The city of Boston, with it’s 650,000 people tucked into 48 square miles, is a network of neighborhoods & villages. Some of these are named after the geography (like Bunker Hill or Back Bay) but others are names of the annexed towns Boston kinda sucked up. I live in the later, and probably the most famous of the later.
I live in World Famous ‘Dorchester’. (Pronounced DAH-chest-Ta .. I’m not making fun the accent, that’s really how I’m supposed to say it … seriously … they tell me the short name is ‘the Dah’). It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Boston, and currently the largest populated neighborhood as well. It’s big enough, the neighborhood is broken down to smaller neighborhoods, like I am in the Upham Corner/Savin Hill area of Dorchester.
Dorchester was annexed by Boston in 1870, which seems a long time ago, but even up to this date, Dorchester stood as an independent city than an annex neighborhood. Dorchester was founded in 1630 by Anglicans from Dorset. They held a town meeting in 1633 & opened an elementary school in 1639, the first of each on American Soil. They began building the city near the intersection of modern day Mass Ave, Columbia Road, and Boston Street; including the James Blake House built in 1677 which still stands today (the oldest home in Boston still standing). As it turns out … these places are all within 3 blocks of my home, including the big intersection when my Dunkin Donuts (a modern Boston requirement) stands.
The list of people who are from or have lived in Dorchester is surprising to say the least. Donna Summer,. Norb Crosby, and the New Kids on the Block are all from here. The Kennedy’s have their start from Dorchester, and suspiciously the owner of Nevada’s Mustang Ranch. Dennis Lehane, author of Shutter Island & Mystic River, is from here. Martin Luther King, Jr lived here while attending Boston University. Dorchester is well known for one actor, Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark aka Dirk Diggler aka that actor with the Boston accent that doesn’t hang out with Ben Afflack), who hasn’t stopped showing of his history here; but it’s also home of an equally famous actor Leonard Nimoy.
All this aside, there is a pretty dark side to Dorchester. In the 1800s, most of the immigrants coming to Boston found themselves in South Boston or Dorchester. Boston’s historically strong public transport, even back when it was horse drawn rail carts, meant the money of financial districts can be separated from the labor to the south. Through most of the 1900s, organized crime ruled much of neighborhood and became the home of famous mobsters like Whitey Bulger. The last three or four decades, Dorchester had a reputation where it was generally safe to live there but trouble wasn’t far away especially if you were coming into the area and making trouble. The “tough” Boston image has Dorchester to thank for most of it’s existence. In recent years, change has started to come to the neighborhood. Sometime in the future, I’ll go into that, once I can really think I can say for sure if I see it. But rest asured, my door isn’t getting busted down by gangsters. Dorchester’s fame continues to grow in part to the aforementioned Mark Wahlberg who with his family started a burger joint called Wahlburgers – and a reality show filmed in the restaurant plays on their Dorchesterisms (strangely though – the joint is in Hingham, about two towns away).
Say what you want about Dorchester, if you have anything to say at all that is, but it’s a place steeped in history, and there is something about the place that suggests that it will continue to be a melting pot of uniqueness that will keep it creating things to add to its fame.