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East Boston, Massachusetts

East Boston is a gritty blue-collar neighborhood that is separated from the rest of the city of Boston by Boston Harbor and bordered by Winthrop, Revere, and the Chelsea Creek. The landmass that is East Boston today was originally five islands--Noddle, Hog, Governor's, Bird and Apple--that were connected using landfill.

Not long after the settling of Boston, Noddle Island served as grazing land for cattle, but in the 1830s ferry service to the island and the construction of the Maverick House Hotel made the spot a vacation destination. The character of the area changed when the marshland was filled in and the streets laid out. Since the mid-19th century, the community has served as a foothold for immigrants to America: Irish and Canadians came first, followed by Russian Jews and Italians, then came Southeast Asians, and, most recently, large numbers of Central and South Americans.

The population of East Boston, which was recorded as a mere thousand in 1837, exploded to a high of just over 64,000 according to the 1925 census. Most of these were families from southern Italy. Today the neighborhood is home to a little more than 38,000 people, with the median income per household around $31,000.

For a long time, transportation has played a role in the shaping of East Boston. The world's finest clipper ships were built at the shipyard owned by Donald McKay in the mid-1800s; the tunnel connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city via subway, the first underwater tunnel of its kind in the US, opened in 1904; rows of houses were torn down to build the Sumner (1934) and Callahan (1961) tunnels, connecting automobile traffic from downtown Boston to the neighborhood; an airfield built in East Boston in the early 1920s eventually expanded to become Logan International Airport.

Today, East Boston is primarily known for Logan Airport and the controversy surrounding it. Conflict with the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort), which owns and operates Logan, has been a source of bitterness among local residents for decades. One expansion of the airport resulted in the community losing Wood Island Park, a greenspace designed by the noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. In another episode, Logan construction caused noisy trucks to rumble through the neighborhood until a group of local women took to the streets with their baby carriages and blocked the vehicles. The tension between the airport and local citizens continues, with MassPort attempting to expand again and add a fifth runway.

Though East Boston has a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, the community's rents and property values have increased more slowly than the extraordinary growth seen in the rest of the metro-Boston region during the late 1990s and early 2000s. This slower growth can largely be attributed to two factors: the isolated nature of the neighborhood and the difficulties of real estate development with the pre-existing pollution along the waterfront.