Few Bostonians wander into the small peninsula that juts from North Dorchester
into the bay, letting locals of Columbia Point
keep the pristine waterfront and quiet streets all to themselves. Bordered to the west by William T. Morrissey Boulevard and to the northwest by Joe Moakley Park, the rest of Columbia Point is surrounded by waterfront and is wreathed with parks that look out to the Boston skyline.
Once known for its notorious housing projects, Columbia Point cleaned up its act decades ago. Several institutions make their home here, most notably the University of Massachusetts Boston, whose campus comprises about half of the area. Though the residential neighborhood has few restaurants and shops, locals find all they need just a short walk away in North Dorchester, and good public transit, along with a quick commute into Boston, makes up for any lack of options.
Schools in Columbia Point
School data provided by GreatSchools
Restaurants & Nightlife
Columbia Point lacks the restaurant-lined streets of other Boston neighborhoods. The exception is Fiskie's Cafe, where patrons line up at the counter for burgers, pizzas and an array of sandwiches made with fresh ingredients, including wraps, subs and paninis. Fries of every flavor keep the UMass students happy, from sweet potato spuds to cheesy fries, and regulars praise the guacamole-topped turkey burger and the Hangover Burrito, an indulgent combination of shaved beef, eggs and bacon. Though there's no wait service, a cheerful dining room with a streamlined, modern feel gives customers a place to chow down with friends.
For more options, residents trek west into neighboring Dorchester, where they find Mexican, Spanish, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine along Dorchester Avenue, along with pizza and Irish pub food. At McKenna's Cafe, customers tough out long waits for a table just to order their superb flavored iced coffees, including the highly touted banana hazelnut and snicker doodle. This local favorite dishes up large portions at reasonable prices in a casual, comfortable atmosphere that's perfect for a long brunch with friends. A variety of triple-decker sandwiches, burgers and big salads grace the menu alongside hearty entrées like steak and pasta specials; however, regulars say the breakfast fare takes first prize, with special mentions going to the creative omelettes and french toast studded with granola and honey.
Many here say that Boston's best Indian is hidden on an inconspicuous block of Dorchester at Taste of India Shanti, where patrons dine by candlelight, scooping up perfectly spiced dishes with soft, pillowy nan. The menu includes North Indian favorites along with more rarely sampled Bangledeshi dishes, such as Beef Bhuna. Standouts include the Kashmir Chicken with a sweet, spicy glaze and Tikka Masala served in a creamy curry. Meanwhile, the inexpensive lunch buffet wins over diners who want a little of everything. Those who like it hot won't be disappointed by the vindaloo, and the dish can be ordered extra spicy for real kick. The warm, inviting decor and vases of fresh flowers set the tone for a nice dinner, and the dining room can accommodate larger groups with relative ease.
Columbia Point has no bars or music venues, but when the sun goes down, locals head west to the many taverns and sports bars along busy Dorchester Avenue. On game night, sports fans head to The Banshee to watch the action on ten flat-screen televisions while sipping glasses of Guinness. A favorite haunt for Green Bay Packers fans and soccer enthusiasts, the bar gets hopping on weekends, with a DJ spinning beats on the dance floor to packed crowds. But on weeknights, the intimate bar gets downright quiet and makes a great spot for drinks after work or a gathering with friends for Wednesday trivia nights. The Banshee also serves a full menu of Irish and American bar food, including the widely praised steak tips and a savory curry sauce that regulars order on the side at every meal.
On weekends, locals of every stripe take to the dance floor at dbar, where there's never a cover and the drinks are expertly blended. Known as a destination club for Dorchester's gay community, the welcoming atmosphere and chic decor earns straight fans as well, creating a fun and diverse scene. Bring your inner diva to Tuesday's Showtune night when the crowds revive Broadway's best musicals with a group sing-along. Before the dancing starts, the bar serves a full dinner menu, including culinary delights not commonly seen in this part of town, such as a house-cured pork belly confit served in an apple cider reduction. Small tables, leather upholstery and sleek decor complete the experience, evoking a New York atmosphere.
History & Culture
Before the railroad arrived to Columbia Point in 1845, cattle grazed the land, as they had for over two hundred years after the first Puritan settlers to Dorchester landed their ships on the small peninsula. In 1885, the city used the undeveloped land as the site for its first sewer line and pumping station, and built a handsome Richardsonian Romanesque structure that still stands to this today. The new sewer represented a benchmark for Boston and a model to other major areas, improving the sanitation and health of the entire city.
During World War II, the city built barracks here to house prisoners of war, starting a forty-year history of municipal projects. Landfill dumping expanded the 14-acre peninsula, and the area became the site for the Columbia Point Development housing projects, the Boston College High School and the first community health center in America. In 1974, the University of Massachusetts Boston created its Harbor Campus here. Just a few years later, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was built next door, an expansive and dramatic modern triangular structure overlooking the bay.
Today, visitors stream in daily to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for an up-close glimpse of the iconic president and bonafide historical artifacts, including the first manned space capsule, the Mercury MR-3 Freedom 7. The museum also displays personal items from the Kennedys, such as family photos from Jack's childhood and the pink rajah coat worn by First Lady Jackie Kennedy for her introduction to India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Special exhibits keep the museum fresh, with past exhibitions covering topics such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, complete with audio of White House meetings during the events that the President secretly recorded.
Just a short walk away at the Commonwealth Museum, the original Massachusetts Bay Charter rests on display, along with one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights signed by John Adams. Admission to the small museum is free, and parking for museum visitors makes the pilgrimage easy.
The quiet streets of Columbia Point often feel like a small suburb plopped next door to the big city. Most residents have a car to get around, and running errands on foot here can be a hassle. Cyclists take advantage of mostly flat streets, and UMass students and staff have round-the-clock access to bike rentals at the campus's Hubway. Though the neighborhood lacks dedicated bike lanes, the Harborwalk circles the peninsula, offering a relaxing ride along the waterfront free from cars.
Columbia Point makes up for a lack of bustling streets with good public transportation. T riders can pick up the red line from the JFK/UMass station and ride just three stops to South Station. The Kingston/Plymouth commuter line also stops at this station, letting riders catch an express to Kingston in under an hour. Local buses provide additional options, with numbers 8 and 16 running down the center of the neighborhood along Mount Vernon Street. Cabs rarely pass by, but you can call a local car service or Uber for a ride if you find yourself out late in the bars of Dorchester.
Drivers have an easy commute into downtown Boston on Route 1, with the trip taking just 12 minutes without traffic, and nearby I-90 makes weekend getaways a breeze. William T. Morrissey Boulevard offers a straight shot into neighboring Dorchestser, while Mount Vernon Street runs down the main strip before heading north to South Boston. Ample street parking streamlines commuting, and most of the apartment buildings provide free parking, along with UMass's dedicated lots throughout campus.
The amenity-filled apartment complexes in Columbia Point attract a range of residents from young students to families and retirees. The housing market skews to apartment towers and gated communities, many with pools, tennis courts and fitness
in these buildings start around $2,000, some with waterfront views of the Boston skyline. Residents here appreciate the luxurious extras and overall bang for their buck when compared to neighboring North Dorchester, where the average one-bedroom rent hovers around $2,200. Daily living expenses fall in line with the city's average, including groceries and utilities, and nearby Dorchester Avenue offers a number of cheap eats and local watering holes to help keep your budget down.
Outside of an excellent campus bookstore on the UMass campus, Columbia Point leaves shoppers wanting more. Most locals head into Dorchester to pick up everyday essentials from the drug stores and bargain shops along Dorchester Avenue. They also drive to the South Bay shopping center, where big box stores cover all the basics, including Best Buy, T.J. Maxx, Target and Bed Bath Beyond.
Closer to the JFK T Station, crafty types find an oasis at the Stitch House, which packs a surprisingly large selection of yarns, needles and patterns into its small storefront. Prices are reasonable for an independently run bricks-and-mortar, but the Stitch House's real strength lies in its small classes for knitting and crocheting. The classes foster a tight community with patient instruction for beginners and advanced classes that tackle special projects like mittens or lace.
On the way back to Columbia Point, stop in at Coleen's Flowers for the impressive, artful arrangements, featuring fresh blooms from daisies and dahlias to sweet peas and lilacs. The talented staff can create unique bouquets on the fly or custom vases for events like dinner parties or weddings, all at prices much lower than you'd expect.
Most residents in Columbia Park shop for groceries at Shaw's. Locals say the chain grocer offers a wide selection at a convenient location, and give extra points for the surprisingly good prepared foods, clean aisles and ample parking. Customers also appreciate the weekly discount program that puts some cash back in their pocket.
Truong Thinh II Super Market on Dorchester Avenue sells fresh fish and inexpensive produce along with hard-to-find Asian cooking staples like fish sauce and shrimp paste. Further north on Dorchester Avenue, Euromart sells outstanding Polish cured meats at low prices and a variety of imported favorites, including beer, frozen pierogies, cheeses and herring.
Green spaces surround Columbia Point's waterfront, giving residents access to scenic vistas and fresh ocean air. A two-mile loop circles the peninsula as part of Boston's Harborwalk, where locals can walk, run, bike or skate. The loop passes through Old Harbor Park, along with the grounds of the John F. Kennedy Library and an outdoor sculpture yard on the UMass campus.
In Old Harbor Park, residents take in stunning views of downtown Boston and gaze out at the water from the spacious observation deck. A tiny but well-maintained lawn adds greenery to the paved park, and kids can climb atop the large pedestal map of Boston to make stone rubbings of the city's coastline. For an escape into undisturbed nature, follow the loop south to Patten's Cove, a nature preserve where the Dorchester Bay flows into a tidal water salt marsh. Walkways invite the public to explore the protected lands, and benches provide a place for bird watchers to spot buffleheads and double-crested cormorants.
For beach action, locals walk a short ways from Columbia Point to neighboring Savin Hill, where a sandy waterfront in McConnell Park provides a free place to sunbathe or just stick your feet into the warm sand. Brave locals swim in the chilly water, and small boats can be launched from the beach for fishing or exploring the coast. Though park rules prohibit off-leash dogs, locals say you'll find many pups roaming free along the shore, playing catch and sniffing for hermit crabs. Young kids can climb and slide on the playground, and picnic tables await for families to relax over an ocean-side meal.