Lincoln Wharf is a 191-unit condominium on the waterfront in Boston’s historic North End. The wharf itself, originally named Lincoln’s Wharf, dates back to the late 1700s.
After some 100 years as a general wharf and as a dock for ships that carried thousands of immigrants from Canada, Lincoln Wharf was selected as the site for a coal-fired electric power plant, needed for the new Boston Street Railway. Lincoln Power Station, built on tidal fill and supported by 12,000 wooden pilings, went into operation in 1901. Tidal waters keep the pilings from rotting. A large shed at water’s edge stored coal brought in by ship. The plant’s two tall brick smokestacks were a landmark along the Boston waterfront. The Sumner Tunnel, built later to connect the North End to East Boston, runs partly beneath the wharf. The power plant operated until the mid-1970s.
In the early 1980s, developers acquired the building from the MBTA, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, to convert it into a condominium, the San Marco/Lincoln Wharf Condominium Trust. As part of the development agreement, about one-quarter of the units were sold as “affordable” while the rest were sold at market prices. No “affordable” units exist as such today, and are assessed and sold at market prices. The development project involved removal of the huge boilers and electric power generators, removal of the coal bins, and the demolition of the tall smokestacks. This project, like much in the North End, was historic: it was America's first conversion of a power plant into residents.
The conversion of the 10-story Lincoln Power Station was completed in the late 1980s, and all units were sold by 1990. The building features an inner, roofed-in atrium. The exterior brickwork is of a classic pattern used for public structures in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To make room for a few windows, inconsiderate developers, with help of brilliant architects with no sense of history, partially destroyed a large granite sign on the north side of the building to make room for two windows. The sign now reads “LINCOL OWER S N 1901”. Luckily they did not destroy a 10-foot-tall copper eagle on the front of the building, at the roofline. Depending on which side they face, units offer various views: Boston Harbor, the South Boston waterfront, the financial district and downtown skyline, East Boston, Charlestown and the Navy Yard, “Old Ironsides”, the new Leonard Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, the Tobin Bridge over Mystic River, the inner harbor, TD Garden, and the Old North Church and North End rooftops. Thirty units have balconies offering only views of the inner atrium.
Lincoln Wharf is next to Battery Wharf, from which British soldiers rowed across Boston Harbor to Charlestown on June 17, 1775, to fight the Battle of Bunker Hill. Adjacent to Battery Wharf is the Boston Coast Guard Station. Here, the USS Constitution was built at what was then Edmund Hartt’s shipyard. Launched on October 21, 1797, the ship led a U.S. squadron that conquered Tripoli in Libya, putting a halt to the North African Barbary pirates’ nefarious attacks on American merchant ships and enslavement of American sailors. The ship won the nickname “Old Ironsides” in a battle in the War of 1812. The three-masted frigate, the world’s oldest commissioned naval warship afloat, is based at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Residents of Lincoln Wharf are treated to a thrilling sight as this beautifully maintained U.S. Navy ship -- a ship that never lost a battle -- is sailed past the building every Fourth of July and on other holidays. It went into dry-dock in 2014 for major maintenance until 2018.
- Following a $300 million construction project completed in 2009, Battery Wharf is home to the 150-room Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel, which is the only boutique hotel on Boston Harbor. It includes the Aragosta Bar and Bistro, the Boston Maritime Museum, commercial space, and 104 condominiums, some of the most elegant on the waterfront.
Burroughs Wharf condominium was built on a wharf between Lincoln Wharf and Battery Wharf shortly after the power plant’s conversion to condos was complete.
In the 1970s, Union Wharf, next to Lincoln Wharf to the south, became one of the first of the old granite warehouses on the Boston waterfront to be converted to condos. Other converted buildings near Lincoln Wharf include Lewis and Commercial wharves, The Mariner (formerly a candy factory), and The Prince Building (once the home of the Prince Spaghetti Co.).
With the removal in 2004 of the traffic-clogged elevated Central Artery expressway, built in the 1950s and slashing through the city, the North End is now “reconnected” to downtown Boston, following the $22 billion dollar Big Dig that created the Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill tunnel. Tip O’Neill, a Cambridge Democrat and the highly respected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was instrumental in getting Federal funding to partially pay for the Big Dig. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, conceived originally as a quiet, peaceful, garden and park, is on the surface above the tunnel. The Greenway is controlled by a “non-profit” Conservancy, whose goal seems to be to turn the public park into a money-making commercialized venue for private events, promotions, food trucks, arts and crafts sales, and entertainment.
Hanover St., the North End’s busy “main drag”, which was cut off by the Artery, once again runs from City Hall Plaza (until the 1960s, it was the famous Scollay Square), all the way to the waterfront and Commercial St. and the Coast Guard Station. One other newly-opened historic street from the 1700s, State St., runs from the Old State House and out to Long Wharf Park, at the end of the wharf, and the New England Aquarium.
The North End, with an area of one-third of a square mile and a resident population of about 10,000, is the oldest part of Boston and has played an important role in American history. It is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. A large part of Boston’s Freedom Trail winds through the old, narrow streets. A few blocks from Lincoln Wharf is Old North Church, built in 1723. Each year, on April 18, the church hosts its Lantern Ceremony, celebrating the night in 1775 when two lanterns were displayed from Old North's steeple, signaling Paul Revere to ride to warn Patriots that British soldiers were crossing the harbor to march to Lexington and Concord to seize rebel arms. Longfellow's immortal poem "Paul Revere's Ride" is read as part of the Lantern Ceremony. Old North is still an active Episcopalian church. It is open to the public, with volunteer guides describing its fascinating history.
St. Stephen’s Church, on Hanover St. opposite Old North, is Boston’s only surviving church designed by the great American architect, Charles Bulfinch. (Bulfinch also designed the Massachusetts State House and was one of the architects of the U.S. Capitol.) St. Stephen's, originally Congregational and later Unitarian, was acquired by the Catholic Diocese of Boston in 1862 to accommodate the growing number of Irish immigrants settling in the North End. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of President Kennedy and of the late Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, was baptized here in 1890, and her funeral mass was held there in 1995. She was born a few blocks away on Sun Court Street. St. Stephen's has been restored to its original Colonial interior and exterior. Visitors are welcome.
Other historic sites in the North End include Paul Revere’s home, built about 1680, making it the oldest building in central Boston; Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, one of Boston’s oldest cemeteries; and St. Leonard’s Church, dedicated in 1873 and the first Catholic church that Italian immigrants built in New England.
The Paul Revere Mall -- not a shopping center, but an open park area, known to old timers as “The Prado” -- is a “must” stop for speeches by Presidential candidates campaigning in Boston. To be photographed shaking hands with local politicians and residents, with the famous statue of Paul Revere (by Cyrus Dallin) and the Old North Church in the background, is classic Americana. After the speech, a candidate definitely must visit Mike’s or Modern Pastry for a cannoli. Indeed, North End delicacies have been often served in the White House. Mitt Romney did not follow the cannoli tradition, and we know how he ended up. He had his two presidential campaign headquarters in the North End, at office building, across Commercial Street from a parking garage building, the site of the famous Brink’s robbery in 1950. The office building is now part of Elliot School.
The North End is home to some 100 restaurants (the number depends on who is counting and which area is included in the North End). Several -- such as Mother Anna’s and Cantina Italiana -- are over 75 years old, still family-owned, and still offering delightful dishes as your grandmother would make -- assuming you are lucky enough to have an Italian grandmother or have a good friend who does. Our favorite, Ida’s, closed in 2014 after 63 years. A huge loss to the neighborhood. Most restaurants are Italian, of course, but places with other specialties, like Mexican and sushi, are being established. Of course, 75 years is young compared with nearby Durgin-Park and the Union Oyster House, which have been serving Yankee dishes since the 1820s and which claim to be the oldest continually-operating restaurants in America.
The North End has always been home to immigrants -- the original Puritan settlers in 1630, then Irish in the mid-1800s, and Italians, Jews and Portuguese in the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s . By the 1940s, the North End was almost all Italian, and it remained so until the 1980s when it was “discovered” by young career people. They are attracted to the North End’s safe, friendly, old-fashioned community and neighborhood and its being a short walk to downtown Boston, the Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market shops and restaurants, and TD Garden, formerly known as Boston Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. But the North End still retains its Italian flavor and identity. In the summer, Italian social and charitable societies sponsor colorful “feasts” to honor patron saints of immigrants’ home towns.
The North End has many community associations, Italian societies, sports clubs, ball fields, an indoor hockey rink, bocce courts, a branch of the Boston Public Library, outdoor swimming pool, a parochial school, and the K-8 Eliot School, Boston’s oldest continuously run public elementary school, tracing its roots to 1713. Its graduates include John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, mayor of Boston in the early 1900s and father of Rose Kennedy. The North Bennet St. School, founded in 1885, which offers courses in trades and fine craftsmanship, recently moved from its original location to a much larger, new building on North Street.
One of the most appreciated institutions is the North End/Waterfront Community Health Center, known a NEW/Health, which provides excellent, comprehensive primary care and services. It offers walk-in emergency visits to doctors, and has dental, optometry, pediatrics, laboratory work, X-ray, and other medical services. It is part of Massachusetts General Hospital, in the nearby West End.
The community's most active civic group dedicated to preserving the neighborhood's residential and historic character is the North End/Waterfront Residents' Association, NEWRA, www.newra.org. Membership is open to all residents and all meetings are public. The North End Waterfront Neighborhood Council, NEWNC, is an eight-member group elected by residents of the neighborhood.
A local blog, www.northendwaterfront.com, is an excellent source of up-to-the minute "news and views" about the neighborhood.
Although the North End has no supermarket in the neighborhood, despite years of promises, plans and put-offs by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, it does have several Italian grocery stores, butcher shops, a green grocer, fish market, convenience stores, wine and spirits shops, a chain drug store, and an excellent hardware store. The Green Cross Pharmacy is an “Italian” drug store and pharmacy serving the community for over 100 years. Polcari’s, founded in the 1930s, offers Boston’s most extensive roasted coffee selection as well as spices and Italian foods. Its shop is a working “museum” of an old grocery store. Hanover and adjacent streets have a growing number of specialty retail shops. On Fridays and Saturdays, the open-air Haymarket “pushcarts” offer fruit, produce and seafood at bargain prices, and attract thousands of shoppers. The stands, numbering about 200, were once run entirely by Italians, are now operated by people from all over the globe – a real American melting pot. A farmers market, with Massachusetts products, operates during the summer at Haymarket on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Adjacent to and west of the North End is an area known as the Bulfinch Triangle, which includes TD Garden (the old Boston Garden), home of the Celtics and Bruins. The Triangle area is undergoing change from old commercial and light industry buildings and sports bars to high-rise apartments and condos and commercial buildings. Towering high-rises are proposed to replace Government Center Garage and are to be built in front of TD Garden. Unfortunately, major upgrades to infrastructure, such as public transportation, open space, utilities, and street traffic have not been considered by the BRA in granting construction permits, which will create several thousand new residences and bring tens of thousands workers to the area daily.
Lincoln Wharf reflects the changes in the North End, with the many older local North End residents passing on, and being replaced by younger people -- and retirees -- from outside the neighborhood.
For Lincoln Wharf sales and rental information, please contact any North End or Waterfront realtor or broker.
Please note that the writer, and holder of this Web site, is not a broker or agent, but has been an owner/resident of Lincoln Wharf since the condo was formed.
Lincoln Wharf Unit 715
357 Commercial St.
Boston, MA 02109
Phone: 617 -742 1264
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