German 1.41% 6.00% 14.40% –4.60% –13.00%
Polish 1.15% 4.67% 2.93% –3.52% –1.79%
Moroccan 1.12% 0.12% 0.03% +1.00% +1.09%

Community resources

East Boston's community resources expand into many different organizations and companies whether it be government funded or nonprofit organizations. Just to name a few from City of Boston; Orient Heights Community Center which is now known as The Marcintino Community Center and Paris Street Community Center. Those two organizations are a part of a major organization all throughout neighborhoods in Boston called Boston Center for Youth and Families. Many of these organizations cater to the youth who live in the neighborhood and are usually available with after school programing. In the early 1990s, East Boston had the least open space of any Boston neighborhood, except Chinatown. The creation of the East Boston Greenway, which stretches from the wharfs at Maverick Square to the Bayswater Urban Wild, has changed that. Many community resources also cater to different types of individuals and families such as those who are low-income, non English-speaking, immigrants, victims of abuse, senior citizens, women, in need of housing, and those who are refugees. All of those organizations in East Boston can be found on City of Boston with a full description of their mission. Some more non profit organizations and community neighborhood groups are the following:

Airport Impact Relief, Inc. – Works to reduce and manage airport impacts in East Boston.

Crossroads Family Shelter – Crossroads mission is to support families as they transition from homelessness to independent living and self-sufficiency.

East Boston Community Activity Corp – Holds fundraisers to gather resources that will provide physical education, sports awareness, arts, and other activities for inner city youth.

East Boston APAC – APAC provides advocacy, assistance and care to low income neighborhood residents in a diverse community, helping to solve individual problems while working to promote positive institutional change. It is the largest non-profit human services agency in New England.

East Boston Community Development Corp. (EBCDC) – Low Income and Elderly Housing.

East Boston Main Streets – Their mission is to initiate private and public improvements, promote commerce, and support efforts to improve the quality of life for all who live, work and do business in East Boston.

The Friends of the East Boston Greenway, Inc. - They have worked to create, expand and maintain the East Boston Greenway.

Let's Get Movin' Programs (including CSA and East Boston Farmer's Market) – Let's Get Movin' offers and manages a variety of programs including after school physical activity programs for youth, parent nutrition education classes, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the East Boston Farmers Market, a community garden, and school based nutrition classes.

Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) – NOAH is an East Boston-based community development corporation structured to collaborate with and support residents and communities in their pursuit of affordable housing strategies, environmental justice, community planning, leadership development, and economic development opportunities.

Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE) – Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE) is an organization explicitly of and for low income people, people of color, immigrants and allies that uses issue and electoral organizing to build political power.

Thrive in 5/Countdown to Kindergarten – Play to Learn Playgroups bring together parents, children and an early childhood professional to build a community of peers for support, foster nurturing behaviors, help families access needed services, etc.

YMCA East Boston – The Y brings families closer together, encourages good health and fosters connections through fitness, sports, fun and shared interests.

Public utilities

Water source

Boston's drinking water comes from two source reservoirs in central and western Massachusetts, the Quabbin and the Wachusetts Reservoirs. This system is known as the Metropolitan Boston Water System. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) jointly manage the Metropolitan Boston Water System. Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) delivers the water to homes and businesses throughout the City of Boston. As one of MWRA's water community members, BWSC represents approximately 33 percent of the current demand on the MWRA water supply. BWSC's water comes from the Quabbin Reservoir and the Wachusett Reservoir, located about 65 miles and 35 miles west of Boston. Water distributed to the Boston metropolitan area is conveyed from the reservoirs through the Cosgrove or Wachusett Aqueducts and treated at the MWRA's John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant at Walnut Hill in Marlborough. Treatment includes ozone disinfection, pH adjustment with sodium bicarbonate and the addition of chloramines and fluoride.

Urban policies

The Boston Redevelopment Authority for East Boston displays upcoming projects in terms of buildings for housing, and or parks and recreations. This allows residents of East Boston to be aware of what new housing developments taking place and the location. It also informs them of other recreations for instance what the future of Suffolk Downs will be. In a fashion BRA displays the plans in motion or plans being reviewed, plans being approved, leading up to the construction beginning as well as the progress of the development. This gives residents the awareness of the all changes to come in their neighborhood. In terms of policies on zoning, Boston Redevelopment Authority has presented the zoning laws for the cities of Boston in three volumes. To get specific information on East Boston zoning, review the zoning commission on Boston Redevelopment Authority. Again, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, it shows that residents are welcome to include input on developments within the community. Boston Redevelopment Authority request residents to access information on urban design, developing projects, planning initiatives, what specific landed is own by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and Capital construction in East Boston. Residents can access all this information in many different ways, through the site Boston Redevelopment Authority and or attending meetings held at Jeffries Yacht Club in East Boston. East Boston at the time is under many recreations and new housing projects, that are a big opportunity for the residents. "The Boston zoning code dictates the allowed shape, density, and use of development in a given area". A new project that the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) just approved the new project its a "loftel" style hotel which is a $20 million project that will bring benefits not just for the visitors but also the residents. According to the BRA, "A new restaurant serving hotel and the East Boston community will be constructed on the ground floor of the project, and a cafe facing Orleans Street will help to further activate this corner of the neighborhood". "The development team will also add a shuttle bus to reduce the number of vehicles coming to and from the airport or other locations" This project is bringing benefits to East Boston, new jobs may open to the residents as well as reducing traffic.

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-community garden
A sunflower blooming in the Eagle Hill Memorial Community Garden on Border Street

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. Participating gardeners at some of the gardens are assigned small plots which they may plant as they like, in exchange for a nominal annual dues payment. Other gardens, such as the "Nuestro Jardin" garden across from the Umana School, was formerly reserved for use by schoolchildren, but is now maintained by a community-based youth program.

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. The eastern-most portion of the beach 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. The East Boston Greenway was recently connected to the beach by the creation of a multi-use path from Wood Island.

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 (2)
Piers Park with the downtown Boston skyline in the distance

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. One of the pavilions is dedicated to Donald McKay. The park also has an amphitheater and a community boating program, Piers Park Sailing Center.

Santarpio's Pizza

Santarpio's Pizza on Chelsea Street

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.

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. On August 18, 1966, the Beatles played a concert before approximately 24,000 people in the infield of the race track.


Current residents

Patrick Bench


Aerial view of Logan Airport


Still owned and operated by the Santarpio family, Santarpio's Pizza was one of the original pizzerias that opened to cater to Italian Americans who had emigrated to East Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Notable people

See also People from East Boston, Boston

Images for kids

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