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Imagine Boston in 1930

January 8, 2018

In 1930, Boston celebrated its 300th birthday. Even as City leaders led celebrations of Boston’s past, they planned for the City’s future. 

In 1930, Boston was home to almost 800,000 residents and growing, especially in the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Jamaica Plain. The chart below shows the City's population growth by neighborhood.

Boston population growth by neighborhood, 1900-1930, School Document 6, 1930, Collection 0405.001

In response to this growth, Boston’s Mayor James Michael Curley launched a massive building and infrastructure program. The program was focused on improving the lives of Boston’s working and middle classes.

Photograph of Mayor J.M. Curley from 1932 campaign scrapbook,  Mayor James M. Curley collection (0237.001)
Photograph of Mayor J.M. Curley from 1932 campaign scrapbook, Mayor James M. Curley collection (0237.001)

Curley built new branch libraries and schools in the outlying neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Brighton, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park. He expanded Boston City Hospital, and founded seven new health units in various City neighborhoods. Under his direction, the Parks Department built recreational facilities and new parks. Curley also pushed for the expansion of the City’s public transit system. During his administration, the Red, Green, and Blue lines were extended and improved. The Sumner Tunnel was also built, and the City’s Public Works Department laid out countless new roads, bridges, and parkways.

Mary E. Curley School, Centre Street, circa 1930, Collection # 0403.002

As our city looks forward to 2030, we can see both differences and similarities to 1930. As in 1930, our city is growing and becoming more diverse. As we grow economically, our population needs affordable housing, accessible transportation, and enhanced local neighborhoods. In 1930, the City, led largely by one individual, took an ad hoc approach to addressing these issues. In contrast, Imagine Boston 2030 is a carefully constructed citywide plan shaped by over 15,000 Boston voices.  

In the coming months, as our city looks forward to 2030, the City Archives will be writing a series of blog posts called "Boston on the '30s." The posts will highlight Boston in 1630, 1730, 1830, and 1930. Since our 1630 founding, Boston has been a dynamic and changing community. We're looking forward to sharing some of those historic changes with you! 

Boston Tercentenary Logo, 1930, Boston Tercentenary records, Collection 0200.002