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Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Mattapan

Learn more about your ancestor's neighborhood through the timeline, find more information in the Further Reading section, or use the links to experience life in that community today.


  • 1600-1650: Mattapan is the original Native American Mattahunt tribe name for the Dorchester area. The earliest development was around present day Mattapan Square and Babson Street.
  • 1650-1850: Mattapan is part of Dorchester.
  • 1855: The Midlands Railroad comes through town.
  • 1870: Dorchester is annexed to Boston after a vote of 928 to 726. Mattapan becomes part of Boston.
  • 1874: The Municipal Building is at Field's Corner. Mattapan, the original Native American name for the area, is given to the southwest section of Dorchester. There is no formal political demarcation line as it is a neighborhood, not a political entity.
  • 1886: The Church of the Holy Spirit is built on River Street.
  • 1893: Trolley service begins and spurs a period of intense construction along Blue Hill Ave and in Wellington Hill (Morton Street on north, Blue Hill Ave on east, Walk Hill and Almont Streets on the south, Boston State Hospital/American Legion Highway on the west). Mattapan becomes a "streetcar suburb." Many immigrants, especially Irish, move into Mattapan.
  • 1908: The Chelsea fire causes many Jews to move south into Mattapan.
  • 1920-1940: Jews continue moving into Mattapan as two family homes are built in the Mattapan Square area (present-day Cummins Highway, Blue Hill Avenue, and River Street). Blue Hill Avenue become the center of Jewish working class Boston culture. The area near Gallivan Boulevard, Morton Street and Mattapan Square are the commercial centers of the neighborhood.
  • 1930: The Mattapan Chronic Disease Hospital is completed after 20 years of construction.
  • 1940's: Mattapan Trolley gets twelve new cars. It runs 2.55 miles from Ashmont to Mattapan. As late as 1993, 7,000 passengers a day use the trolley.
  • 1930-1960: South Mattapan develops gradually with single-family homes on large lots. The two areas that develop are Western Mattapan (Harvard Street on west, Almont Street to Blue Hill Ave on north, Neponset River on east, Greenfield Street on south) and Eastern Mattapan (Penn Central railroad on north, Blue Hill Ave on west, Neponset River on south, Morton and Maryknoll Streets on east). Western Mattapan is one of the newest areas of Boston and most buildings are less than forty years old. Eastern Mattapan, in contrast, has an ethnically diverse population of Irish, Jews, and blacks.
  • 1950: The Census records the population of Mattapan and the Franklin Field area northwest of Mattapan at 44,520 and 5.6% of Boston's total population.
  • 1960-1975: Many Jews leave Mattapan. Boston Banks set up Boston Bank Urban Renewal Group (BBURG) area in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination, in an effort to help African-Americans who do not own homes to buy them as a way of quelling social unrest. African-Americans begin moving into Mattapan. Middle class African-Americans move into Wellington Hill and Mattapan Square area.
  • 1960-1980: As blacks move into Mattapan, some families settle in the Blue Hill/Norfolk area (Blue Hill Ave on west, Morton Street on north, Penn Central railroad on east and south).
  • 1968: Community gardens open on the Boston State Hospital grounds.
  • 1970: The Census has 20,637 people in Mattapan with 5,129 Blacks. The racial make-up of Mattapan has changed greatly in the last decade; the percentage of black residents has gone up 48%.
  • 1970s: Two public housing projects are built in Eastern Mattapan: an elderly development on River Street and Gallivan-Morton duplexes.
  • 1970-1990: Haitians settle in the Dorchester and Mattapan sections of Boston.
  • 1985: Horizons provides six units for housing endangered (battered) women and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development spends $83,000 for Horizons II with 11 units.
  • 1990: The Mattapan population is 19,585 and 3.4% of the total Boston population. It has the second highest minority percentage of the Boston neighborhoods: 89.2% Black, 5.4% White, 4.5% Latino, and .6% Asian. The median income is slightly above the Boston average, except for single mothers with children have a significantly lower than average income. The entire population of Mattapan, especially in the Blue Hill/Norfolk area, is much younger than the rest of Boston.
  • 1991: Another wave of Haitian immigrants move into Dorchester and then Mattapan after the ousting of President Aristide.
  • 1994: Mattapan resident NT Izuchi, who emigrated from Nigeria in 1976, starts the Igbo Organization of New England. In 1999, the Organization estimates that 15-20,000 Ibgo live in New England and that there are 30,000 Nigerians in the region.
  • 1995-1999: Mayor Thomas Menino's Blue Hill Avenue Project helps to revive business along Blue Hill Avenue into Mattapan Square.
  • 1996: Thomas Finneran (D-Mattapan) is elected the 83rd Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
  • 1999: The Boston Globe reports that the largest concentration of Haitians in Massachusetts, 70-120,00 people, live in Mattapan. For example, St. Angela's parochial school in Mattapan is 71% Haitian.

Further Reading

  • Ginsberg, Yona. Jews in a Changing Neighborhood: The Study of Mattapan. New York: Free Press, 1975.
  • Mattapan: District Profile and Proposed 1978-1980 Neighborhood Improvement Project. Boston: Boston Redevelopment Authority Neighborhood Planning Program, Summer 1977.
  • Mattapan: Neighborhood Profile 1988. Boston: Boston Redevelopment Authority Neighborhood Planning Program, 1988.




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