Amateur mapmaker gets Dot just right

McCarthy's Dorchester mapMcCarthy's Dorchester mapIf you’re a Dorchester-phile (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), then you have to get a look at the map that a man named Ed McCarthy has created depicting our neighborhood. The map — which McCarthy has sold one-by-one to friends and colleagues since 2008— is beautifully illustrated and pops with interesting flashbacks about Dorchester’s past. An image of the map is shown here at right. You can get a closer look by looking at the attachment below.

Much to the relief of this space, the map is also a well-drawn and accurate laying out of historic Dorchester. McCarthy is a veteran city ambulance driver who knows the streets of Boston as well as anyone could. Fascinated with Boston history and geography, he grew increasingly dissatisfied with the neighborhood maps that he saw in circulation in books and at City Hall. So he decided to work up one himself.

“I said, ‘I can do this,’ so I hit the library and did the research. I got registered at the state archives and spent a lot of time at the BPL. I tried to get every reference I could find and I packed it into the map.”

When he started the project in 2008, he was mainly working the streets of South Boston and Dorchester, so his first two maps focused on those neighborhoods. He has since branched out to create maps of all of the sections of Boston, including Mattapan, which was historically part of Dorchester but is now regarded as its own distinct neighborhood.

The hardest part, McCarthy acknowledges, was figuring out boundaries. Rather than rely on the suspect and ever-changing versions offered up by City Hall planners through the years, he did something novel: He asked his colleagues and people who actually live in the neighborhoods to tell him what they thought. Long before any sophisticated online project sought to map the city through “crowd-sourcing,” McCarthy did it the old-fashioned way, by doing some reporting and asking questions of folks during his tours as an EMT.

“When it comes down to it, it’s what the neighborhood people say that guided me,” said McCarthy, who now works the night shift out of Brighton. “Fortunately, working on the ambulance, I had no shortage of people tell me, ‘This is Roxbury or this is Dorchester.’ I talked to a lot of people who work in public safety and live in the area. I’m very pleased most townies agree these maps are very accurate.”

McCarthy sold his 74th map this week. He usually gets them printed up individually as orders come in – quite randomly – from interested folks who stumble into his work during house parties or office meetings. “It goes very slowly, but I’m satisfied with that because there’s more of personal touch to it.”

McCarthy sells the un-framed, 24-x-36 inch full-color prints for $100 apiece. To order one, send him an e-mail at

Home for the holidays

There’s a strong temptation this season to avoid the lines, the clogged parking lots, and all the aggravation associated with holiday gift-seeking by going all-in with a more comfortable online experience. But, this season, why not support our homegrown business community — especially those independently owned and operated brick and mortar stores that still anchor our business district.
The Main Streets organizations in several local villages have done good work organizing merchants to participate in holiday special events, including a “Deck the Windows” contest aimed at bringing a festive, inviting flair to the districts. This week, the city is sponsoring a citywide survey on its website to choose the best of the bunch (see below).

Vote for favorite your storefront display
Public voting has begun in the city’s Deck the Windows of Boston Main Streets contest, a friendly competition that asks merchants to decorate their storefronts for the holidays. Residents are encouraged to vote online for their favorite holiday-themed windows. Last week, local judges reviewed windows in each of the Boston Main Streets districts and submitted a winner from each of the 20 Main Street districts. The public voting stage of the contest will conclude on Dec. 18. The local finalists include: Ashley’s Breakfast Shop in Bowdoin/Geneva; A Sweet Place in Fields Corner; Reggae on the Grill in Four Corners; Innovative Fashions & Bridal in Mattapan Square; and A&M Bargain Store in Upham’s Corner. Go to to vote.

– Bill Forry


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