East Boston History

A Brief History of East Boston


East Boston was founded in 1636 making it one of the oldest neighborhoods of Boston. Originally made up for five islands: Noddle, Hog, Governor’s, Apple and Bird.  The islands were used mostly for farming, and cattle grazing. The two largest islands, Noddle and Hog made up the residential and commercial areas. During the American Revolution, the first navy battle took place between the British and the colonists at the Battle of Chelsea Creek.

In 1833, William Sumner inherited Noddle’s Island from his mother, Elizabeth Sumner. He created the East Boston Company to further develop the land with homes and businesses. To encourage people to move to the new neighborhood, the East Boston Company began to run a ferry service from East Boston to downtown Boston. The East Boston Company filled in the marshland and developed the land until it disbanded in 1928. Noddle Island was divided into three sections: Jeffries Point, Maverick, Central Square, and Eagle Hill.  Hog’s Island was developed into Orient Heights.  Governor’s, Apple, and Bird Island now make up Logan Airport.

During the early 1800s East Boston began to grow as a shipbuilding center and helped to make Boston one of the leading seaports in the country. His most famous ship, The Flying Cloud, set records when it made the journey from New York City to San Francisco in 89 days. The James Bains set the transatlantic sailing record on its maiden voyage when it sailed from Boston to Liverpool, England in 12 days and 6 hours. And The Lighting set the all-time record for a single day’s sail by traveling 436 nautical miles in 24 hours. In 1835 the English’s Cunard Steamship Line established its United States port in East Boston. From East Boston, the Cunard Line sailed to Liverpool, England.

In the early 1900s East Boston became an arrival port for the world’s immigrants through the East Boston Immigration Center—the 2nd busiest immigration port in the U.S. Immigrant groups came in waves: 1840 the Canadians, 1850 the Irish, 1890 the Russian and Eastern European Jews. In the early 20th century, East Boston had the largest Jewish community in New England. Also, during this time, Italian immigrants began to settle in East Boston and by 1910 they became the majority ethnic group. Today, East Boston continues to be a home for new immigrants, mainly from El Salvador, Columbia, Vietnam, and most recently from Morocco, and Algeria among others.

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