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.
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.
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.