Questions, questions… September 16, 2018 17 Comments Map, North Square, Story Vault Many questions come up, one day to the next and this one has managed to stump even the U.S. Coast Guard. We’re finalizing the North End wharf names on our map and no one, we mean NO ONE, knows the names of these three wharves. Do we make them up? Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInPrint Related
According to a map in Portrait of a Port, the wharves following Union and Battery are
Constitution Wharf, Adjacent is Constitution W ? Way? and Aspinwall Way?
Harris Wharf, adjacent is Young’s W. bordering the north side of the Wharf
Comey’s Whf Ripley’s W. borders Comey’s on the south side and Gray’s W borders the north side of Comey’s Wharf.
Bartletts Wharf Bordered by Bartlett’s S.W. on south side and Bartletts W on North
Thank you Terry for your comment and for sending the map through Matt and NorthEndWaterfront.com! It seems as though, with the exception of Constitution Wharf, the wharves names stopped being used in the 1940’s. Thank you to Jessica Dello Russo for reminding us of this site that aggregates maps of the area: https://www.mapjunction.com/. There could be a connection with when the US Coast Guard Supply Center was moved there.
The wharf closest to Battery Wharf is Constitution Wharf, so named because it was built on the site of Edmund Hartt’s shipyard, where USS Constitution was built from 1794 to 1797. Constitution Wharf was built by 1827, according to Boston City Directories of the era. The wharf configuration changed over the years, but reached more or less its configuration by 1917. At that time the two wharves north of Constitution Wharf were the North and South Pier of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. The North Pier retained its earlier names of Fiske Wharf (on its north side) and Nichol’s Wharf (on its south). The South Pier retained its earlier name of Harris Wharf. The South Pier also housed the ferry slip for the Winnisimmet (aka Chelsea) Ferry which started running between Chelsea and Boston (originally via Charlestown) in 1631.
This is wonderful. Thank you for the sleuthing Jan! One would think that the names “North Pier” and “South Pier” would have stuck for longer than they did given the bifurcated shape of that wharf; the names are useful!. But they seem to have been dropped by 1940’s. The BRA refers to them as the USCG Piers in a 1954 map (Constitution Wharf not included).
Pier 3, 2 and 1 (east to west)
Thank you for your comment! “Pier 1”, “Pier 2” and “Pier 3”, as in the 1968 and 1947 maps at mapjunction.com, might be the best solution though these names lack the historical context of names like “Lewis Wharf” (so named, as I’ve just learned, because it was owned by the wealthy wharfinger Thomas Lewis and his family beginning in around 1800).
Thank you to Alex Goldfeld for his research on Lewis Wharf in “The North End: A Brief History of Boston’s Oldest Neighborhood” and thank you DR for your input!
I have an old map of the waterfront that gives the names of those piers as follows;
the pier farthest to the left was the North Pier, the middle one was the South Pier and the one to the right was listed as the Winnisimmet Company pier from where the Chelsea ferry departed.
Hi Nick, Thank you so much for your input! I’m wondering if that’s the 1917 Boston Bromley Atlas that you and Jessica referred us to through mapjunction.com? It looks like those names stayed until at least 1928 though as mentioned by Gretchen, each side of the different piers had its own name in that time period… This discussion is such a wonderful example of why cartography is endlessly fascinating. A decision needs to be made for our 2019 map, to be cast in bronze!
I’ll forward your email to my daughter. She’s a researcher and spends her days at the Copley Sq library and at the Boston Athenaeum. Both institutions have great map collections.
As wharves were sold new owners renamed them. Owning a wharf and warehouse was a very lucrative proposition.
I put this post on the Boston By Foot guides Facebook page, since folks have developed lots of tours of the shoreline, North End, Harbor….here is a response:
The one closest to Battery Wharf is Constitution Wharf. According to the 1917 Bromley map, the other two are the South and North Pier of the New York, New Haven and Hartfard Railroad Company. The South Pier was called Harris Wharf, and was the site of Winnisimmet / Chelsea Ferry. I think the South Pier was the Nichols Wharf. Earlier configurations varied, but I know the Constitution Wharf goes back at least to 1850’s when Enoch Train’s White Diamond Line packet ships started docking there. It was previously the location of Hartt’s shipyard, where the USS Constitution was built, hence the name. (Credit Jan Engleman)
Terrific Gretchen. Thank you so much! This is great information. I can see that map. I’m wondering when the Coast Guard took over these wharves/piers. Neither Wikipedia nor the Boston Base site lists a date. Could it be around the 1940’s?
P. S. Many of your questions will probably be answerable if you ask historians and archaeologist. Try the Paul Revere House and the Boston City Archaeologist first.
Yes, thanks so much Dayl for the great advice. The Paul Revere House is weighing in. We’re lucky to have Nina Zannieri on our Advisory Panel! And thank you also for the mapjunction reference! Two of the 3 names seem to get dropped in the 1940’s and “Constitution Wharf” seems to have just been moved to Charlestown. We’ll surely blog about this again and hope you’ll stay tuned for the final outcome!
The Boston Bromley Atlas of 1888 shows the two legged wharf to the north as having two names: Fiske Whf. on the north leg and Harris Whf. on the south leg. The wharves were shaped quite differently then and clearly appeared as two separate wharves. Just to the south, the single wharf between these two and Battery Whf. is Constitution Whf. The name Constitution Whf. in this area goes back to at least the mid-19th century on other atlases, although the shoreline did extend as far out in earlier days. These wharf names appear in Bromley Atlas at least until 1938, even as the shapes of the wharves changed over the decades. Always check old maps for this kind of information. They will be one of your best sources. I found this data in just a few minutes on the website http://www.mapjunction.com — an excellent source of historic Boston maps and recent Boston aerial views. The Massachusetts Statehouse library has an even more extensive collection of maps and atlases for the entire commonwealth.
On the National Park service map the one to the left of Battery Wharf is indicated as Constitution Wharf and the next two just say USCG Base. Let me poke around and see if we can figure this out. On one of the historic maps (1775 Page map) the options are Hunts Wharf, Verins Wharf and Rucks Wharf but they don’t line up perfectly with the locations on the current map. Let me see what our Research Director thinks.
Thank you for your input Nina! It seems as though wharf names changed with ownership, very quickly at times. We were just in Charlestown and it seems as though the former Hoosac Tunnel Pier is now being called Constitution Wharf because the USS Constitution is over there. The maps haven’t caught up yet. And, there used to be another Pier north of the aforementioned wharf!
Thank you Nina! This is really helpful. There have been so many names attached to these 3 wharves and piers!