East Boston is a peninsula that was once several individual islands, connected using landfill. With its waterfront and skyline views, and its mix of historic houses and new condo development, East Boston is one of Boston's emerging neighborhoods. Long under the radar, rising prices throughout the city have made more people aware of its prime location and short commute to Boston on the Blue Line. East Boston has several distinct sections, including Eagle Hill, Jeffries Point, Maverick Square, and Orient Heights.
Aiport noise. Almost half of East Boston is occupied by Logan Airport. Because Logan accommodates flights 24 hours a day, there is persistent airport noise over large sections of East Boston, particularly in Eagle Hill and Orient Heights, as well as some city neighborhoods and towns as far north as Medford and as far south as Milton. Since 1983, Massport's Noise Abatement Office began soundproofing efforts to reduce the airport's noise impact on surrounding areas. Over that time, Massport has spent over $170 million soundproofing over 11,000 residences and 36 schools. However, a new GPS-enabled navigation has changed the approach paths to Logan Airport, allowing planes to land lower and faster, and concentrating take-offs and landings over a narrower area. This has affected some neighborhoods more than others.
Beach neighborhood. East Boston is one of several beach neighborhoods within Boston. One of Boston's more popular public beaches, Constitution Beach, located in Orient Heights opposite the airport – so airport noise is a factor.
Vulnerable to flooding. Of all the Boston neighborhoods, East Boston is regarded as one of the most vulnerable to coastal flooding. WBUR compared East Boston to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, which was devastated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. East Boston is surrounded by water on three sides, and the peninsula is actually a cluster of islands that were connected with landfill. During a flood, water would flow into the low-lying, infilled areas between the original islands.
According to the city's report, the southern end of East Boston is exposed via the East Boston Greenway, and the area south of Bennington Street is exposed by a low point to the west of the Sumner and Callahan tunnel entrances. Later in the century, as sea levels rise, the northern part of the neighborhood (between Orient Heights and Wordsworth Street), both sides of the neighborhood are expected to be exposed to increased risk of storm flooding.
Considerable green space. The 350-acre Belle Isle Marsh, the largest remaining salt marsh in the city, is in East Boston. The East Boston Greenway is a walking and biking path that will extend uninterrupted from the waterfront to Constitution Beach. Also, Bremen Street Park, the Harbor Walk, Piers Park, and Memorial Park.
East Boston is a peninsula that was once five islands, since connected using landfill. The neighborhood contains several distinct sections:
Eagle Hill is directly across the harbor from Charlestown. The hillside area evokes historic neighborhoods of San Francisco, with water views and Victorian houses. It contains the earliest and most significant buildings within East Boston, with the uppermost area (roughly bounded by Border, Falcon, Lexington, and Trenton streets) protected by the Eagle Hill Historic District. The neighborhood was largely developed between 1850 and 1890, and many of the Italianate and Second Empire houses were built by carpenters who worked nearby as shipbuilders. According to Terrace Place, "Many of the shipbuilders who constructed their homes on Eagle Hill viewed their private residences as advertisements for their work, and so a bunch of especially fancy homes were built here during the clipper ship era."
However, according to Curbed, it can be a long walk to the Blue Line T stop, and there are no buses running to the interior of the neighborhood.
Jeffries Point is the southernmost residential neighborhood of East Boston, next to Logan Airport. It was previously Maverick Island, claimed by Samuel Maverick (1602-c.1670) in 1630. It is a waterfront neighborhood with expansive views of the Boston skyline and the Seaport, as well as considerable parkland with the East Boston Greenway. The neighborhood's commercial anchor is Maverick Square, and the western side of the neighborhood is served by two Blue Line stops (Maverick and Airport), as well as water taxi and ferry to the Boston waterfront. The Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association is active in addressing resident concerns.
Orient Heights (formerly Hog's Island and Belle Isle) is the northernmost neighborhood of East Boston. The hillside neighborhood is 152' above sea level at its highest point – nowhere nearly as tall as the 330' elevation at Bellevue Hill in West Roxbury, but offering impressive views of Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, as well as the 350-acre Belle Isle Marsh, the largest remaining salt marsh in Boston. Orient Heights is one of the beach neighborhoods of Boston, and contains Constitution Beach, one of the city's public beaches. There are two Blue Line stops (Orient Heights and Suffolk Downs).
Orient Heights contains Suffolk Downs, a 161-acre former racetrack that is being eyed as a likely contender for Amazon's HQ2, according to Curbed.
Logan Airport occupies over 2,300 acres, or almost half of East Boston. It was established in 1923, and has become the largest airport in New England. It operates 24 hours a day, and is the source of the airport noise issues, and gave rise to the MassPort Sound Insulation Program (see below).
Curtis House (22 Chelsea St.) Former residence of social activists, sisters Harriot Curtis (1881-1974) and Margaret Curtis (1883-1965). In addition to opening the East Boston Dispensary to provide healthcare to the primarily Italian residents of East Boston, in 1932 the sisters – both champion golfers – founded the Curtis Cup, which remains the most prized trophy for amateur women golfers.
Kennedy House (151 Meridian St., Lower Eagle Hill) Former residence of Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy Kennedy (1821-1888), the great-grandparents of president John F. Kennedy.
Paul Curtis House (402 Meridian St., Eagle Hill) owned one of the largest East Boston shipyards.
Trinity House (406 Meridian St., Eagle Hill) In 1881, prominent orator and Episcopal clergyman Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) established a settlement house, which served as the first health clinic in the neighborhood. As an aside, his statue is outside Trinity Church in Copley Square, where he had served as rector since 1869, and he wrote the lyrics to the Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The eminent Brooks School in North Andover, Mass., is named for him.
Donald McKay House (80 White St., Eagle Hill) (PDF) is a Greek Revival built 1844 for master shipbuilder, Donald McKay (1810-1880). The house is at the top of the hill facing the harbor, and McKay's shipyard was located on Border Street. He built many of the fastest clipper ships in history, including the Flying Cloud.
While Massport cannot eliminate airport noise at its source, it has undertaken one of the most extensive soundproofing programs in the country for residences in the surroundings areas. To date, Massport’s Residential Sound Insulation Program has spent $170 million to soundproof 11,000 residences units, including 5,500 homes and 36 schools. However, the number of homes that are soundproofed in any given year is dependent on the availability of federal grants. With double wall and ceiling treatments, replacement windows and doors, acoustical caulking and weather stripping, soundproofing can reduce perceived noise by as much as 50% throughout a house, or by as much as 80% in a designated room.
To determine if a residence is eligible, contact Massport’s Noise Report Line (617-561-3333). Eligibility for the program is based on federal requirements, starting with falling within the FAA-approved 65 dB noise contour on a sound exposure map for a specific year. Residents may experience noise from Logan-related aircraft but not qualify for soundproofing if the home is outside the FAA defined, annualized 65 DNL contour. It is also worth noting that the FAA noise contours do not correspond fully to where greater Boston residents are complaining of airport noise. For more information, check out our airport noise report.
Noise contours may change from year to year, the FAA requires Massport to periodically submit a new sound exposure map for their review and approval. Therefore, eligibility for any particular home may change over time.
East Boston has four significant commercial areas:
Central Square is in Lower Eagle Hill, around the intersection of Bennington and Meridian streets.
Day Square is also in Lower Eagle Hill, near Eagle Hill and Lower Orient Heights. The core of this area is at the intersection of Bennington and Chelsea streets. Day Square is one of the larger and more active commercial areas.
Maverick Square convergence of Chelsea Street and Meridian Street. ... serves residents of Jeffries Point and Lower Eagle Hill. Maverick Station, which is part of the Blue Line of the MBTA.
Orient Heights Square is in Lower Orient Heights, and is centered at the intersection of Bennington and Saratoga streets.
In addition, there are industrial areas along the Chelsea Creek waterfront, particularly in Eagle Hill and Orient Heights.
There are five Blue Line stops within East Boston, and water taxi service to Charlestown, North End/Waterfront, and the Seaport. Regular ferry service has been discussed for some time.
East Boston is the only neighborhood of Boston that is not contiguous with the rest of the city. It is directly across Boston Harbor from the Waterfront, North End Financial District and Seaport. It is bordered on land by the cities of Winthrop and Revere.
The East Boston peninsula was created by connecting five Inner Harbor islands using landfill, and each island has a distinct history.
Orient Heights began as Hog Island, later renamed to the much more attractive Belle Isle. Although it is worth noting that a lot of colonial New England was named either literally ("It's a cape. And there are a lot of cod in the water. Why don't we call it Cape Cod."), in honor of the reigning monarch (Charles River, Georgetown), or after the colonists' places of origin (coughcough New England, New Britain, New London, coughcough).
Eagle Hill was formerly Noddle's Island, after early settler William Noddle. It was renamed Maverick Island after colonist Samuel Maverick (c.1602-c.1670) took control in 1633. Maverick arrived ahead of the Winthrop fleet, and was of the largest landowners in Massachusetts. His annual payment to the General Court for the island was, "for the time being, either a fat wether, a fat hog, or 40s. in money." However, Maverick was a staunch royalist who had no patience for the Puritans, sold the island and moved to New York. The Shrimpton family held title to the island from the 1680s onward.
In 177x, the second battle of the Revolutionary War was fought on and around Eagle Hill back when the area was pastureland. American forces sunk a British schooner just off the coast of Eagle Hill in the first naval engagement of the war.
In the early 1800s, Shrimpton descendant, Gen. William Hyslop Sumner (1780-1861), planned to develop the island. He originally proposed Eagle Hill as a location for the Navy Yard (which ended up in nearby Charlestown), and as a location for the Salem Turnpike. By the 1830s, he planned to develop Eagle Hill into an elite residential enclave.
In the 1830s, he leveled hills and filled in marshes to create more buildable land, and laid out a street grid named after battles (Lexington, Trenton) and generals (Brooks, Marion, Putnam) in the American Revolution. However, the hillside neighborhood never became an elite suburb. Instead, it became home to shipbuilders, artisans, and merchants, and is closely associated with East Boston's maritime economy and culture from the 1840s to the 1870s.
By the mid-1800s, East Boston, with its expansive waterfront along Boston’s inner harbor, had become a center of the shipbuilding industry in New England. During the 1850s, some of the fastest clipper ships in the world were built here. The Flying Cloud, one of the most famous clipper ships of its time, was built by Donald McKay at his East Boston shipyard, and in 1853 set the sailing record for the “Golden Route” from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn, covering over 16,000 miles in 89 days. The record stood for over 130 years until it was broken in 1984. There are a number of plaques and murals in East Boston’s parks that celebrate the neighborhood’s maritime history, including this mural along the East Boston Greenway.
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.
In 1833, William Sumner established the East Boston Company to develop East Boston as a planned community.
East Boston was annexed by Boston in 1836.