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Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Fort Point

A guide to Boston’s transformed waterfront


Few city neighborhoods have undergone as dramatic a transformation as Fort Point has over the past few years. Comprising about 100 waterfront acres in South Boston, the area has become Boston’s hottest—and hippest—district, home to museums, famous restaurants, and a vibrant artist enclave.

The neighborhood was named for a long-departed fort built on a hill there during the colonial period, when the area’s topography was quite different. The hill’s height and location by the sea made it ideal for positioning defensive cannons. The area was the site of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and was later developed by the Boston Wharf Company in the 1830s to house its vast supply of sugar and molasses and to store cargo from local rails and ships docking in Boston Harbor. Today, the land is flat (the hill was leveled in the late 1800s) and landfill has extended the shoreline markedly.

Fort Point, Boston Harbor Walk

Boston HarborWalk

After warehousing and manufacturing declined in the 20th century, Fort Point was largely abandoned. Artists began moving into the empty warehouses in the 1970s, attracted by low rents. More than 300 artists call the neighborhood home now, making it one of New England’s largest artist enclaves, and their work fills nearby galleries. But with soaring rents and the arrival of major corporations, including pharmaceutical giant Vertex, and most recently, General Electric, artists are waging a constant battle to keep studio space affordable.

With a goal of transforming the neighborhood into a thriving business and residential area, the Boston Planning and Development Agency and former Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) created the 100 Acres Master Planning Process in 2006, adding 11 acres of public space. Emphasizing its new identity, Fort Point has even been given a new name, the Innovation District, and the part of the neighborhood on Boston Harbor is also called the South Boston Waterfront.

The nonprofit Friends of Fort Point Channel, consisting of area business leaders and residents, arranges community events like outdoor concerts, artist receptions, and fitness classes.

Below is BU Today’s list of places to investigate, nosh, and shop. Many of the stores and places of interest are right on the water, and the cool ocean breezes can cause a chill, so dress appropriately and be prepared to walk since the neighborhood is spread out.
Fort Point, South Station

South Station
700 Atlantic Ave.

South Station is the gateway to Fort Point by public transit. You’ll know this spot if you’ve ever taken a Bolt Bus, Mega Bus, or Amtrak train. The neoclassical revival–style station opened in 1899 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the elegant main terminal, you’ll notice a food court with more than a dozen fast food eateries offering cuisine for hungry travelers.

From here you can hop on the MBTA’s Silver Line, with several stops along the neighborhood. While the area lends itself to walking, the bus is handy in inclement weather.

Boston HarborWalk

The HarborWalk was built to connect pedestrians to Boston Harbor, no longer the dirtiest harbor in America thanks to a 20-year, $4.5-billion cleanup. Nearly 39 miles of the planned 47-mile path winding from East Boston to Dorchester is now complete. The path connects neighborhoods and links recreational, cultural, and historic attractions and is landscaped with flowers and trees, and sculptures and informative plaques can be found as well.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
600 Atlantic Ave.

The Federal Reserve Bank is one of 12 Federal Reserve banks nationwide making up the country’s central banking system. Completed in 1974, the building looms high above as you walk along the HarborWalk from South Station toward the neighborhood. At just over 600 feet, the 33-story building is one of the city’s tallest; it does not offer public tours. Sheathed in anodized aluminum, it is often referred to as the “venetian blind building” because of its exterior design. An opening near ground level allows sea breezes to pass through. Check out two sculptures on the grounds: Life Force, by David Bakalar, and Ominous Icon #7, by Dennis Kowal.

Boston, Fort Point Artist Gallery

Fort Point Artist Gallery, 300 Summer St., M1

Fort Point Arts Community Gallery
300 Summer St.

The nonprofit Fort Point Arts Community was founded in 1980 with the goal of promoting local artists. Their work can be seen all over the neighborhood, but this space offers not only a gallery, but also studio spaces for artists, and stands out from others on the street because of its sweeping sculptural overhang. Each fall and spring, the community hosts a popular Open Studios event, when more than 150 artists display their work and are on hand to answer questions and talk about their creative process.

John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse
One Courthouse Way

This large brick federal courthouse is named for legendary South Boston politician Joe Moakley, who served in Congress for 28 years and was a public servant for more than 50 and died in 2001. Designed by Henry Cobb, the same architect responsible for Boston’s John Hancock Tower, it is home to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, houses 27 courtrooms, and commands much of Fan Pier. Visitors can take a free hour-long tour highlighting its art and architecture Tuesday through Friday. An added bonus is the breathtaking views of Boston Harbor. The law library on the top floor and galleries with rotating art exhibitions are open to the public.
The HarborWalk passes by here, with informative panels about the history of the area, as well as native plantings. There are picnic tables and chairs outside for weary strollers and public restrooms next to the Daily Catch restaurant. The courthouse has a cafeteria that’s open to the public. Catch the Boston Light Tour, which goes out to Little Brewster Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands, here.

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
306 Congress St.

Immerse yourself in history at this unique floating museum on the Congress Street Bridge, which promises a multisensory experience. Visitors not only learn about the events that led to the American Revolution, but can be part of the action, as actors help re-create the events of that fateful December 1773 night. Those assigned different parts are given a chance to dump “tea” over the side of one of the full-scale, authentically restored 18th-century sailing vessels, just like the Sons of Liberty did more than 240 years ago. The museum features the Robinson Half Chest, one of only two known Boston Tea Party tea chests still in existence. Stop by Abigail’s Tea Room for a quick lunch or snack.

Fort Point, Boston Children's Museum

Boston Children’s Museum, 308 Congress St.

Boston Children’s Museum
308 Congress St.

You can’t walk past the Boston Children’s Museum without noticing the giant inflatable Arthur or the 40-foot-tall Hood milk bottle. This is the second-oldest children’s museum in the country and one of the best—it underwent a $47 million renovation in 2007 and is now LEED-certified. The former wool warehouse on Children’s Wharf isn’t just for kids (although adults without children must show a driver’s license or a passport). There’s lots to do to make you feel like a kid again, like the Japanese silk merchant’s house, painstakingly transported from Japan, and a hands-on art studio. It’s one of the only children’s museums in the world to maintain its own collections, like dolls and dollhouses, Americana, natural history, global culture, Native American and Japanese artifacts, of more than 50,000 items. Regular admission is a tad steep ($17 for adults and children one to 15), but you can enjoy the museum for just $1 on Friday nights from 5 to 9 pm. It’s a great place to take restless kids on a rainy day.

Boston Fire Museum
344 Congress St.

The Boston Fire Department, which traces its roots back to 1678, is one of the oldest in the country, and this museum has firefighting memorabilia that recalls moments from its proud history. Housed in a former firehouse, the museum displays antique fire alarms, three historic firetrucks, old photographs, and some of the first equipment used by Boston firefighters to battle blazes. Open only on Saturdays (free admission, but a donation is appreciated) or by appointment.

Boston, Fort Point neighborhood, Boston Fire Museum

Boston Fire Museum, 344 Congress St.

348 Congress St.

All bars should be like this one. You take a seat and tell the bartender how you’re feeling that day. The bartender talks to you, finding out what tastes and flavors you like and don’t like, then whips up something especially for you. It is on the pricier side, but the classy ambience and craft cocktails are worth the money. Drink also serves small bites. Come early, because there is often a line to get in. It’s run by James Beard Award–winner Barbara Lynch, one of the city’s most successful restaurateurs.

Lucky’s Lounge
355 Congress St.

There’s only a small, easy-to-miss awning out front, but descend the stairs into Lucky’s Lounge and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived at a swanky speakeasy. Live bands play Motown, funk, and blues five days a week. The lounge is famous for its weekend brunch—with live Sinatra covers (Sunday only) and dishes like the Ol’ Blue Eyes Benedict (poached eggs, smoked ham, and hollandaise sauce on an English muffin). For dinner, try the poutine, steak tips, or one of Lucky’s salads, topped with shrimp, chicken, or steak. There’s a wide selection of beers and cocktails, and it’s a great spot for dancing. Best of all, there are happy hour specials from 4 to 6 pm, Monday through Friday.

The Smoke Shop
343 Congress St.

This lively barbecue joint is noted chef and restaurateur Andy Husbands’ newest culinary venture, expanding on his successful Kendall Square Smoke Shop. Opened in November 2017, it has barbecue plates, baskets, and sandwiches, as well as the Pit Master—a large selection of Smoke Shop’s barbecue and sides (eight-person minimum). You’ll also find a bar with flat-screen TVs for watching local games and over 200—yes, you read that right—whiskeys. With mouthwatering options like BBQ fries, daily specials, and a rotating beer menu, don’t miss this BBQ gold mine.


The Smoke Shop, 343 Congress St.

Trillium Brewing Co.
369 Congress St.

Owned and operated by Jean-Claude and Esther Tetreault, Trillium opened in March 2013, joining Boston’s better-known breweries, Harpoon and Samuel Adams. It produces a handful of ales, available for purchase by the bottle, pack, or growler—no sampling or full pours at this, the flagship, location. Adorned with handcrafted wooden features, the place has a farmhouse feel. Its locally inspired beers are made from artisanal ingredients and practices. Grab a growler and fill it with the Summer Street IPA, a double-dry IPA with hints of tangerine, pine resin, and green pear. Another location has sprouted up in Canton (with a taproom), and a seasonal beer garden in Roslindale. You can also find its brews at local watering holes such as the Publick HouseLuLu’s, and Lord Hobo.

Row 34
383 Congress St.

With its chic, industrial interior and emphasis on fresh seafood, Row 34 captures the up-and-coming, by-the-sea essence of Fort Point. The neighborhood hotspot opened in a former steel factory in 2013, as a sister restaurant to Kenmore Square‘s Island Creek Oyster Bar, and has attracted a lot of well-deserved buzz, landing on Zagat’s list of Boston’s Best Seafood Restaurants and garnering a Boston Globe rave review. The robust raw bar menu, offers a variety of oysters—along with shrimp cocktail, lobster, smoked and cured fish, and ceviche—and is the stuff of seafood lovers’ dreams. Try the warm buttered lobster roll, beer-battered fish and chips, or grilled salmon with Brussels sprouts, bacon, and pumpkin. Take advantage of one of the ever-changing 24 beers on tap or the extensive wine list to complement the savory offerings. Row 34 is open for lunch, midday snacks, dinner, and Sunday brunch.

Boston, Fort Point neighborhood, Flour Bakery

Flour Bakery and Cafe, 12 Farnsworth St. #1

Flour Bakery & Cafe
12 Farnsworth St.

The line stretches to the door at this bakery-restaurant helmed by chef and owner Joanne Chang, and the chalkboard menus on the walls will make your mouth water no matter what the time of day. For breakfast, try a breakfast cookie, a sticky bun, or the sugar brioche bun. For lunch, there’s the roast beef sandwich (horseradish, crispy onions, and tomato) or the grilled cauliflower melt (Oaxaca cheese, smoked poblano relish, and pumpkin seed butter). There are also offers take-home dinner specials that change every week. You might see Chang behind the counter rolling croissants. A Harvard grad, she has expanded Flour to eight other locations in Boston and Cambridge, and with her husband also runs the Asian fusion restaurant Myers & Chang in the South End. Flour provides plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, and offers a variety of cooking classes for bakers of all ages. Chang switches up the pastries monthly, so visit early and often to discover your favorites.

Oak + Rowan
321 A St.

When restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell opened her third Boston restaurant, Oak + Rowan, in November 2016, she aimed for a menu and a vibe that brought together the best aspects of land and sea. With innovative dishes, such as salt meadow farm lamb, bone-in prime beef ribeye, and clam and pork chowder, she does just that. The 150-seat eatery serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, and has a long bar for cocktail sipping and two private dining rooms. With its oaky interior, fine food, and salt-water scent courtesy of the nearby harbor, Oak + Rowan is a must-visit.

Oak + Rowan, 321 A St.

Oak + Rowan, 321 A St.

Blue Dragon
324 A St.

Blue Dragon is an Asian gastropub with a fun, neighborhood feel and some tasty tapas. Created by award-winning chef Ming Tsai, who specializes in East-meets-West cuisine and has earned a national following with his PBS show Simply Ming, the menu has snacks like Japanese sweet potato chips with charred scallion and meat jus dip, and platters to share. Try the pupu platter for two, coconut shrimp balls, red roast duck rolls, pineapple sweet and sour pork ribs, Blue Dragon chicken wings, and Thai beef satay. Head to the bar for a craft beer, premium sake, or one of the signature cocktails, such as the Thai basil smash made from Thai basil–infused rye, lemon, Thai basil, and ginger beer. This spot, named one of Zagat’s Boston’s Best Asian Restaurants, is well worth a try.

Fort Point, The Barking Crab

The Barking Crab, 88 Sleeper St.

The Barking Crab
88 Sleeper St.

This is the place to eat when the weather gets nice, with its spectacular view of the Fort Point Channel and the Boston skyline from outdoor picnic tables. Try either of two lobster rolls—the traditional—chilled lobster salad with mayonnaise, celery, and fresh lemon, served on a toasted roll—or the Naked Lobster Roll, with a bigger serving of warm lobster meat, tossed with hot drawn butter. The restaurant also serves raw oysters, fried scallops and shrimp, and steamed mussels. Landlubbers will be happy with the great burgers.

Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Ave.

The Institute of Contemporary Art is housed in a sleek modern building that looks like it’s suspended over the water, and offers a first-class showcase of contemporary art and media, including film, video, performance, and literature. The permanent collection has works by artists Tara Donovan, Shepard Fairey, Alex Hubbard, Alice Neel, and Cindy Sherman. On Thursday nights, the museum offers free admission, or you can attend one of the popular First Fridays, 21+ events held on the first Friday of each month, featuring guest DJs, gallery talks, live performances, and specialty drinks inspired by the museum’s current collection.

Legal Harborside
270 Northern Ave.

The famed Legal Sea Foods chain’s flagship property has three floors—and three separate dining options—to choose from. The first floor is a typical Legal’s, with an outdoor deck and patio doors open in nice weather; the second floor is fine dining (Parents Weekend or Commencement Weekend, anyone?); and the third floor has an outdoor fireplace and a retractable roof. The food isn’t cheap, but anyone can afford a cup of the clam chowder that has been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981. Also try Legal Test Kitchen, across the street at 225 Northern Ave., for inventive, multicultural, and seasonal dishes from the restaurant.

Institute of Contemporary Art

Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave.

Harpoon Brewery
306 Northern Ave.

Harpoon was given the first beer-brewing permit in Massachusetts in 25 years when it launched in 1987. Its beers are popular at bars around the country, and the brewery has won many awards for inventive concoctions. As brewery tours go, this one’s pretty rad. For a $5 donation to charity, visitors see the working facility and can sample unfiltered beer from a giant vat. At tour’s end, you can use your souvenir glass to try all the beer you want at the minibar (you must be 21+). Stop by the brewery’s popular beer hall, where you can order flights, pints, and fresh-baked soft pretzels. Harpoon gets crowded on weekends, so be prepared to wait in line on a Saturday or Sunday.

One Marina Park Dr.

As its name implies, this Asian restaurant and lounge is large (14,000 square feet) and luxurious. Run by Big Night Entertainment Group, which also operates local hot spot Red Lantern, it has a dazzling interior that combines traces of ancient China with a contemporary twist. It can accommodate big groups and offers plates ideal for sharing, such as pot stickers, scallion pancakes, and lobster rangoon. On Mondays at 5 pm, you can order the all-you-can-eat sushi special for $29. Wash it all down with a refreshing Mai Tai.

The Lawn On D
420 D St.

When the weather turns warm, head to the Lawn On D. This first-of-its-kind outdoor interactive park is run by the Massachusetts Convention Authority with financial support from Citizen’s Bank. What began as an experiment in 2014 has quickly turned into a popular outdoor playground for visitors of all ages. It’s open May through October and offers a fun place to relax in the sun. You can play a number of games including bocce, ping-pong, cornhole, and Jenga (equipment provided), as well as giant chess or lawn checkers. Or you can unwind on one of the iconic solar-powered LED-illuminated circular swings. The park also offers concessions and hosts a variety of special happenings, like concerts, movie screenings, and sporting events. Straddling the South Boston Waterfront and the South Boston neighborhoods, the Lawn is accessible from anywhere in Fort Point.

Getting thereBy public transportation, take the MBTA Red Line to South Station and cross the bridge over Fort Point Channel. Or, also at South Station, hop on the Silver Line waterfront bus, which runs through the neighborhood.

View Fort Point in a larger map

Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the Fort Point area.

Explore other area neighborhoods here.

This story originally ran July 18, 2011; it has been updated to include new locations and current information.

Have a suggestion for a neighborhood you would like to see featured on BU Today? Leave it in the Comment section below.


3 Comments on Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Fort Point

  • Julia on 09.27.2013 at 8:14 am

    This is SOUTH BOSTON (aka southie) not the South End. Big difference. Two entirely different neighborhoods. People confuse them all the time, but they are not the same place.

    • Julia on 09.27.2013 at 6:01 pm

      I didn’t notice that you guys revised the article base on my first comment. Much appreciated!

  • WHB on 09.27.2013 at 9:44 am

    Visit the Fort Point Theater Company (http://www.fortpointtheatrechannel.org), too! I saw Indiscreet Discretion there last year, and it was amazing.

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