Guide to Jamaica Plain

What Makes JP Unique

JP boasts a diverse population of about 38,000, according to the last census: 54 percent white; 25 percent Hispanic/Latino; 13 percent African-American; and 4 percent Asian. JP has a large gay and lesbian population and is home to several prominent LGBT rights activists.

Once called “The Eden of America” by a visitor, according to an 1800s chronicle, Jamaica Plain is nearly surrounded on the west, south and east sides by green space: Arnold Arboretum, Forest Hills Cemetery, Franklin Park, Jamaica Pond Park and Olmsted Park.

While boasting a wide array of businesses, JP is especially known across the city for its variety of prominent restaurants. Bella Luna on Amory Street, El Oriental de Cuba in Hyde Square, Star Fish Market in Egleston Square and Ten Tables in central JP are just a few of the longtime landmark dining spots.

JP has a rich arts and cultural scene that includes such major annual festivals as Wake Up the Earth, the Jamaica Plain Music Festival and the Jamaica Pond Lantern Parade.

JP has housing stock as diverse as the population, with three-deckers, ranch houses, Victorians, colonials, Capes, condos and more.

JP has a rich history and several historic landmarks, with many from Colonial times clustered around the Civil War Solider’s Monument where South and Centre streets intersect.

JP is home to Boston’s Latin Quarter, centered in Hyde/Jackson Squares.

JP is the base for a phenomenal number of nonprofit organizations—more than 250.

JP has been the subject of several books, including: “A Home in the Heart of a City” by JP resident Kathleen Hirsch; “Local Attachments” by Alexander von Hoffman; and “Images of America: Jamaica Plain” and “Jamaica Plain: Then & Now” by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco. It also recently served as the setting for the hard-boiled crime novel “Jamaica Plain” by Colin Campbell.

The phone numbers of many longtime JP businesses and residents—including the Gazette—begin with “522” or “524.” The “52” comes from the letters “JA” on the telephone dial, which is short for “Jamaica.” In the early days of telephones, cities and neighborhoods had phone numbers that began with an abbreviation of the place name. Decades ago, people calling here would tell an operator, for example: “Jamaica 4-2626.”

Gazette Staff

A brief history of JP

     Once referred to as “the Eden of America,” Jamaica Plain is a unique section of the City of Boston. It was part of the Town of Roxbury until 1848. It was then part of West Roxbury, until it finally became Jamaica Plain.

     Legend has it that the name Jamaica Plain came from the fondness of the residents for Jamaica rum and that they preferred it “plain.” More likely, the neighborhood got its name from Kutchamaiken, chief of an Indian tribe at Jamaica Pond more than two centuries ago.

     Jamaica Pond, the only extensive natural body of fresh water in Boston, covers an area of nearly 70 acres and is as deep as 70 feet. Until the introduction of Cochituate reservoir water into Boston in 1848, the pond supplied the city with water by an underground aqueduct.

     During the 19th century, the population increased rapidly. As breweries and factories located here, the fine estates, lush gardens and farms of the original well-to-do residents gave way to more modest and affordable houses. The growth and crowding of the city led to the expansion of the livable Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.

     For more information and publications about Jamaica Plain history, as well as membership information, see the Jamaica Plain Historical Society website at   jphs.org.

Gazette Staff

JP is Green

     Though Jamaica Plain is part of the city of Boston, the parks, urban wilds, playgrounds and community gardens, many supported by the city and state, allow an escape from an overdose of urban life. JP is bordered on three sides by green space, including several jewels of the Emerald Necklace, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. With hundreds of acres of parks, squares and gardens, JP has plenty of places to spend the day. Here are some favorites:

     Arnold Arboretum at 225 Arborway: This beautifully landscaped, 265-acre botanical garden contains over 14,000 woody plants, flowers and trees. The Arboretum is now a national historic landmark administered by Harvard University and the Boston Parks Department. It is free and open to the public. The Arboretum offers classes, exhibits, walks and other activities. Info: 617-524-1718 or arboretum.harvard.edu.

     Boston Nature Center, owned and managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, is at 500 Walk Hill St., on the JP/Mattapan/Roslindale border. The 67 acres of the former Boston State Hospital Property have been converted into a wildlife sanctuary and outdoor classroom. The site features 30 acres of freshwater wetlands, the largest community gardens in Boston, and such wildlife as red-tailed hawks, deer, pheasants and wild turkeys. Low-cost environmental and science programs are offered year-round for adults, children and families. More than two miles of trails and boardwalks. Info: 617-983-8500 or massaudubon.org.

     Jamaica Pond Park lies between Perkins Street, Park Drive and Prince Street along the Jamaicaway. This natural “kettle hole” pond once hosted a reservoir and commercial ice-cutting, and its banks held the country estates of prominent Bostonians. Today this is one of Boston’s most popular parks for strolling, running, biking and to see and be seen. Rowboats and sailboats are available to rent at the boathouse in season.

     Forest Hills Cemetery at 95 Forest Hills Ave. is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in Boston, with sculpture by famous artists. It was designed after a European burial park, with an artificial lake. Interesting and famous people laid to rest there include Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis, poet E.E. Cummings, abolitionists and some Massachusetts governors. Tours are sponsored by the Forest Hills Educational Trust. Info: 617-524-0128 or foresthillscemetery.com.

     Franklin Park and Zoo. The park extends south from Seaver and Walnut Streets to Forest Hills and is the largest gem in the Emerald Necklace. The 527-acre park offers hiking, picnicking and an 18-hole public golf course. Info: Franklin Park Zoo, 617-541-5466 or zoonewengland.org; Franklin Park Coalition, 617-442-4141 or franklinparkcoalition.org.

     Olmsted Park extends along the Jamaicaway between Huntington Avenue and Perkins Street. It includes Leverett Pond and Daisy Field. It is also a part of the Emerald Necklace.

     Southwest Corridor Park is a linear park from downtown Boston to Forest Hills running alongside the MBTA’s Orange Line. Twenty-seven out of the 52 acres that make up this park are found in Jamaica Plain. There are basketball courts, bike paths, tennis courts and tot lots. The temporary home of Kelly ice skating rink is near Stony Brook T Station.

Gazette Staff

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