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Not to be confused with Matapan.
Neighborhood of Boston
The Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley
The Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
Annexed by Boston 1870
Population (2010) 36,480
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
Zip Code 02126
Area code(s) 617 / 857
Mattapan bus loop

Mattapan (/mætəˈpæn/) is a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Historically a section of neighboring Dorchester, Mattapan became a part of Boston when Dorchester was annexed in 1870. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 36,480. Like other neighborhoods of the late 19th and early 20th century, Mattapan developed, residentially and commercially, as the railroads and streetcars made downtown Boston increasingly accessible. Predominantly residential, Mattapan is a mix of public housing, small apartment buildings, single-family houses, and two- and three-family houses (known locally as "Three-Deckers" or "Triple-Deckers"). Blue Hill Avenue and Mattapan Square, where Blue Hill Avenue, River Street, and Cummins Highway meet, are the commercial heart of the neighborhood, home to banks, law offices, restaurants, and retail shops. The new Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public library opened 2009, at a cost of more than $4 million. Mattapan has a large portion of green space within the neighborhood. The Harambee Park, the Franklin Zoo, the Boston Nature Zoo Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, and historic Forest Hill Cemetery can all be considered green space within the neighborhood of Mattapan. Mattapan's demographics are diverse, with a large population of Haitians, Caribbean immigrants, and African Americans.[1]

Mattapan is claimed as the original Native American name for the Dorchester area, though accounts vary whether the phrase meant "a good place to be," or "a good place to sit" [2][3] or "an evil, spread about place." [4]


Mattapan was originally a part of Dorchester up until the nineteenth century, when it was annexed onto its own neighborhood. Dorchester was settled by English settlers in 1630.[5] The Neponsett Tribe originally settled Mattapan, which was a tribe of the Massachusetts confederation of Native Americans. The name Mattapan came from tis Native American tribe and it means “a good place to be” or “a good place to sit”. The belief behind why the Neponsett Tribe chose the name Mattapan is that the river runs through it and the area was so full of nature that it was a beautiful place to just sit back and take it all in. At the turn of the 20th century, Caucasians who were primarily Jewish inhabited Mattapan but around the late 1960s the social movement of whites into the suburbs left Mattapan with a very large African American population. Another shift occurred in the 1980s when a significant number of Haitians immigrated to Mattapan, which would lead to the current demographic population. Mattapan because of the Haitian population has become an important center for the Haitian cultural, social, and political life in the entire state of Massachusetts. In 2015, Mattapan has a large population of not just Haitians but also African Americans, Jamaicans, and other Caribbean immigrants.[6]

Demographic change[edit]

"Rise," a pair of statues installed in 2005, flank Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan and define it as a gateway to Boston. This statue is by Fern Cunningham.
"Rise;" this member of the pair is by Karen Eutemy.

In the 1960s and 1970s Mattapan went through a major change in the makeup of its population. It shifted from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to one that is now largely African American and Caribbean American having a population of 37,486 that is over 77% African American and Caribbean American.[7]

The period from 1968 to 1970 made up the most dramatic period of ethnic transition in Boston. Hillel Levine and Lawrence Harmon, in their 1991 book The Death of an American Jewish Community, argue that redlining, blockbusting, and fear in neighborhood residents created by real estate agents brought about panic selling and white flight. The banking consortium Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group (B-BURG) allegedly drove the Jewish community out of Mattapan and are held partially responsible for the ensuing deterioration of the neighborhood, especially along the Blue Hill Avenue corridor. According to Levine and Harmon, the reason behind this orchestrated attack on the community was to lower market values to buy property, sell the housing with federally guaranteed loans at inflated prices to black families who could not afford it, and to get the white community to buy property owned by the banks in the suburbs. Gerald Gamm disputes these allegations in his 1999 book Urban Exodus, arguing that differences between the Jewish and Catholic communities in Boston constituted the greater contributing factor.[8]


In Mattapan the population was 36,299 in 2013. Of this percent, 8.5% was Caucasian, 81% is African American, 1% Asian, 2% mixed race, and 6.5% is devoted to other races.[1] According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, 67.3% of households are family based rather than single men and women or couples. It was also mentioned that Mattapan is among the highest percentage of people who speak French in their homes.[2] Based on percentages in Mattapan the cost of living is 8% lower than Boston, the total crime rate is 27% higher compared to Boston, the amount of High School graduates are 11% lower than Boston, employment is 9% lower than Boston, and housing is 23% lower than Boston.[1]

Current demographics[edit]

Today Mattapan is seeing another major population shift, albeit a natural turn over of housing, as a large number of immigrants from Haiti and other Caribbean countries continue to move in. Mattapan now has the largest Haitian community in Massachusetts, and is also largely made up of African Americans and immigrants from other Caribbean countries.[1] In 2013 the population in Mattapan was 36,299.Of this total 8.5% were Caucasian, 81% were African American, 1% were Asian, 2% were a mixed race, and 6.5% were devoted to other races.[9] According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority 72.4% of the population living in Mattapan were born in Massachusetts, 23.6% were born outside of the states, and 3.2% were born outside of the United States. Of those born outside of the United States 33.2% were born in Haiti and 17.2% were born in Jamaica. For the total adult population, 38.9% graduated from High School, while only 14.7% have a bachelor's degree. The median household income in Mattapan is $44,744.[10]


PCC 3238 at Mattapan

The Mattapan-Ashmont trolley line of the MBTA serves Mattapan as well as several bus routes.

The Fairmount Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail also serves Mattapan at Morton Street, providing service to downtown Boston and the suburbs. The Fairmount Corridor Commuter Rail Line currently runs from South Station south through the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and terminates in Readville section of Hyde Park. It consists of approximately 9.2 miles of track, four stations (Uphams Corner, Morton Street, Fairmount, and Readville) and forty-one bridges. It is the only Commuter Rail Branch that exclusively serves the City of Boston and MBTA’s Urban Core.[12]

Government and infrastructure[edit]

Map of Boston City Council District 4, 2012

The United States Postal Service operates the Mattapan Post Office.[11]

Urban policies[edit]

Mattapan platforms and yard

"The population in Mattapan during the 1960's rose from 500 to over 19,000 in one decade. This was followed by an influx of thousands of Haitians in the 1970s. By 1999, The Boston Globe reported that there were between 70,000 and 120,000 Haitians living in Mattapan, making it one of the largest Haitian communities in Massachusetts." Nowadays Mattapan is still a very popular place to live. Mostly people of color migrate here because of racial segregation, for example, stated in the article, over 90% of the population is made up of people of color, 84% being Black, 7% Latino, 3% White, and 1% Asian. [4] Per capita income in Mattapan for a typical neighborhood is just $14,800.[4]

According to this article, [4] Black and Latino residents in the Mattapan area experience higher levels of chronic disease, mortality, and poorer health than the White residents living in Mattapan.

Urban Renewal has played a great deal in the neighborhood of Mattapan. Then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino put these projects into place in 2006. After increased business and capital investment in commercial areas along with peoples properties, Mattapan became more popular and more of an increasing area that people moved to.[5]

In 2006, Mayor Thomas Menino implemented the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative. Mayor Menino created “MEDI” (Mattapan Economic Development Initiative) so that there was a specific plan and framework to grow the economy and the quality of life within the Mattapan community. The three main goals of the “MEDI” are to “1. Improve the business districts of Mattapan Square, Blue Hill Avenue Center, and the Morton Village Corridor. 2. Create job opportunities within the neighborhood. 3. Increase capital investment in commercial areas and properties.” The Boston Redevelopment Authority was in charge of ensuring that these goals would be met. Mayor Menino backed this redevelopment plan with $250,000 to ensure that small business growth occurred.[12] Mayor Menino also funded and allowed for a Community Implementation Team to be put in place to work with the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative to work with the zoning laws and issues within the neighborhood of Mattapan. Some major issues being addressed with zoning in Mattapan is to increase the building heights and density of the buildings in the business districts. Another major issue that the Community Implementation Team is looking at with zoning is how to better make the neighborhood a welcoming and healthy environment to reside in. According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, “Commutatively, the zoning recommendations have the minimum potential to add 100,000 square feet of commercial space, 500 jobs, 700 housing units, and bring an additional $11 million in purchasing power to Mattapan.” [12]


Primary and secondary schools[edit]

Boston Public Schools (BPS) operates public schools in Mattapan. Ellison/Parks Early Education School is in Mattapan.[13] Elementary schools include James J. Chittick,[14] Mattahunt,[15] and Charles H. Taylor.[16] Mildred Avenue K-8 School is located in Mattapan.[17] The Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot K-8 School, a BPS school,[18] occupies the former campus of Solomon Lewenberg Middle School, which closed in 2009.[19]

Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston operates the Mattapan Square Campus. (Formally the Saint Angela Merci elementary school)[20]


In Mattapan there are seven schools ranging from preschools to middle schools. There are five public schools and two private schools located in with in the confines of the Mattapan neighborhood. There are twenty one preschools, eight elementary schools, and three middle schools.[21] The five public schools are all part of the Boston Public School system. In terms of statistics 40% of males and 33.9% of females received their high school diplomas.[10] Mattapan schools have received high quality reviews from parents and the Dr. Catherine Ellison-Rosa Parks Early Education School has received a 5 out of 5 star rating on[10] In accordance with the Boston Public School system the mission of the Mattapan schools are to meet the needs of their students, whether it be through disabilities or language barriers. Also, parents or guardians have the right to school choice in order to meet the needs of their children. [22]

Public libraries[edit]

Boston Public Library operates the Mattapan Branch Library. On December 18, 1849 a Mattapan resident named Increase S. Smith opened the Mattapan Library Association. In 1870 Dorchester, Massachusetts, which included Mattapan, was annexed into Boston. The Mattapan branch began as a reading room attached to the Oakland Hall Building's delivery station. In 1923 the reading room was declared a branch of the Boston Public Library. On June 22, 1931 the Mattapan Library Branch opened on Hazelton Street. The current library opened on February 28, 2009 at 1350 Blue Hill Avenue.[23]

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Cf. "Heart of the City, Mattapan", The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  3. ^ Galvin, William Francis, (Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), " Archaic Community, District, Neighborhood, Section and Village, Names in Massachusetts", Citizen Information Service, Office of The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2008. It lists: "Mattapan / Archaic Name of Dorchester / Suffolk".
  4. ^ Dorchester Atheneum,
  5. ^ "Matapan/Dorchester" (PDF). City Of Boston. 
  6. ^ "Facts". Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  7. ^ City of Boston: Neighborhood Profile: Mattapan
  8. ^ Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed by Gamm, Gerald, Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-674-93070-3
  9. ^ "Mattapan, Boston Ma". Area Vibes Inc.  External link in |website= (help);
  10. ^ a b c "American Community Survey". Retrieved 25 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "BRA_STATS" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  11. ^ "Post Office Location – MATTAPAN." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  12. ^ a b "Mattapan Economic Development Initiative".  External link in |website= (help);
  13. ^ "Ellison/Parks Early Education School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  14. ^ "James J. Chittick Elementary School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  15. ^ "Mattahunt Elementary School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  16. ^ "Charles H. Taylor Elementary School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  17. ^ "Mildred Avenue K-8 School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  18. ^ "Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot K-8 School." Boston Public Schools. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  19. ^ Vaznis, James. "A school’s roller coaster ride ends." The Boston Globe. June 27, 2009. 1. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  20. ^ "Mattapan Square Campus." Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  21. ^ "Mattapan Schools". Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "Boston Public School". 
  23. ^ "Mattapan Branch Library." Boston Public Library. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°16′20″N 71°05′13″W / 42.27222°N 71.08694°W / 42.27222; -71.08694