NeptuneRoad is a short stub of a street at the bottom of the ramp off thefirst exit north of Logan Airport in Boston. Turn left and pass underthe elevated Route 1-A, and you enter the dense wood frame fabric ofEast Boston. Just two under-sized blocks away, you will find RinconLimeno, the best Peruvian restaurant in Boston. Turn to the right atthe bottom of the ramp and you’ll see a small city block that has beencleared of all of its wood frames houses except for one lonestructure. Straight ahead, Neptune Road dead ends at the wrought ironfence of the two Blue Line subway tracks. Beyond and to the right arethe low beige warehouses of Logan airport. It is clear from the paneltruck and courtesy van traffic that this is an important back door tothe service functions of the airport. Based on research wehave done with Landworks Studio on the history of the area, the sectionof Neptune Road that runs to the right of the highway exit was once theentrance drive to Wood Island Park, a 47-acre waterfront park designedby Olmstead in the 19th Century. In fact, Neptune Road continues onthe other side of the Blue Line Tracks in a much better preserved statefor a few blocks, despite the fact that the parcels on either side ofthe parkway are vacant and the street dead ends at a solid blast wallon axis with a busy airport runway.
Beyond this fragment of Neptune Road, the vacant block with the lone house and the surrounding territory present an amazing collection of urban fragments in close proximity. On the other side of the fenced area of the Wood Island T stop, for example, is the remaining ten house remnant of a residential neighborhood that once extended along the entire eastern flank of East Boston facing Boston Harbor. This component of the urban fabric, oriented on a different grid than Bennington Street, was demolished during the incremental growth of the airport. Most of the houses were removed during the same 1962 expansion that also eliminated Wood Island Park. Just north of this neighborhood along Bennington Street is an intact 1838 cemetery. The foundation of the eastern wall was once a sea wall facing the harbor. The evocative urban fragments that coalesce around this small area are the result of “other” transportation infrastructure decisions that were made at the regional and global scale including the A-1 highway viaduct, the alignment of the Blue Line tracks, the 1980s Wood Island T station, and the many expansions of the airport. But there is something poetic, and even melancholic, about what remains. Perhaps it is the miniature scale of the fragments, their close proximity, and the strange combination of their out-of-the-way-ness (dead end streets and birds chirping) and immediate access by subway that gives this forgotten part of Boston its character. In many ways (and not to spoil the mood of my post), this urban knuckle could be the Epcot Center of historical ecologists and urban historians.