Boston. Commissioners on the annexation of Dorches.

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City Document — No. 28,







In Board of Alde>-men, March 1, 1869.
Laid OD the table, and ordered to be printed.

Attest :



Executive Department, City Hall,
Boston, March 1, 1869.
To the City Council of the City of Boston:

I have the honor herewith to transmit to you the very able and
comprehensive report of the Commissioners appointed on the
thirty-first of December, 1868, to consider and report to the
City Council on the subject of annexing a portion, or the whole,
of the territory of Dorchester to the City of Boston ; and recom-
mend it to your early and favorable consideration.




To His Honor N. B. Shdrtlepp, Mayor:

SiR^ — I have the honor herewith to transmit the report of
the Commissioners, appointed to consider, and report to the City
Council, on the subject of annexing a portion, or the whole of
the territory of Dorchester, to the City of Boston.
Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

CHAS. R. TRAIN, Chairman.
Boston, March 1, 1869*


In Common Council, Dec. 10, 1868.

Whereas, in the opinion of the City Council, it has become
necessary, in order to complete the system of drainage, and har-
bor improvements, which have been devised for the benefit of
Boston by the various Commissions which have had, and now
have these subjects in charge, to annex a portion or the whole
of the town of Dorchester to the City of Boston.

Ordered, That his Honor the Mayor be requested to appoint
a Commission of three discreet and intelligent persons, who shall
carefully examine the subject, in all its financial, industrial, and
sanitary relations, cause such surveys to be made by the City
Surveyor, or under his direction, as they may consider neces-
sary, and report the result of their doings, with such suggestions
as they may think proper, to the City Council, as soon as may be.

A true copy of order passed by City Council, Dec. 22, 1868.
Attest ;

S. F. McCLEARY, Cittj Clerk.


The Commissioners appointed by His Honor the Mayor in
pursuance of the foregoing order respectfully submit their


To THE City Council of Boston :


In 1867, during the Mayoralty of the Hon. Otis Norcross, the
subject of the annexation of the town of Dorchester was brought
to the notice of the City Government, and a Board of Commis-
sioners appointed to confer with Commissioners on the part of
that town. In that instance, the movement originated with
citizens of Dorchester. In the present instance, it proceeds
from the City Council. That Commission was unable to arrive
at any definite conclusions with respect to the subject-matter
submitted to them, except that — after expressing the opinion
that it may become desirable, if not necessary, at some early
day to annex, a portion at least, of the town of Dorchester, in
order to complete the elaborate system of drainage and harbor
improvement, which has been devised for the benefit of Boston
" they recommended a reference of the whole subject of this
and future annexations of territory to the City, to a Commission
to be created by the Legislature." No action was taken by the
City Council on this recommendation, and none by the General
Court, and the net result is, the loss of a year's time in the
accomplishment of this desirable public improvement.

6 City Document. — No. 28.

Your Commissioners have carefully considered the subject
intrusted to them. Assisted by an accurate map of Dorchester,
made by the City Surveyor, showing its boundaries, water-shed,
harbor and river lines and streets, they have personally exam-
ined the territory. They have, also, held frequent conferences
witli an intelligent Committee, appointed by citizens of that
town upon the bearings of this proposed annexation, upon the
separate interests committed to their charge. The substance of
these opinions, together with much statistical information upon
the financial, industrial, and sanitary condition of the town, will
be found embodied in this report.


It has been the misfortune of the City of Boston, hitherto, to
be governed by necessity, rather than choice, in the improve-
ments, which the advancing tide of business and population, has
rendered essential to the comfort and convenience of its citizens.
Its peninsular situation, and the conformation of its territory in-
terposed, at the beginning, natural obstacles to the adoption of a
uniform system of streets and squares, in which the element of
space should have due consideration.

Nor was there any effort made during its early history to
surmount these obstacles. The old thoroughfares, which nature
had in part provided, supplemented by narrow cross streets and
lanes, were considered sufficient for the uses of those days, but
they served to fix the boundaries of estates, and thus, unfortu-
nately, entailed upon succeeding generations, the difficult and
costly labor of adapting them to the uses of an overflowing pop-
ulation. A large part of this expense has fallen to our lot,
under circumstances, in the financial condition of the country,
that aggravate the difficulty, and greatly increase the cost of
every new undertaking.

We have "before us, at the present time, in the widening of

Annexation of Dorchester. 7

several of our public streets, a conspicuous illustration of the
truth of this statement.

The founders of the city were, in most things, sagacious and
far sighted men ; but they seem to have been sadly deficient in
the first duty of their time, — the laying out of its streets and
squares upon some regular plan, which would have simply
required extension to meet the demands of increasing numbers.

In this respect we may be thought wiser than our fathers, but
there is danger that we may render ourselves liable to the
charge of a similar shortsightedness.


The multiplication of our population by an increasing ratio is
a mathematical certainty. We cannot close our eyes to the fact,
nor can we avoid the immediate responsibility, it imposes upon
us, to make a wise and timely provision for its future welfare.
Looking at the present population of the city, — which may be
roughly estimated at 240,000, — and adopting the ratio of
increase between the years 1855 and 1865 as a basis of calcu-
lation, it is apparent that we shall have at the end of the next
decade, 1880, without accessions from suburban cities or towns,
a population of rising 300,000; in 1890, on the same ratio,
360,000 and upwards; in 1900, 450,000. Such a population
cannot be compressed within the existing limits of the city.
Some portions of it may find accommodation on the Back Bay,
but a greater part will be obliged — if desirous of enjoying its
privileges — to occupy South Boston or the Highlands. The
Back Bay territory is limited, and will continue to be occupied
for a considerable time at least, by the more wealthy class of
our citizens.

South Boston, with its prospective extended area of filled land,
it is generally conceded, is to become the seat of extensive
manufacturing industries, as also of the freighting business for

8 City Document. — No. 28.

the railroads on the south side of the city, ■which is estimated
to require at least one hundred and fifty acres of filled land.
The Highlands are left, then, as the only territory on that side
of the city proper, accessible to persons who prefer to remain
within its limits, and yet wish to avail themselves of the better
sanitary conditions of the suburbs. The importance of retain-
ing the industrial classes of our community within the city
limits cannot be overestimated. An industrious, intelligent
mechanic, who has a family, and is laboring to place his children
in a better position than he has been able to attain, is a most
valuable man in any community. To retain such men we must
be able to give them land at moderate prices. They will al-
ways remain in the city if they can live as cheaply and comfort-
ably as elsewhere, not only because the interests of their labor
are here, but because of its better facilities of education, recrea-
tion, libraries, and other advantages which the metropolis
affords. The money invested in building up compact villages
in the near suburbs should be applied within the limits of the
city, thus retaining the population and wealth now lost, and
adding to its character, wealth, numbers, and virtue. The
amount of Boston capital invested in real estate in the cities
of New York and Chicago, not to mention numerous other
localities, is estimated to reach millions of dollars. This capital
should be employed here, but will not be so long as Boston
maintains its present contracted limits. It is apparent to the
most casual observer that there is not sufficient room for the
middling and laboring classes, and if the present state of things
should be permitted to continue, the city will ultimately be left
to the care of the very rich and the very poor.

The wants of business in the city proper continually encroach
upon the habitations of the people. The removal of Fort Hill
for business purposes, and the still more recent demand for
eight acres of land, north of Causeway Street, for the accommo-
dation of the business of the Eastern and Lowell Railroads,

Annexation of Dorchester. 9

thus depriving seven hundred and nineteen families and a
population of four thousand people of their homes, are re-
markable illustrations of the truth of this proposition. This
population may not itself seek homes beyond the present
limits of the city, but it displaces, of necessity, another
class of inhabitants which ihe city cannot afford to lose, and
which will accommodate itself in the adjacent towns. The
growth of these suburban towns is mainly due to the overflow
of the population of Boston, and what they gain in the advan-
tages which the country affords, we lose in the substantial
character of our citizens.

The annexation of Roxbury, though unwisely delayed, was a
most important step in the right direction. It is, then, evident,
on these general views, that timely provision should be made
for the acquisition of territory of large capacity, bordering
closely upon the city, in the direction of the movement of popu-
lation, best adapted to our existing system of water distribution,
drainage, etc., a territory which we shall have the power to shape
at small expense, for the healthful occupation of our increasing


Dorchester seems to your Commissioners to present these
important requisites. It has a large area of high land, well
adapted for residences, and its situation is such that it can be
easily and cheaply drained. Its north and west boundaries,
following those of the City, intersect neighborhoods that have
lived in common for generations. Indeed, so undefined and
obscure are these limits, that a non-resident would find it difficult
to tell where the territory of Dorchester begins, or that of -the
city ends. These lines cut many streets at right angles, thus
rendering impossible — in the existing state of things — any
general and comprehensive system of street and sewerage im-
provements. It has a navigable harbor and river line on the

10 City Document. — No. 28.

east, of about three miles in extent, and a continuous river line
above, navigable to Lower Mills, and reaching to within a short
distance of its southern limit, with valuable deep water at Com-
mercial Point and Port Norfolk, aflFording sites for wharves,
factories, ship-yards, etc., unsurpassed by any in the vicinity of
Boston. Vessels drawing from eighteen to twenty feet can come
up to Commercial Point, and sixteen feet at high water, to Port
Norfolk. The Old Colony and Newport Railroad, with three
passenger stations in the town, runs within a quarter of a mile
of the shore, crossing the river at Port Norfolk, from whence
the Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad runs near the river,
to Mattapan. The Hartford and Erie Railroad passes through
the entire territory, with five passenger stations therein, while
the Metropolitan Railroad intersects the town with three distinct
lines of tracks. The distance from the farthest station in the
town to State Street, is accomplished in twenty minutes. The
navigation of the river is closed for only about two months in
the year by ice.

There are various important industries in different parts of the
town, that give employment to largo numbers of its population,
and they are represented to be in a prosperous condition. Nearly
one half of the population, it has been estimated, do business in
the city. Its streets are in good order, and the same may be
said of its public buildings and other property ; and the health
of the town is as good, if not superior to that of any other in
the neighborhood of Boston. The following statistics exhibit
the number of its population, dwelling houses, legal voters, and
other details, as also, its financial condition.

Annexation of Dorchester.



Inhabitants, estimated .....


Dwelling houses, May 1, 1868


Ratable polls


Legal voters




School-houses, of the larger class .


" " of the small "...


One steam fire-engine, and several hand engines,



Acres of land


Valuation for 1868

Real estate

$9,291,200 00


6,035,100 00


Town Debt $147,700

Cash on hand Feb. 1, 1869, and due from State

and for Taxes 111,092 41

Actual debt

Valuation of town property

. $36,607 59
. $237,182 26


The following statistics are presented for the purpose of
showing the comparative areas of Boston, Roxbury and Dorches-
ter, the aggregate area of the three places being 9,902 acres,
and the density of population to the square acre and square
mile of Boston proper as compared with other large cities.


City Document. — No. 28.

The original area of upland in Boston was
The area added, and in progress by filling

flats, is . . .
The area of South Boston is
The area of East Boston is

Making a total of .
The area of Roxbury is

The united areas of Boston and Roxbury ar









3,270 acres.
2,100 «

5,370 acres.

The area of the City of New York is 14,502 acres.
« " Philadelphia is 82,560 "

« " London is 74,070 "

The population of Boston to the square acre is 59

Roxbury "



New York "



Philadelphia "



London "



Boston in 1865



in 1855



Increase in ten years

l^i¥o P®^ ^^^^'

The area of Dorchester is
" " Boston is

The population of Dorchester in 1865 was
" " " in 1855 "

Increase in ten years ....


4,532 acres.
5,370 "

The united areas of Boston and Dorchester are 9,902 acres.



2^i¥o p^^ c^°^-

Annexation of Dorchester.


Boston has less square miles within its corporate limits than
either of the following cities.

New York has 22 square miles.



Buffalo . ,




Boston .








And its proportion of population to the square mile is large
in comparison with that of other cities, being more than that
of the city of London.


. 29,712




. 22,080

New York



. 32,068




. 30,143



of 1860)





. 10,833





Boston .



. 25,600


The tendency of population to centralize in cities, is an
established physical law, and its operation upon this continent,
in the building up of great cities, presents more striking illustra-
tions than may be found in any part of the Old World. This
concentration has not advanced as rapidly in the city of Boston
as in many other cities of the Union, but if the rate of progress
has been slow, it has been sure and irresistible. In a note
appended to the printed census of 1865, the following statements


14 City Document. — No. 28.

occur. " Within the limits of the City of Boston, are contained
about one-seventh of the population of the State, — 44.06 per
cent, or nearly one-half of the personal property — and more
than one-third of the real estate. The cities and towns within
ten miles, but exclusive of Boston, contain more than one-sixth
of the population of the State, — nearly one-sixth of the personal
property, — and a fraction over one-fifth part of the real estate.
Within ten miles and inclusive of Boston, therefore, are com-
prised about one-third of the population, — six-tenths of the
personal property, — and above one-half (.54) of the real estate
of the Commonwealth. More than one-half o^ the population of
the State, seven-tenths of the personal property, and two-thirds
of the real estate, are situated within a distance of twenty-five
miles from the State House.

" This condensation of population in the vicinity of Boston,
as compared with other portions of the State, has existed from
an early period. A circumscribing circle, drawn from the State
House at Boston as a centre, and containing exactly one-half of
the population of the State, would have had a radius in 1765 of
less than 30 miles; in 1800, of less than 35 miles; 1810, of 34
miles; in 1820, the radius would have been 32 miles; in 1830
31 miles; in 1840, 29J miles; and in 1865, a fraction less than
25 miles.

"The number of dwellings in Massachusetts in 1865 was
returned as 208,698; the number of families 269,968; there
being 61,270 more families than dwellings. The proportion of
families to dwellings in Boston being 38,021 of the former to
20,649 of the latter."

In view of these facts, for they are facts and not speculations,
the duty of the present and future guardians of tiie city, is as
clear as the day. It is not to attempt to divert this wealth and
population into new channels, or to create new centres for it. It
is to accept the actual, existing conditions, and provide by
seasonable legislation for its natural, necessary and healthful

Annexation of Dorchester. 15

expansion and distribution over a wider area, into the beautiful
suburbs which nature has so lavishly furnished for the purpose.


On this subject, your Committee refer to the report of the
Back Bay Commissioners, made to the City Council in 1§63 —
City Document, No. 81. The Commissioners say " By the
second report of the United States Commissioners on the condi-
tion of Boston Harbor, dated Dec. 12, 1860, it is shown that
between the years 1835 and 1847, there has been deposited in
Charles River, between the Mill-Dam and Charles River Bridge,
an amount of sedimea equal to 1,499,000 cubic yards. No
doubt the largest portion of this sediment has been brought
down by Charles River, draining as it does many square miles
of territory. The remedy which we think must finally be
adopted will be to intercept Stony Brook at, or near, Washing-
ton Street in Roxbury, and by the construction of a tunnel and
sewer, in a south-easterly direction through Roxbury and Dor-
chester, discharge all the water of this brook, and this territory
into the most easterly end of Dorchester Bay.

This method of its discharge will relieve Charles River and
the main body of the harbor from the deposit of any sediment
from this section of territory. The proposed point of discharge
for this great sewer, when built, is three-quarters of a mile from
the nearest point of South Boston, three-quarters of a mile from
Savin Hill, and more than a mile from Thompson's Island; and
is so situated that all the discharge from the sewer will he swept
by the current from Neponset River into the back way or chan-
nel of the harbor, and thus tend to keep the main channel and
shores of the harbor free from the deposit of sediment fromUe

sewers." .■■ . iu- i

It is obvious that the Commissioners in oonsidenng this sub-
ject, to which they seem to have given great attention,

IQ City Document. — No. 28.

ted the time when South Bay would be filled up solid as well as
the fact that Fort Point Channel should not be made the point of
discharge for the sewerage which will be required for the popu-
lation which is to occupy South Bay and the adjacent territory.

His Excellency the Governor in his recent inaugural address
interprets accurately the public sentiment. Speaking in con-
nection with the filling up of the South Boston flats, he said
'< The filling up of these flats is no doubtful experiment. The
continual rise in the value of real estate in Boston proves that
the o-reat present and future need of this City is land. These flats,
too-ether with a very large territory belonging to the Commonwealth
in South Bay, are directly in the path of the growth of Boston.
If a large portion of this territory was filled up, it would sell at
remunerative prices. The whole of it will be needed within
this generation."

Your Commissioners have obtained from the State Harbor
Commissioners, an expression of their views which, without ex-
pressing an opinion further upon the question of how best to
deal with this subject, which increases in importance and diffi-
culty with the growth of the south pari, of the city, they ap-
pend hereto. There is no difference of opinion, that the interests of
our Commerce require that the whole Harbor front of what is
known as Boston Harbor, in all matters of regulation and police,
should be under the municipal control of the city.


Your Commissioners have given careful attention to the con-
sideration of how much, if not all, of the town of Dorchester
it is necessary, expedient, or desirable, should be annexed to
the city. The question is attended with some difficulty. An
experimental line has been surveyed from the southeast corner
of the city, in the Highland District, as a continuation of our
south boundary on Seaver Street, thence running nearly in a

Annexation of Dorchester. 17

southeasterly direction, parallel with and in the rear of Wash-
ington Street, Dorchester, south of said street to a point on that
street midway between the Town House and the church, and
thence by a nearly direct course to Granite Bridge, on the Ne-
ponset River. This line, at the first view, would seem to be the
most natural one that could be drawn, because it preserves the
continuity of the south boundary, follows the trend of the land
to Neponset River, and gives us Dorchester Bay, the basin, and
tidal waters of Neponset River up to a given point, and, also,
the ground through which a drain may be constructed.

But such a line could hardly be expected to meet the views
of the citizens of the town. The territory left out would be too
small for a township, having less than two-fifths of the whole
area, and one-fifth of the population, bad in shape, and so situ-
ated as to make its annexation to either one or the other of the
towns of Milton, Hyde Park, or West Roxbury, which it adjoins,
unavoidable. This line is within the six-mile radius, and how-
ever convenient it might seem to be for a boundary, there were
so many objections raised to it that your Commissioners felt
obliged to abandon it. A more contracted line, taking in less
territory, would clearly be to the disadvantage of the city. On
this subject your Commissioners assumed that it would not be
going beyond the scope of their instructions to canvass the opin-
ions of the citizens of the town. They did so freely, and the
balance of opinion was found to be, so far as they could judge, in
favor of the annexation of the whole of the territory, rather than
its division by the proposed line, or any line which would sepa-
rate one part from the other. A strong feeling of attachment
to the name of the town, and its history and traditions, was

It was thought that, as in the case of Roxbury, by the annex-
ation of the whole territory, Dorchester might continue to retain
her boundary and local history, as a precinct of the city. The


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