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40-Year-Old Images Show East Boston Grappling With an Expanding Logan Airport

40-Year-Old Images Show East Boston Grappling With an Expanding Logan Airport
National Archives

Back in 1973, as part of the Environment Protection Agency's famed "Documerica" project that sent professional photographers all over the country to capture places of environmental concern, Michael Philip Manheim was assigned to photograph how noise pollution was affecting East Boston. The blue-collar neighborhood was in the midst of adapting to the growing presence of Logan International Airport.

Manheim captured East Boston, particularly around Constitution Beach and Neptune Road, at a moment of massive expansion of transportation infrastructure, including Interstate 90 (which terminates in East Boston) and an above-ground portion of the city's rail system (both projects completed in the 1950s). But more than any other piece of infrastructure, Logan Airport was the source of the biggest and potentially most harmful changes.

Logan's expansion in the mid-1960s led to the removal of a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park (Wood Island park), and its 1970s expansion led to the displacement of residents on Neptune Road as well as mounting local noise and air pollution issues.

Forty years later, the lively neighborhood Manheim found along Neptune Road hardly exists, replaced with parking lots and runways. Manheim, while visiting the site again in 2010 said, "none of this is familiar."

Manheim's images live on, however, offering a visual time capsule into what life was like for like East Boston residents at a time when expanding infrastructure was changing an entire neighborhood:

"Matthew Vieira Stands in the Very Place Where, Some Thirty-Five Years Ago, He Took These Pictures of His Children. At That Time the Area Was Wood Island Park (Known Earlier as World War I Memorial Park). Since Then the Water Has Been Filled in and the Site has become part of Logan Airport, 06/1973"

Looking Southeast Over Logan Airport Area. The Large Number of Oil Storage Tanks Under Jet Flight Paths Causes Great Concern to Area Residents 06/1973"

"Constitution Beach - Within Sight and Sound of Logan Airport's Takeoff Runway 22r 07/1973"

"Constitution Beach - Within Sight and Sound of Logan Airport's Takeoff Runway. 22r 07/1973"

"Logan Airport Area. Little League Game on Land Loaned by Massport (Massachusetts Port Authority) near Bennington Street East Boston's Main Thoroughfare. Some Local Citizen Leaders Consider This to Be Part of a Public Relations Campaign by Massport on Behalf of Its Continuing Inroads into the Neighborhood, 05/1973"

"Neptune Road 05/1973"

"Building Under Construction, Off Neptune Road, Will Be Used by Food Preparation Company That Services Airlines 05/1973"

"Looking North from Logan Airport's 16th Floor Observation Deck. Neptune Road Homes at Left and Center, in Front of Oil Tanks 09/1973"

"Near Logan Airport - Airplane Coming in for Landing Over Frankfort Street at Lovell Street Intersection 05/1973"

 

"Noise Meter, Held at Logan Airport End of Neptune Road Records Over 86 Decibels 06/1973"

"Mary Stack, Once of East Boston, (Logan Airport Area) Now Lives Some 10 Miles North in Saugus. She Demonstrates Ear Guards That Did Not Bring Sufficient Relief from Tensions Caused by Aircraft Noise, and Shows Clipping of Her Meeting with Mayor Kevin White, 06/1973"

"On Lovell Street, Adjacent to Logan Airport. The Street Ends at Wood Island Transit Station. Near the Station a Building Is Being Erected Which Will Be Leased to a Food Preparation Business for One of the Airlines. Local Residents Suffer from the Dust"

"A Side of the MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) Pedestrian Bridge That Links the Split Segments of Neptune Road 05/1973"

"Logan Airport Area. Neighborhood Boys Play Rough with an Abandoned Car behind the Wood Island Station of the MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) 05/1973"

 

"Houses on Neptune Road Border Logan Airport Runway 15r-33l Delta Fuel Farm in Foreground 05/1973"

 "MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) Train Roars Past Northeastern Side of Neptune Road 05/1973"

"Matthew Vieira Cleans Up after Massport (Massachusetts Port Authority) Fenced in Their Lot as He Had Requested. He Is Working Under the Pedestrian Bridge That Connects the Two Parts of Neptune Avenue Separated by MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) Railway Tracks, 05/1973"

"Residents React to Notice of Landlords' Meeting Posted in Market Window and Called by Massport (Massachusetts Port Authority), Which Owns and Operates Logan Airport. Purpose Is to Discuss Sale of Homes to Massport 06/1973"

"A Jet Flies Over Neptune Road 05/1973"

"Near Logan Airport - Airplane Coming in for a Landing Over Neptune Road Homes 05/1973"

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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