Bunker Hill Housing Project
Charlestown is home to the largest housing project managed by the city.
The Bunker Hill Housing Project in Charlestown is the largest of 60 housing communities for low- and moderate-income individuals and families managed by the Boston Housing Authority.
Opened in 1941, the projects have approximately 1,110 units: a mix of one-, two-, three-, four- and five- bedroom apartments.
The projects were built in direct response to the passing of the Wagner-Steagall Housing Act in 1937, during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Under this legislation Boston was awarded $9 million in housing funds to build three developments, one in Charlestown, East Boston and South Boston.
The Depression was still in full force, and its high unemployment rate made mortgage payments impossible for many. Under the aegis of "slum clearance," seven blocks of Charlestown private homes were torn down. Hundreds of Charlestown residents were displaced, streets disappeared, and row houses were demolished. The construction of the Tobin Bridge happened around the same time, so for all intents and purposes the whole of a neighborhood, from Polk Street to Chelsea Street, was rubble.
In the place where the homes had been this enormous development of three-story identical buildings, three blocks deep and seven blocks long came into form. Low-income families moved in.
For several decades many residents in the projects worked at the Navy Yard and at other factories throughout Charlestown. When the Navy Yard closed and many of the factories shut down a population shift started to happen within the projects. The population went from being almost entirely white to a mosaic of white Americans, Asian-American, African-American and Hispanic. A further shift happened with the influx of immigrants from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. To accommodate non-English speakers English as a Second Language classes are currently taught right in the projects.
In 1992, the grounds were professionally landscaped, several playgrounds and tot lots were set up, and a basketball court was built. Currently the Boston Housing Authority is modernizing and upgrading bathrooms and repairing the outside of some buildings.
- Where is it?
The Administration Office is at 55 Bunker Hill St. The projects are bordered at Bunker Hill and Medford Street, and Polk Street and Decatur Street.
- When was it built?
Between 1939 and 1941. They opened in 1941.
- Who built it?
The John Bowen Company was main contractor.
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant?
They were built for families of low income. Its first occupants were local families.
- Why was it built?
To provide subsidized safe and affordable housing for people who could not afford it on their own.
- How was it built?
The main material is brick.
- What are the future plans for the structure?
To continue to be used for affordable housing.
Information for this article was compiled through research at the Boston Public Library, through interview and through consulting various web-sites, including www.bostonhousing.org and www.jphs.org/locales/2005/10/15/bromley-heath-public-housing-development-history.