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The end of Fort Point Channel

The end of Fort Point Channel

Not very impressive looking.

Stand on the Summer Street Bridge and look toward South Boston, and Fort Point Channel looks like a long rectangle, ending in a wall just past the Gillette plant.

In fact, the channel continues for a few more blocks, as a narrower drainage channel, ending at the Boston Water and Sewage Commission's Wet Weather Sewage Discharge Outfall Number 70.

You can stroll the Harbor Walk to what looks like the end of Fort Point Channel and admire the re-painted remains of a giant train bridge that crossed there before the Ted Williams Tunnel remade that area (and from which you can still watch the trains arriving at and departing from South Station):

Old railroad bridge

Old CAT manhole coverTo get to the very end of Fort Point Channel, though, you'll either have to continue into South Boston and come up the Kelly Bridge. or, if you want to see more of the underbelly of the Expressway, cross into Chinatown and take your first left past the Expressway, then follow the sidewalk that runs along the highway that will eventually take you past the old Herald plant and put you on Albany. Turn left on Traveler Street to cross under the Expressway, then right to follow the sidewalk along the channel to its end at the outfall.

If you take the Chinatown route, you'll get a better appreciation for the massive scale of the former Central Artery Tunnel project (look down and you'll still see some manhole covers embossed with that name) - and bonus views of what could serve very nicely as a battleground in some dystopian thriller:

Under the Expressway, where it merges with the turnpike and the tunnel.Under the Expressway, where it merges with the turnpike and the tunnel.

But having reached the end of Fort Point Channel, look across the street and the bridge into South Boston, past the city maintenance garage, and imagine that entire area under water. Fort Point Channel was once just the entrance to South Bay, which extended south of what is now Andrew Square into Dorchester - and which once gave patients and workers at what is now Boston Medical Center waterfront views:

South Bay in 1890.South Bay in 1890.

This map (from the BPL's Norman B. Leventhal Map Center) shows South Bay in 1890. The road crossing the bay at the bottom is today's Southampton Street (Swett Street back then); the next road up north across the bay is a bridge connecting W. 4 Street in South Boston with what is today E. Berkeley Street (Dover Street back then).

Looking toward downtown from the end of Fort Point Channel.Looking toward downtown from the end of Fort Point Channel.



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You can make out the general outline of the former South Bay from an aerial view, since the filled-in land was put to quite different uses than other filled-in areas, such as Back Bay --


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I have to wonder what might be if that neighborhood had been laid out in a way that integrated the surrounding street patterns.

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On the mainland side, Swett Street met what was then East Chester Park at what is now Southampton Square. (At least I think that's what it's called, the area where Southampton St and Mass Ave come together, altho' I can't find any reference to that name, so maybe I'm wrong.)

The name Massachusetts Avenue came into existence with the building of the Harvard Bridge, which connected West Chester Park in Boston to Front Street in Cambridge -- better seen by zooming in here.

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing your walk, Adam. (And we're fortunate to have such a great map collection available online.)

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