NB: This tour is now called Walk in Boston # 3, the old and new East Boston and is on https://boston.citywalks.space in a revised and updated version.

A 2 miles, 1h30 to 2 h outdoor trek (revised in Sept 2018) on the other side of the harbor, to get the best views of Downtown Boston, especially at night, discover a lightship, a working shipyard, rows of triple deckers, an impressive organ (in a church), and plenty of public art.

You’ll also have a chance to taste what has been described as “the best New York style pizza in town”, to sample some Colombian flan or Australian pies, and to relax in cool places (details and photos below the map)

Highlights: Maverick Square, Jeffries Point, Our Lady of Assumption, Belmont Square, ICA Watershed, Marginal Street, The Nantucket, East Boston Pier Park

A: Your trek starts at Maverick Square, and if you are hungry or just want to indulge in some Columbian pastries before hitting the road, find La Sultana bakery on your left when you go toward the airport. If you want something more consistent, the best traditional New York style pizza in town, according to Boston magazine, is about 10 minutes further, at Santarpio’s on Chelsea Avenue. It’s a cash only kind of place, so be prepared!

All these detours have not advanced your trek a lot as you must take Sumner street toward Jeffries Point, but Maverick Square is always a lively place, and if you went to the pizzeria, you already have a good idea of this part of Boston: rows of triple deckers and still many immigrants, even though their origins have switched from Russia and Italy to South America.

East Boston has traditionnally been, and still is, a working class neighborhood, but it’s getting gentrified quickly, especially on the waterfront. Jeffries Point, where you now go, was definitively the richest part of the neighborhood with his rows of now historical houses.

B: Your first stop on Sumner Street will be Our Lady of Assumption Church. It’s open to everyone (even though I sometimes found the doors closed), and it has an impressive organ in the back of the nave. It attests of the importance of the catholic community at the beginning of the 20th century.

On your way, you’ll see gardens below the houses and surely wonder how much time will pass before the neighborough and its discreet charm will be discovered by developers.

In the meantime, Belmont Square, on your right after the church, is still a peaceful area and you’ll perhaps wish you had a book in order to sit there and relax.

C: You could stay on Sumner Street to reach the end of this little peninsula, but take Webster street instead. Its houses are more opulent and will give you a more complete idea of the area.

Nothing spectacular at the end, a park and some tennis courts, but you’ll see Massport (the airport) in front of you, on the other side of the inner harbor, and terminal B. There seems to be a fireboat always docked there, red and shiny, somewhat incongruous if you are not used to harbors, but really useful in case of fire on other boats and along the shoreline.

You’ll also see another unusual boat a bit further, but for the time being, follow the shore on the right, along Marginal Street, and stop at the panels in the little park you’ll soon encounter. They’ll tell you that Boston was the 2nd busiest port of entry to the USA after New York, and some of the buildings in front of you were part of the immigration station.

The other buildings are a working shipyard, and you can enter it, but you are required to keep clear of the working areas. It’s however your chance to see how boats are built or maintained, and you’ll also find here what must be the only Australian restaurant in town. Not a full scale restaurant though, as they only sell pies, but  good pies and a welcoming deck.

What you’ll also discover is that a shipyard can host a lot of public art, especially sculptures, and since 2018, the ICA annex, the Watershed, open in Summer and free.

Some of the artworks outside would need some repair, but the whole area has the feel of an open air museum, and is very enjoyable. Take the first dock on your left  to see boats-houses.  Some are big yachts, some are sailing boats so small you wonder how one can spend a life in them, some are floating structures of undefined forms and nature. In winter, they are all wrapped in clear plastic sheets to keep the heat inside and allow for the light to come, with a door included in the structure.

D: Now, at the end of the pier, you’ll see (and even be able to visit it if you plan in advance as it’s open only on Saturdays in season or on demand), “The Nantucket”, an historic floating lighthouse, and the largest U.S. lightship ever built .

The story says that whatever the weather, it had to stay where it was stationed, about 40 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, to mark the Nantucket Shoals where no permanent lighthouse could be built.

On your way back, you’ll notice that many boats owners have a bike, much easier to store on deck than a car when it’s time to go!

E: Once on Marginal Street again, take the little staircase on your right to go to Golden Stairs Park. The staircase and the park will surely make you think you are in Europe. The people living in the multi-family houses you’ll see there, with ironwork balconies and a perfect Boston skyscrapers view, sometimes hang their laundry outside.  It only reinforces the sense of being abroad.

F: Keep going up the little alley to get back to Webster Street, and turn left. You’ll again pass Belmont Square, but this time keep going until you find Pearl Pl, another little alley in between gardens, bordered by gaslights. Take it to go back to the waterfront.

You are now again on Marginal Street, and it’s true that you did not need to do this detour, but didn’t it add a plus to your meandering?

G:  East Boston Pier Park is in front of you. Go to the end of it for the best views of Boston you can have without taking a boat. At night, it’s even better. If you are walking with kids, they surely enjoy the playground there.

H: Once you have taken all there is to take at the park, go back to Marginal street, have a look at the community gardens of the area (they are a few) to see what’s growing, and stay on Marginal Street until the next street on your right, Haynes Street.

Here too, you’ll perhaps see laundry drying up between houses, something that seems unique to East Boston.  In any case, it’s a little and pretty street that will get you to Orleans Street. Once there, turn right until your reach Sumner Street again. Then turn left to go back to Maverick Square.

You can also  turn right on Orleans Street, then keep going on Marginal Street until you reach Lewis Mall on your right. It will bring you back to Maverick Square and give you a chance to see all the new buildings that have be built in this area these last few years. It’s now a very pleasant sight but if you think about taking the East Boston Greenway on your right, be aware that you’ll have to walk a while before being able to exit it!

In any case, you are now at the end of this trek, and if you have not tried the food options described in A, now is your chance. If it’s only a drink you crave, and a outdoor place to sit, try Maverick Marketplace café at the corner of Maverick street and Bremen street. It seems a good place for a final touch of the neighborhood!

Good to know: You’ll find restrooms, benches and tables at East Boston Pier Park, and benches in all the other parks. There are also restrooms and places to sit at the ICA Watershed when it’s open.

T-stop: Maverick (start and end)

Tips for the scout: they are welcome, see suggestions at the bottom of the page. Thanks in advance for your contribution!

4 comments on “East Boston trek

  • There is a simple explanation for the Massport fire boat. It’s part of the response teams that would be used in the event of a plane crash in the water. The airport is surrounded by water – the very harbor
    shown in your photos. The word “port” features prominently in the word Massport because the agency’s mission is port-related, as well as aviation based. Clearly, it should not surprise anyone that a fire boat is located in that area.

    • Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. I always find the idea of a fireboat amusing, even though I understand their purpose in general, but it must be me and the association I make between water and fire. Nothing against this boat or its mission, rest assured. Sorry if it sounded differently.

  • This was a great tour ! I had never been to East Boston despite having lived here a few years ! Thanks for this. I went to every spot, and also ate at KO pies (AMAZING!). I would also add to this tour Downeast cider which is in front of the ICA. They give a pretty cool tour for $9 (10 tastings I was pretty buzzed by the end) OR if you don´t want to go on the tour they give you 5 free tastings.

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