We work hard to realize Boston Harbor's full potential. We connect people to Boston’s waterfront, harbor, islands and each other.
Today, Spectacle Island is a great place to get outside and play. It has a sandy guarded beach for swimming and sunbathing, five miles of walking trails lined with wildflowers, an educational visitor's center, marina, and cafe. Activities here include kayaking, kite flying, and tai chi, yoga, and art classes. There are also special events throughout the summer such as concerts, 5k races, clam bakes, beer gardens and regattas that are a draw for locals and tourists alike.
But the island wasn't always as inviting as it is now. It has quite a long history of unpleasant uses before it became a beautiful oasis. In the 1840s, two hotels were built here but were soon shut down because of gambling and other illicit activity. Next, the island became home to a smallpox quarantine hospital, then a horse rendering plant. Finally, in the early 1900s, it became a dump.
For the next 50 years, trash continued to pile up here, reaching as high as 80 feet. Methane explosions from the island could be seen in the night sky. Legend has it that a bulldozer was simply swallowed up by the mounds of garbage.
When Boston began a massive construction project, known as the Big Dig, it was decided that the soil dug up would be used to cap the Spectacle Island landfill. The island was covered with two to four feet of soil, trees and flowers were planted, and a dock was built. Spectacle Island now sits 157 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in Boston Harbor.
Spectacle Island is accessible by a seasonal ferry as well as private boats and boat tours.
Cover photo by the Boston Harbor Alliance/Tom Kates via Flickr