Dorchester Illustration no. 2260 Calf Pasture Pumping Station
Calf Pasture Pumping Station, photo from 2003
This building is located on Columbia Point in Dorchester surrounded by Harbor Point apartments, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Study of the United States Senate and UMass Boston.
The town of Dorchester was annexed to the City of Boston in 1870 partly due to the city’s desire to obtain a route to the sea for its sewage. “Whereas, in the opinion of the City Council, it has become necessary in order to complete the system of drainage and harbor improvements which have been devised for the benefit of Boston by the various commission which have had, and now have, these subjects in charge, to annex a portion of the whole of the town of Dorchester to the City of Boston.” – Order passed by City Council, Dec. 22, 1868, published in Reports in Relation to the Annexation of Dorchester to Boston, And the Act of the Legislature to Unite Said Town and City. Boston, 1869. Although the necessity for the annexation to make the route of the sewer was denied by some, the sewer was clearly a consideration leading up to the votes in favor of annexation. Indeed, by 1883, the Calf Pasture Pumping Station was a reality.
From the time of Dorchester’s settlement by English Puritans in June, 1630, until the late 18th century or early 19th, Columbia Point, a peninsula reaching into Dorchester Bay, was used as a calf pasture to keep calves separate from the main herd that was driven daily to what is now South Boston, the cow pasture. The land at Columbia Point was largely uninhabited even in the 1880s and was comprised of tidal marshland with an irregular shoreline, deeply cut by inlets. The original size of Columbia Point is estimated to have been about 14 acres. After land-making over many years, the size of Columbia Point is now about 350 acres. At the time of construction, the pumping station was located near the end of the peninsula. Now UMass Boston and the Massachusetts Archives building are situated between the Pumping Station and the end of the peninsula.
Designed by Boston City Architect, George Clough, in Romanesque Revival style, the Pumping Station opened in 1883 as Boston’s first sewage pumping station and is now the only remaining building on Columbia Point constructed prior to the 20th century. The facility played a vital role in improving public health beginning in the late 19thcentury. Within 35 years of its construction, the Calf Pasture Pumping Station was the keystone of a sewage disposal system that was a model for the rest of the country. The station was in operation as the Boston sewer system head-works until 1968, when a new treatment facility opened on Deer Island.
The pumping station along with the Gate House and West Shaft building are on the National Register of Historic Places. In recent years invasive vegetation has intruded into these structures. The Massachusetts Historical Commission has recommended that all three need to be secured against the weather – all door and window openings need to be secured; the structures need to be stabilized and mothballed to ensure they do not deteriorate while UMass undertakes a re-use study and develops plans for re-use and rehabilitation.