The View From Spectacle Island (Audio Slideshow)

Island visitors scrambled for shelter as a storm approached.
Island visitors scrambled for shelter as a storm approached. (All photos by Mark Micheli)

(Click here or the photo above to see a slideshow of Spectacle Island. To watch it full screen, click on the arrows in the lower right corner of the slideshow.)

This place used to be a dump. But you wouldn’t know that now.

Spectacle Island, one of the closest islands to Boston in the harbor, is now pastural, peaceful, and offers some of the best views of the Boston skyline.  But starting in the late 1850s, this island was abused: first by locating a repulsively pungent factory that rendered dead horses for hides, horsehair and glue there and later in 1921 by turning it into a solid waste dump for the City of Boston.

The dumping of garbage there ended in 1959 but it wasn’t until the 1990s that a plan to revive the island began. Fill from Boston’s Third Harbor Tunnel project, commonly referred to as the “Big Dig”, was used to cap the former dump and create a landscaped park.

In the early 19th century, before it was abused, Spectacle Island was a resort for Bostonians and featured two hotels where illegal gambling allegedly flourished.

The island now has returned to its earliest roots, before man was allowed to tinker with it. And it’s expected to stay that way because all of the Boston Harbor Islands became part of the national park system in 1996 and are protected from development.

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