Columbia Point, Boston

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1888 German map of Boston Harbor showing Dorchester in the lower left hand corner.
Landsat image of Boston showing Columbia Point peninsula.

Columbia Point, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts sits on a peninsula jutting out from the mainland of eastern Dorchester into the bay. Old Harbor Park is on the north side, adjacent to Old Harbor, part of Dorchester Bay. The peninsula is primarily occupied by Harbor Point, the University of Massachusetts Boston, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and a complex at the former Bayside Expo Center, Boston College High School, and the Massachusetts Archives. The Boston Harborwalk follows the entire coastline.


17th–19th centuries[edit]

Map showing all ground in Boston occupied by buildings in 1880. Columbia Point is in the center near bottom with two roads going out to the pumping station and calf pasture. From U.S. Census Bureau.

In Dorchester, Columbia Point was the landing place for Puritan settlers in the early 1600s. The Native Americans called it "Mattaponnock".[1]

The community was, in the 17th and 18th centuries, and through to the mid-19th century, a calf pasture: a place where nearby Dorchester residents took their calves for grazing. It was largely an uninhabited marshland on the Dorchester peninsula. Its size was originally 14 acres (5.7 hectares). Many landfills, subsequent to that time, have enlarged the land size to 350 acres (140 ha) in the 20th century.[1]

In 1845, the Old Colony Railroad ran through the area and connected Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts. The station was originally called Crescent Avenue or Crescent Avenue Depot[2] as an Old Colony Railroad station, then called Columbia until December 1, 1982, and then again changed to JFK/UMass. It is an MBTA rail line station for both the subway and commuter rail line.

In the 1880s, the calf pasture was used as a Boston sewer line and pumping station, known as the Calf Pasture Pumping Station Complex. This large pumping station still stands and in its time was a model for treating sewage and helping to promote cleaner and healthier urban living conditions. It pumped waste to a remote treatment facility on Moon Island in Boston Harbor, and served as a model for other systems worldwide. This system remained in active use and was the Boston Sewer system's headworks, handling all of the city's sewage, until 1968 when a new treatment facility was built on Deer Island. The pumping station is also architecturally significant as a Richardsonian Romanesque designed by the then Boston city architect, George Clough. It is also the only remaining 19th century building on Columbia Point and is in the National Register of Historic Places.[1]


Columbia Point housing from Carson Beach. The photo depicts a 1977 racial conflict between residents of Columbia Point and South Boston for the use of Carson Beach and the L Street bath house.

Land-filling had caused the creation of Columbus Park on the peninsula and what was then called “Day Boulevard”, now Morrissey Boulevard, by 1934. There was a huge trash dump on the peninsula which turned into more landfill for other use.

During World War II, small barracks were built on this landfill for some prisoners of war. After the war, these were re-used for the Columbia Point Veterans Village. Also, in 1950, Boston College High School relocated from the South End of Boston to its present home on Morrissey Boulevard.

More landfill on the north shore of the peninsula had been created to build the Columbia Point Development housing projects which were the largest in Boston and New England and built by the Boston Housing Authority. The area was now known as Columbia Point. The Columbia Point Development was completed in 1954 and had 1,500 apartments.[3] Other infrastructure was added, including public schools. The MBTA rapid transit stop was called Columbia, later to be known as the JFK/UMass stop on the Red Line.


In the 1960s, there was a movement of community residents from the Columbia Point housing projects to get the city dump, which was located on the peninsula, permanently closed. They were able to get attorney F. Lee Bailey interested and to represent them. Eventually, the city dump closed in 1962 and the private dump, called Mile Road Dump, was ordered closed in February 1963 by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.[4]

In 1965, the first community health center in the United States was built on Columbia Point, the Columbia Point Community Health Center, and was founded by two Tufts University medical doctors, Jack Geiger and Count Gibson.[5][6] Geiger had previously studied the first community health centers and the principles of Community Oriented Primary Care with Sidney Kark [7] and colleagues while serving as a medical student in rural Natal, South Africa.[8][9][10] The health center was funded by the federal government's Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) and was needed to serve the community living in the Columbia Point Public Housing Projects which was on the isolated peninsula far away from Boston City Hospital.[10] The center still stands and is in use today as the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center on Mount Vernon Street.[11][12] In 2012, due to shifting demographics, Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center reduced its primary care hours and focus, moving its primary care patients to the Neponset Health Center in the Neponset neighborhood of Dorchester.[13]


John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the Columbia Point peninsula

In 1974, the University of Massachusetts Boston campus was opened on the tip of Columbia Point, and called the Harbor Campus.

In 1977, after an unsuccessful bid to have the John F. Kennedy Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts close to Harvard University, ground was broken at the tip of Columbia Point for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, designed by the architect I. M. Pei, and dedicated on October 20, 1979.

The Columbia Point Housing Projects fell into disrepair and became quite dangerous. By the mid-1970s the Boston Housing Authority was under community, political, and legal pressure and orders to renovate and cure the living conditions at the site.[14][15] By the 1980s only 300 families lived there and the buildings were falling apart. Columbia Point had become an example of the damage that can be inflicted upon public housing under neoliberal economics.[3][16]

Eventually, realizing the situation was almost hopeless, in 1984 the City of Boston turned over the management, cleanup, planning and revitalization of the property to a private development firm Corcoran-Mullins-Jennison. A 99-year lease from the city of Boston was granted to and co-owned by the (Harbor Point Apartments, L.P.) Harbor Point Community Task Force (tenants' elected board) and a partnership of developers led by Corcoran-Mullins-Jennison Corporation.[17] The construction work for the new Harbor Point development began in 1986. During a recession in 1988 with a slump in the housing market, deficits and expensive loans ($175 million in state and federal loans), the Harbor Point development came close to bankruptcy. Chevron Corporation rescued the redevelopment by investing $34 million, with Chevron taking advantage of $38 million in corporate tax credits and depreciation established by Congress in 1986 encouraging investment in low-income housing.[17][18] The renovation work was fully completed by 1990. It was a beautifully laid out, mixed income community, newly known as Harbor Point Apartments. It received international acclaim for its planning and revitalization from the Urban Land Institute, the FIABCI award, a gold medal with the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 1993,[19][20][21] and was used as a model for the federal HUD HOPE VI public housing revitalization program begun in 1992.[22][23][24]


View of Old Harbor at Columbia Point.

In 2008, plans and proposals were unveiled and presented to public community hearings by the Corcoran-Jennison Company to redevelop the 30-acre (12 ha) Bayside Exposition Center site on the Columbia Point peninsula into a mixed use village of storefronts and residences, called "Bayside on the Point".[25][26][27][28] There were serious problems with the ongoing development plans, since the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority had planned to build a sewage odor control facility just adjacent to the development site.[29][30]

However, in 2009, the Bayside Expo Center property was lost in a foreclosure on Corcoran-Jennison to a Florida-based real estate firm, LNR/CMAT, who bought it. Soon after, the University of Massachusetts Boston bought the property from them to build future campus facilities.[31][32] In February 2010, The University of Massachusetts Boston in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts Building Authority formally signed the purchase papers and bought the Bayside Expo property for $18.7 million. In 2010, the university plans to break ground and start building a new science laboratory and other facilities.[33][34]

In late 2012, a developer, Synergy Investments, announced plans to put up a residential building at 25 Morrissey Blvd. right next to the JFK/UMass train stop, on an abandoned lot, to further develop the foot of the Columbia Point peninsula.[35][36] Also, in 2012, developer Corcoran-Jennison Companies announced plans to build another residential building on Mt. Vernon Street on the site of the office complex next to the former Bayside Expo.[37]

In 2014, the Boston Redevelopment Authority began a study on redeveloping the main road on Columbia Point, Mount Vernon Street, in conjunction with the Master Plan for the peninsula.[38]

On March 30, 2015 the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate was dedicated by President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance.[39] The Institute has been open to the public since March 31, 2015.[40]

In 2018, discussions opened up as to what to do with the two Boston Public schools on Columbia Point: Dever Elementary School, which was in receivership, and the McCormack Middle School. There were plans for a high school to be placed there,[41]

In Fall 2018, UMASS/Boston opened up two new high-rise student dormitory buildings on the campus next to the Athletic Complex. These were the first on-campus dormitories built at UMASS/Boston.

In 2019, The Bayside Expo site now leveled and owned by UMASS/Boston is leased out for 99 years for development to Accordia Partners for $235 million. [42][43]


Source: Lawton, University of Massachusetts Boston, research materials

  • 1630 – Puritan settlers land on Columbia Point. The site is used as a calf pasture for the town of Dorchester until 1869
  • 1884 – The Sewage pumping station opens at the end of Mile Road.
  • 1942 – Camp McKay, used to house Italian prisoners during World War II, is built on the north side of the peninsula.
  • 1954 – Columbia Point housing project opens and the first tenants move in.
  • 1965 – The Columbia Point Health Center, the first community health center in the country, opens.
  • 1966 – Construction of the Bayside Mall begins.
  • 1971 – Construction of University of Massachusetts Boston begins.
  • 1974 – The Harbor Campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston, opens on Columbia Point.
  • 1975 – Tenants at several public housing projects file suit against the Boston Housing Authority, complaining of sub-standard living conditions.[15]
  • 1978 – The Boston Redevelopment Authority receives a $10 million federal grant for improvements at the Columbia Point housing project.
  • 1979 – The Boston Housing Authority is placed in receivership by the courts.
  • 1979 – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is formally dedicated.
  • 1984 – The Boston Housing Authority’s receivership ends and Corcoran, Mullins, Jennison, a private development company, takes over the management of Columbia Point, initiating a major cleanup and intensive maintenance improvements.
  • 1985 – The Massachusetts State Archives opens in November.
  • 1986 – The construction of the new Harbor Point housing complex, a mixed-income community, on the site of the former Columbia Point housing projects, begins.
  • 1998 – Harbor Point Apartments achieves a 99% occupancy rate and celebrates its tenth anniversary.
  • 2008 – A proposal for the re-development of the Bayside Exposition Center site into a mixed residential and commercial property to be called "Bayside on the Point" was offered for public perusal.
  • 2009 – The Bayside Exposition Center site is lost in a foreclosure and eventually sold to the University of Massachusetts Boston.[44]
  • 2010 – The University of Massachusetts Boston formally buys the Bayside Expo property for $18.7 million in February 2010
  • 2015 – The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate opened to the public in March.
  • 2018 - Two student dormitory buildings are opened for UMASS/Boston on the peninsula
  • 2019 - The Bayside Expo site owned by UMASS/Boston is leased out for 99 years for development to Accordia Partners for $235 million [42][43]



  1. ^ a b c "Calf Pasture Pumping Station", Dorchester Atheneum
  2. ^ Whiting, E., Map of Dorchester Massachusetts in 1850 Archived 2008-12-02 at the Wayback Machine - Boston Public Library Map Collection. The maps shows the Crescent Avenue Depot of the Old Colony Railroad Line.
  3. ^ a b Schubert, Michael F.; Thresher, Alison, "Lessons from the Field: Three Case Studies of Mixed Income Housing Development", Great Cities Institute, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, April 1996, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  4. ^ Cf. Roessner, Jane, A Decent Place to Live, Chapters 8 ("Columbia Point in the Spotlight"), p.56, and Chapter 13 ("Planning for Columbia Point"), p.107.
  5. ^ Delta Health Center Records, 1966-1987 in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. ^ Sargent Shriver, "Remarks of Mr. Shriver at Comprehensive Health Services Press Conference. June 1, 1967" Archived February 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Cf. p.5: "Grantee: Tufts University School Of Medicine, Medford, Massachusetts; Operating Institution: Tufts University School of Medicine-Department of Preventive Medicine; Project Director: Count Gibson, M.D., H. Jack Geiger, M.D., Professors of Preventative Medicine, Tufts University; Location: Columbia Point, Boston, Mass. and Bolivar County, Mississippi; Items of Special Interest: One of the original demonstration programs to contrast a model of a northern urban center with a southern rural one; Amount: $1,168,099, $138,888, $281,685, $3,417,630; Date Approved: 6/24/65, 8/65, 3/30/66, 1/15/67"
  7. ^ Brown, Theodore M., and Fee, Elizabeth, "VOICES FROM THE PAST: Sidney Kark and John Cassel : Social Medicine Pioneers and South African Emigrés", American Journal of Public Health, November 2002, Vol 92, No. 11, 1744-1745
  8. ^ Dr. Jack Geiger's biography page at George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services Archived May 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Dr. Count Gibson's biography at George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services Archived 2012-02-14 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Cf. Roessner, p.80
  11. ^ "1965 Columbia Point Health Center" Archived 2016-01-12 at the Wayback Machine - Boston History and Innovation Collaborative
  12. ^ Kong, Dolores, "25 Years of Intensive Caring", The Boston Globe. October 28, 1990, Metro Section, 29.
  13. ^ Dumcius, Gintautas, "Geiger Gibson easing off its practice of primary care", Dorchester Reporter, Jun. 7, 2012
  14. ^ Boston Housing Authority, "Preliminary Plan for the Columbia Point Development", July 6, 1976
  15. ^ a b "ARMANDO PEREZ & others vs. BOSTON HOUSING AUTHORITY", Massachusetts SJC, 1975/1979, 379 Mass. 703
  16. ^ "BOSTON HOPING TO SAVE DISPUTED RENEWAL UNIT", The New York Times, November 14, 1983
  17. ^ a b "Boston War Zone Becomes Public Housing Dream", The New York Times, November 23, 1991
  18. ^ Atlantic Capital Corporation, "Harbor Point" and "Track Record"
  19. ^ "Rudy Bruner Award 1993: Harbor Point", The Bruner Foundation, 1993
  20. ^ "Case Study: Harbor Point", Rudy Bruner Foundation, 1993
  21. ^ "The 1993 Gold Medal Rudy Bruner Award for Harbor Point Redevelopment", Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Digital Archive, SUNY University at Buffalo Libraries. (archived 2011)
  22. ^ Cf. Roessner, p.293. "The HOPE VI housing program, inspired in part by the success of Harbor Point, was created by legislation passed by Congress in 1992."
  23. ^ Thebaud, Angie; Haffner, Jeanne; Guerra, Erick, "Privately-Funded Public Housing Redevelopment: A Study of the Transformation of Columbia Point (Boston, MA)", Institute for International Urban Development, Cambridge, MA, September 2008
  24. ^ Rybczynski, Witold, "Looking Back at the Success of Harbor Point : Harbor Point was failed public housing—until it was rebuilt as the nation's first mixed-income community. Twenty-five years later, what can we learn from this visionary project?", Architect magazine, The Journal of the American Institute of Architects, August 16, 2013
  25. ^ Stidman, Pete, "Sketches outline new-deal for Columbia Point" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dorchester Reporter, August 14, 2008
  26. ^ Stidman, Pete, "Bayside developers go public with site plans" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dorchester Reporter, July 17, 2008
  27. ^ Bayside on the Point website Archived 2014-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Stidman, Pete, "Next great neighborhood' planned for Morrissey site" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dorchester Reporter, November 13, 2008
  29. ^ Dumcius, Gintautas, "Odor control facility raises new questions on Columbia Point" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dorchester Reporter, February 21, 2008
  30. ^ Stidman, Pete, "Odor facility clouds future of Bayside project" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dorchester Reporter, November 20, 2008
  31. ^ Forry, Ed, "UMass-Boston seeks to buy Bayside Expo; Motley says no plans for dorms", The Dorchester Reporter, December 16, 2009
  32. ^ Anderson, Hil, "Boston’s Bayside Expo Site Sold to University" Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, Trade Show Executive News, December 18, 2009.
  33. ^ Forry, Ed, "UMass signs agreement to buy Bayside Expo for $18.7M", The Dorchester Reporter, February 18, 2010
  34. ^ UMass Boston Acquires Former Bayside Property : 20-acre Site Will Support Campus Construction of Academic Buildings", University of Massachusetts Boston, Office of Communications, May 20, 2010 (archived 2011)
  35. ^ Ailworth, Erin, "Developer plans $60m housing complex near JFK T stop", The Boston Globe, October 03, 2012
  36. ^ Forry, Bill, "Editorial: A welcome wave of development", Dorchester Reporter, October 11, 2012
  37. ^ Dumcius, Gintautas, "New building, streetscape eyed for Mt. Vernon St.", Dorchester Reporter, August 23, 2012
  38. ^ "Mount Vernon Street Design", Boston Redevelopment Authority, 2014
  39. ^ Evans, Chris (2015-03-30). "President Obama Helps Dedicate the New Edward M. Kennedy Institute". Retrieved 2016-07-01.
  40. ^ Khalid, Asma (2015-03-30). "Edward M. Kennedy Institute Opens With A Lofty Goal: Restoring Respect For Congress". Boston. Retrieved 2016-07-01.
  41. ^ Smith, Jennifer, "City-owned parcel on the Point eyed for redevelopment", The Dorchester Reporter, December 6, 2018
  42. ^ a b Forry, Bill; Smith, Jennifer,"UMass taps developer for Bayside site in deal worth up to $235m", The Dorchester Reporter, February 14, 2019
  43. ^ a b "UMass Boston taps Accordia Partners for $235M Bayside site deal", BizJournal, February 14, 2019
  44. ^ Forry, Ed, "BREAKING NEWS- UMass and Bayside Expo agree on sale", The Dorchester Reporter, February 17, 2010


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°18′49.39″N 71°02′00.37″W / 42.3137194°N 71.0334361°W / 42.3137194; -71.0334361