Posted on

Boston’s “Hogmosh” of Neighborhoods, as Mapped by Bostonians

Putting a neighborhood on a map is harder than it sounds. If you live in a neighborhood with a name, you probably think you know its boundaries. But do your neighbors agree? Does the local government? Probably not.While neighborhoods have roots in concrete things like topography, physical barriers, and architecture, they’re also reflections of the people and communities that reside in them. That leaves their precise location open to interpretation.Boundaries can also be shifted by a huge array of factors, including demographic changes, road construction (or destruction), and commercial rezoning, to name just a few. Realtors often complicate things by stretching the boundaries of desirable neighborhoods to include nearby homes for sale, or simply inventing new names for areas they think are ripe for gentrification. Some of these names end up being adopted by the gentrifiers and eventually find their way onto maps. Other times, the locals rebel.The size of the resulting neighborhood discrepancies—and the degree to which people care about them—varies among cities. In a place like Boston, both of these factors tend toward the more extreme end of the spectrum. The city’s previous mayor described the neighborhood boundaries as a “hogmosh of undefined lines,” a situation made more volatile by Bostonians’ attitudes toward their home turf.“I think there is a lot of neighborhood pride in Boston, which can mean strong opinions about territory,” says cartographer Andy Woodruff of Axis Maps. “Everyone in this town seems to be out to prove they’re more legitimately ‘local’ than anyone else, so when it comes to neighborhoods there’s a lot of, ‘My family has lived in Dorchester for seven generations, so don’t try to tell me where the boundary is.’”Woodruff, along with cartographer (and native Bostonian) Tim Wallace of The New York Times, decided to map those strong opinions by asking Bostonians to put the neighborhoods in their minds onto a digital map. The result is the map at the top of this post, which shows the consensus. The darkest blue areas indicate where 100 percent of the mappers agree, with areas of lower agreement in lighter shades.You Might Also Like