5 Things You Didn’t Know About Jamaica Plain

December 20, 2013 6:15 AM

Snow covered path along Jamaica Pond.

Known to locals as “JP,” Jamaica Plain is home to a unique history and diverse communities. Here are five things you didn’t know about Jamaica Plain.
(Photo Credit: The Footlight Club)

(Photo Credit: The Footlight Club/Facebook)

1. America’s Oldest Community Theater

Many people from Jamaica Plain and the greater Boston area enjoy watching performances by the Footlight Club, America’s oldest community theatre. Since 1877, this club of local actors has performed in Eliot Hall, a cozy and charming theater. The club is welcome to members of all ages, and puts on performances for children, adult, and mixed audiences. Some notable plays include “Sweeney Todd,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The club also puts on musicals such as “Rent” and “Sound of Music.”

(Photo Credit: Emerald Necklace Conservatory)

(Photo Credit: Emerald Necklace Conservatory)

2. Green in Many Ways

Jamaica Plain is one of the greenest neighborhoods in Boston, figuratively and literally! Much of the Emerald Necklace flows through Jamaica Plain. Its biggest body of water, Jamaica Pond, is the largest body of fresh water in Boston. Whether you are walking, fishing, biking, or sailing around the pond, you will enjoy its natural beauty. During the spring and summer, sailboats and rowboats can be rented at the boathouse, which was built in 1912. A popular vista point by the pond is the Pinebank Promontory, where visitors can look at the pond through tall pine trees.

3. Home To An Engineering Pioneer

Ellen Swallow Richards, the first female graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lived in Jamaica Plain. Richards was also the first female teacher at MIT and became a pioneer in environmental engineering. Her Italian-style house, located at 32 Eliot St., became a National Historic Landmark in 1992.

(Photo Credit: Jamaica Plain Historical Society)

(Photo Credit: Jamaica Plain Historical Society)

4. Hidden Monuments

Jamaica Plain is the proud home to three Memorial Day monuments. The Civil War monument is located at the corner of Centre and South Streets, in the center of Jamaica Plain. The sculpture is a 34-feet-tall gothic archway with a pensive soldier standing on top. As for the World War I and II memorial, it is harder to find. A slab with fallen soldiers’ names is fixed to a five-foot stone that sits in the grass near the intersection at Centre Street and the Arborway. A third memorial, for the Vietnam War, is also hard to find because it blends into Jamaica Plain’s nature. Seven trees were planted in front of Curtis Hall, now seen as a living memorial. Additionally, a plaque for Jamaica Plain soldiers in the Revolutionary War is attached to a boulder located at the burial site near the Walter Street side of the Arboretum.

Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain. (WBZ-TV Photo)

Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain. (WBZ-TV Photo)

5. What’s in a name?

Many theories attempt to explain how Jamaica Plain got its name. One famous theory believes because the locals were benefiting from the Triangle Trade of sugar, rum and slaves. Specifically, the rum traded was called “Jamaica Rum,” as a reference to Jamaica cane sugar.

Kaylee Hill is a junior in the College of Communication at Boston University, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sociology. She is the Digital Media intern for CBS Boston this Fall. Follow Kaylee on Twitter: @KayleeEHill.