“Decent Places to Live”: Joe Corcoran and the development of mixed-income housing in Dorchester

Aerial view of Columbia Point in Dorchester, the Columbia Point Housing Project and the Calf Pasture Pumping Station

Aerial view of Columbia Point in Dorchester, the Columbia Point Housing Project and the Calf Pasture Pumping Station, 1960s.

The mission of University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston includes documenting the history of Columbia Point, the university’s home since 1974. Columbia Point has a long and storied history: it was a farm and calf pasture before and during much of the 19th century; it became the site of a pumping station that was vital to the city’s new sewerage system; it housed Italian prisoners of war during World War II; and, later still, it became the site of the 1,132 unit Columbia Point housing development. (You can learn more about the complex histories of Columbia Point by visiting our research guide and this blog about Columbia Point.)

joe_corcoran

Joseph Corcoran. Courtesy Corcoran Jennison, Inc.

Joseph Corcoran, a pioneer in developing mixed-income housing, has been a transformative influence in the development of the Point, and recently contributed several items of historic and scholarly interest to our Special Collections, including two videos and the digitization rights to the publication A Decent Place to Live. Through these archival contributions, Corcoran continues his strong support of the university. He is a member of the William H. J. Kennedy Society of the UMass Boston Founders Circle and, through the Joseph E. Corcoran Endowed Excellence Fund, provides an annual award to a faculty member in the College of Management who has exhibited excellence in teaching, curriculum development and/or research.

Joe Corcoran grew up in a mixed-income neighborhood in Dorchester, the youngest of eight children born to Irish immigrant parents. As he describes in his memoir Wasn’t That a Time! A Corcoran Family Memoir, 1925-1950the benefits of growing up in a mixed-income neighborhood have inspired his life’s work.

Harbor Point Apartments, ca. 2012

Harbor Point Apartments, ca. 2012. Courtesy Corcoran Jennison, Inc.

In the late 1980s, Corcoran Jennison Companies, the Boston-based development firm he co-founded, undertook the process of converting the failed Columbia Point housing project into a mixed-income community called Harbor Point, which has become a national model for the federal HOPE VI Program. The HOPE VI Program, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is described as “a National Action Plan to eradicate severely distressed public housing.” Corcoran’s approach to housing development has always been to focus on working from the very beginning with the primary stakeholders in any new development – those who will occupy or otherwise be affected by the construction of housing or business real estate. When developers Corcoran, Mullins, Jennison, Inc., forged a partnership with the residents to redevelop the Columbia Point projects, only 350 units were occupied, with the rest boarded-up and condemned. Thirty years later, Harbor Point on the Bay is a 1,283-unit mixed-income community still managed by this unique developer/resident partnership and is viewed as a model of mixed-income housing.

Corcoran recently donated two historic films to University Archives & Special Collections, both of which describe the development of Harbor Point, and both of which have now been digitized and are available to all online. The first, Harbor Point, Boston is a five-minute video commissioned by Corcoran Jennison and produced by Cambridge Studios.  |  Harbor Point, Boston from UMass Boston Archives on Vimeo.

A second film, Point of Change (21’52”) was produced and directed by Deborah Dorsey of Cambridge Studios in 1990, and includes more extensive footage from around Boston, as well as interviews with residents, government agency officials, and others.  |  Point of Change from UMass Boston Archives on Vimeo.

In addition to the above films, Corcoran recently shared the digitization rights for the book A Decent Place to Live: From Columbia Point to Harbor Point (2000, Northeastern University Press) with University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston. A Decent Place to Live, written by Jane Roessner, who also freely shared her rights in the book, is the redevelopment story of Boston’s Columbia Point, America’s first federal public housing project to be converted into private mixed-income housing in a 50/50 partnership with the existing residents and a private developer. The book chronicles the redevelopment process from its inception to completion, and navigates the long road of redevelopment.

A Decent Place to Live is an account of an historic transformation as well as a reference point for those involved in community redevelopment today and into the future. Thanks to the support of Joe Corcoran, University Archives & Special Collections was able to digitize A Decent Place to Live and to make the work openly available to researchers, students, scholars, journalists and the general public.

For more information about collections related to the history of Columbia Point in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston, click here.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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September 9, 1919: “At their eve. Roll Call 5:45 the police men struck…”

Four of the officers who went out on strike on Sept. 9, 1919. (Click to enlarge.)

Four of the more than 1,100 men who went out on strike on Sept. 9, 1919. (2) (Click to enlarge.)

Dorchester resident Anna Muirson Johnson Bellamy’s diary entry on Tuesday September 9, 1919 ends with a brief news bulletin: “At their eve. Roll Call 5:45 the police men struck, laid down their insignia & walked off.” (1)

The Boston police had voted to unionize and were protesting low wages and harsh labor conditions, but the Police Commissioner and the Governor refused to negotiate, the city experienced several days of lawlessness and the State Guard was called in. “The striking officers were dismissed, and once order was restored, the force was restocked with a new, non-union rank and file. The Boston police would not again unionize until 1965.”(3)

Even though the 1919 Boston Police Strike had lasting effects on the City of Boston and helped propel Calvin Coolidge to the presidency, little is known of the fates of the individual officers who risked so much to go out on strike. To fill in this knowledge gap, University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston is collaborating with Boston Police Department archivist Margaret Sullivan and community volunteers on a collective research project to document and preserve the stories of the more than 1,100 men who took part in the strike.

Between now and September 9, 2019 – the 100th anniversary of the strike – volunteers from local organizations, classrooms, and the general public will research each of the striking officers, searching for information in census records, vital records, draft registrations, photographs, obituaries, family stories and more. The eventual biographical encyclopedia and research database will be made freely available online.

Organizations or individuals interested in participating in the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project are invited to contact project staff at library.archives@umb.edu.

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Sources:

  1. Anna Muirson Johnson Bellamy’s diaries have been donated to University Archives and Special Collections by her great-grandson, local historian and Dorchester native Robert Bayard Severy, as part of the rich collection of family papers and artifacts he has gifted to the University. Some of these are processed and open for research (see Bellamy Family Papers (1865-1960) SC-0017), while others, including a number of the diaries, are awaiting processing.
  2. Tappen, G. Arthur. The officers and the men, the stations without and within of the Boston Police, Boston : Twentieth Century Biography Co. (1901).
  3. Herwick, Edgar B. III. “The Boston Police Strike That Impacted Labor For Generations” August 15, 2014. http://news.wgbh.org/post/boston-police-strike-impacted-labor-generations.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Internet Scout and the Sumner Tunnel construction photographs in University Archives & Special Collections

Shield_in_final_positionI’ve been following Internet Scout since 1994 and have long found the site to be a wonderful digital compendium of high quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and humanities resources on the Web, selected by a “team of librarians and subject matter experts who select, research, and annotate each resource.”

The other day I was browsing the site and was excited to find an entry for the Sumner Tunnel construction photographs that noted local historian Anthony Mitchell Sammarco purchased and donated to University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston several years ago. The experts at Internet Scout describe the collection as “a remarkable digital archive” and I couldn’t agree more.

Bracing_of_light_pole_in_North_SqThe photographs, taken from 1929 to 1933, document the construction of the first Boston Harbor tunnel, later called the Sumner Tunnel (after William H. Sumner) when it opened to travelers and commuters. The tunnel, which opened on June 30, 1934, was constructed to handle automobile traffic from the North End of Boston to East Boston. The Boston Globe reported, on July 1, 1934, that approximately 13,000 automobiles passed through the tunnel in the first 24 hours of operation.

View the finding aid for the Sumner Tunnel construction photographs here and view the digital collection here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Remembering Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Class of 1988

Mayor Thomas Menino, Verizon's Robert Mudge, UMass Boston Chancellor Sherry Penney, and Ira Jackson at the Business-Higher Education Forum, 1998. UASC-UAPHO-0002-0063-0004

Mayor Thomas Menino, Verizon’s Robert Mudge, UMass Boston Chancellor Sherry Penney, and Ira Jackson at the Business-Higher Education Forum, 1998. UASC-UAPHO-0002-0063-0004

Today, the City of Boston bids farewell to beloved five-term mayor Thomas M. Menino, who passed away last Thursday, October 30.

Menino received his bachelor of arts in 1988 from UMass Boston’s College of Public and Community Service with a concentration in community planning. Menino took part in the 1987 commencement exercises, but received his degree in January 1988. View the commencement program here (his name appears on page 21 of the PDF). Seven years later, in 1994, he was on the commencement platform again, but this time he was giving the principal address to the graduates as The Honorable Thomas M. Menino, Mayor, City of Boston. View the 1994 commencement program here.

Over the years, Mayor Menino visited the campus often in support of the university’s strong programs in urban planning and community service. A number of images in the photograph collections of University Archives & Special Collections document Mayor Menino’s commitment to the mission of UMass Boston. Click here to view photographs of Mayor Menino from our collection.

Mayor Menino views Road Show photographs from Dorchester with University Archivist Joanne Riley.

Mayor Menino views Road Show photographs from Dorchester with University Archivist Joanne Riley.

Finally, the mayor’s office was a strong supporter of the Grub Street Memoir Project, which partnered with UMass Boston’s Mass. Memories Road Show project in 2007 for a reading and photo scanning evening at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square. Learn more about the Grub Street Memoir Project here and view the images collected at the Grub Street Mass. Memories Road Show.

The Healey Library joins the UMass Boston community and the City of Boston in offering condolences to the Mayor’s family on the loss of a remarkable man and a tireless public servant who transformed our city for the better. Mayor Menino will be missed.

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Call for Collection Donations: Boston Harbor and the Harbor Islands

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library welcomes inquiries from individuals and organizations who are seeking an archival home for materials that may now be riskily stored in basements or old file cabinets but that would serve as valuable research materials for scholars, students, and the general public.

UMass Boston’s Archives and Special Collections collects, preserves and makes accessible materials that document our coastal location, urban mission, and strong support of community service.  This includes systematically expanding our collections related to the history, geography, geology, and cultural heritage of our “neighbors to the east”, the Boston Harbor Islands.

UMass Boston’s existing research collections that document Boston Harbor and the Islands include:

We have begun adding photographs, documents, and oral history interviews collected over the years by the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands along with the Friends’ own early organizational records, and aim to expand the collection to include many of the partners who have made possible the establishment and stewardship of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area, as well as individuals who have documents, records, photographs, or stories to contribute.  Please contact library.archives@umb.edu for more information.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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