Just south of Savin Hill, Clam Point is a neighborhood of historic houses that overlooks Dorchester Bay. However, unlike the Over-the-Bridge section of Savin Hill, Claim Point does not have direct access to the waterfront or beaches – the Southeast Expressway separates the neighborhood from the water.
It is one of the more desirable neighborhoods within Dorchester, given the stately historic houses, views of Dorchester Bay, and proximity to the Red Line stop at Fields Corner. A number of its substantial Italianate and mansard residences retain large lots and granite gate posts. Indeed, the neighborhood might be said to have the most cohesive collection of mansion-scale mid-1800s housing in Dorchester – preserved in part by its oasis-like isolation, according to the Dorchester Athenaeum.
Parts of the the neighborhood was laid out by, and many houses designed by, the noted Boston architect, Luther Briggs, Jr. (1822-1905), who also designed many buildings in the South End. His architectural drawings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum.
Is it just us, or is Clam Point not the best name? The neighborhood was originally named Harrison Square in honor of , who visited Dorchester during the presidential campaign of 1840. He is notable for being the first to die in office, after just 32 days as president – the shortest tenure in American presidential history. Anyhow, it was renamed Clam Point in the 1970s because, according to the Dorchester Athenaeum, "the shape of the land looks very much like a clam." This is one of those times when people need to #stopinnovating and go back to what worked before. Harrison Square sounds better. Also, we're glad that the residents of the area hadn't been in charge of renaming Florida.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fire risk. Clam Point is one of several neighborhoods within Boston that is at risk for a devastating LNG fire if there is an accident or incident at a gas terminal. One of the two major terminals serving greater Boston is immediately next to the neighborhood, at Commercial Point. An explosion at the terminal would melt steel within a quarter mile and burn buildings a mile away.
Harrison Square/Clam Point was largely developed from the 1830s to the 1910s, and the housing stock ranges from Greek Revival and Italianate mansions before the Civil War, to Queen Anne and Stick Style housing after. The houses built after the 1880s were more modest in size and design than the earlier ones.
Prominent Boston architect Luther Briggs, Jr. (1822-1905), laid out the street grid for the neighborhood (as well as for Port Norfolk and Cedar Grove and Mount Wollaston cemeteries, and many buildings in the South End. His architectural drawings are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, and have been displayed at the National Building Museum. He was a nephew of the noted architect Alexander Parris (1780-1852), who designed buildings at the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Built on reclaimed land. Clam Point/Harrison Square is one of many Boston neighborhoods built on or expanded by landfill. The TL;DR version is that hills were leveled in order to fill marshes or gravel shipped in to expand the shoreline to make more buildable land. In the early 1900s, landfill operations drastically altered the edges of the neighborhood. The meandering Tenean Creek once circumscribed the west side of the district. Houses on the east side of Blanche Street originally overlooked a tidal inlet called Barque Warwick Cove; a cove that separated Clam Point from Commercial Point. Similarly, the east side of Freeport Street originally ran along Dorchester Bay. As a result of landfilling, the creek, cove, and waterfront disappeared. Landfill on the east side of Clam Point resulted in the creation of the Old Colony (later William T. Morrissey) Boulevard.
Infilled land can settle over time, and tends to be lower to water level. As a result, it is more prone to horizontal flooding from storm surges and climate change. In addition, heavy buildings were constructed on a bed of pilings, basically stripped tree trunks pounded into the marshy soil until they hit solid ground. These offer a durable base so long as they are entirely submerged, but with changing water levels, sections of the wood pilings can be exposed to air and can rot, causing foundation issues.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fire risk. The neighborhood has an elevated risk of significant damage from a potentially devastating LNG fire if there is an accident or incident at the massive LNG storage tank nearby at Commercial Point. The heat from such a fire could melt steel within a quarter mile, and would burn buildings within a mile.
The Clam Point/Harrison Square Historic District is centered on the intersection of Mill and Ashland streets, between the subway tracks and Morrissey Boulevard. The district reflects intact 1800s streetscapes and high-quality architectural design, and reflect the Greek Revival and Italianate styles popular in New England between the 1830s and 1910s.
By 1850, lured by the leafy charms, sea breezes and convenient commute, a dozen or more affluent families built houses south of the Harrison Square depot. Several houses show the influence of two national architects Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis, as well as two Dorchester-based architects, Luther Briggs, Jr. and John A. Fox.
23 and 25-27 Park St.. These Italianate villas built c.1855 were designed by Luther Briggs. They are variations on the rusticated Tuscan residences illustrated in Downing's The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Substantial residences possessing square and rectangular main blocks with extensive rear ells presided over spacious lots traversed by carriage ways and dotted with stables and other ancillary structures. Miraculously, many of these generous house lots escaped later subdivision, retaining mid-1800s landscape features as well as the residences themselves.
25 Park St. was built c.1855 for Joseph C. Lindsley, a leader in the shoe and leather industry. He was also an abolitionist, and his house was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
2 Everett St. designed by Luther Briggs c.1859 for Benjamin Manson.
13 Everett St., built c.1830 for Axel Dearborn, who owned an ironworks in Commercial Point which produced axles, forges, and locomotives.
29 Mill St. last sizeable house built in the neighborhood, in the 1890s.
40 Mill St., designed by Luther Briggs, Jr. in the early 1870s.
14 Everett St., designed by Luther Briggs, Jr. in the early 1870s.
While there is no subway stop within the neighborhood, there is one nearby, the Fields Corner station in the neighborhood of the same name. Excluding the walk to Fields Corner, it is approximately 20-25 minutes to South Station.
Clam Point/Harrison Square is located in east-central Dorchester, along the waterfront. To the west is Fields Corner, to the east is Commercial Point, to the north is Savin Hill, and to the south is Neponset-Port Norfolk.
Until recently Clam Point was called Harrison Square, or simply "The Square." The name commemorated William Henry Harrison's visit to Dorchester during the presidential campaign of 1840 and honored his memory, as he died of pneumonia shortly after taking office. Harrison Square referred to both the node of industrial and commercial buildings constructed around the Harrison Square Old Colony Railroad depot (1844), as well as the residential district that later became known as Clam Point. When rail service to Harrison Square was discontinued in 1957, the Harrison name began to fade from the memories of area inhabitants. The Harrison Square Depot was demolished around 1970. Just as the Church Street district in Boston was renamed Bay Village during the 1960s, the name Clam Point is said to have been coined during the 1970s by Realtors intent on touting the area as a desirable coastal community of antique homes. For the purposes of marketing houses, Clam Point was evidently viewed as a more evocative name than the more historic name of Harrison Square.
Clam Point figured minimally in the annals of Dorchester history until the second quarter of the 19th century. Despite its location just to the east of the Lower Road (later Adams Street), a major Colonial era highway linking Meeting House Hill with South Shore settlements, Clam Point remained a backwater, removed from the early areas of settlement between Savin Hill and Edward Everett Square in North Dorchester. The colonial era mills of the Breck and Tileston families located to the southwest of the district were primarily local commercial concerns that called but little attention to the area. The early 1800s ship building and trading activities conducted briefly by Newell and Niles at nearby Commercial Point, on the other hand, caused Boston businessmen to look at the area with great interest.
The War of 1812 and other factors resulted in a cessation of commercial endeavors at the Point. By the early 1830s a business syndicate formed by Elisha Preston, Nathaniel Thayer, Josiah Stickney, and Charles Whittemore was established to manage whale and cod fisheries. Preston built a chocolate mill and augmented his family's long-held lands at Clam Point with additional extensive tracts. Although Withingtons, Balcoms Noyes and Herseys had owned property at Clam Point for decades, and the Prestons since as early as the mid17th century, it was not until the opening of the Old Colony Railroad during the mid-1840s that the first significant, intensive residential development began to take shape in the district. As early as 1841, surveyor Thomas Mosely, together with architect Luther Briggs, Jr., devised a grid plan at the northwest corner of the district near the Harrison Square Depot. Local real estate speculators began to purchase large parcels of land with the intention of building houses impressive for their large scale and fine design. During the second half of the 19th century, a remarkable community of educated, successful commuter businessmen, social activists, and talented artists evolved at Clam Point, including India Wharf merchant and horticulturalist Elisha Loring (21 Mill Street, photo 1), abolitionist Joseph Lindsley (25-27 Park Street), Boston City Hospital surgeon Dr. William Cranch Bond Fifield and his daughter, First Parish Church historian Mary Fifield King (4 Ashland Street), Boston lithographer John H. Bufford, Jr. ( Elm Street), and nationally acclaimed pianist Martha Dana Shepherd (15 Ashland Street).
Clam Point used to be called Harrison Square, or "The Square." The name was a tribute to President William Henry Harrison and his visit to Dorchester in 1840. Harrison Square had been used to refer to both the Harrison Square commercial area around the Old Colony Railroad depot (1844), and the residential district later named Clam Point.
The Harrison name fell into disuse since the railroad line closed in the 1950s. The Harrison Square Depot was demolished around 1970. The name Clam Point was likely put into use by real estate developers in the 1970s for marketing purposes.
Clam Point did not have commercial significance for Dorchester until the early 19th century when ship building and trading took place in proximity to the Commercial Point.
Commerce suffered and declined by the time of The War of 1812 in the area. Although there had been whale and cod fisheries after that, it wasn't until the arrival of the Old Colony Railroad during the mid-1840s that residential development was seriously undertaken. Many affluent families had moved into the area by 1850.
In the 1840s and 1850s, there was a development of large Italianate residences on Park Street. Luther Briggs, John A. Fox, and Mary E. Noyes were among the famous architects who had designed some historically significant mansions for the area. By the 1890s, the area gained prominence as a summer resort with the Russel House hotel as its centerpiece. By the late 1890s, the Dorchester Yacht Club had been established on Freeport Street.
By the early 20th century, the area began to be populated by recent immigrants to the country, such as the Irish, Italian, and Polish. In the 1930s, due to national economic distress of the Great Depression, many of the large houses were converted to multiple rental units. The construction of Morrissey Boulevard (the Old Colony Parkway) and the Southeast Expressway in the 1950s divided the area into two halves. In the early 2000s Clam Point began to attract new wave of development with the construction of luxury condominium complexes on Park and Ashland Streets.