By Josh Resnek
The commissioning of the Encore water shuttle and ferry recently represents only the third ferry effort connecting Boston with communities on the Northern shore of the Mystic River in almost the 400 year history of Boston Harbor.
Despite the ballyhoo about the expense of the new ferries, which were constructed for millions of dollars by Encore, the bottom line is that the continuously running ferry and shuttle now connecting Everett with other parts of Boston Harbor is an extraordinary sensation and a very real bit of new maritime history.
Almost 40 years have passed since the last failed ferry and shuttle effort to Boston, when private developers tried to link up Boston with a ferry which was based on Chelsea creek slightly to the east of where the salt is piled today.
Before that, it was the Winnisimmet Ferry, the first ferry in New England, probably in North America, between Winnisimmet, Charlestown, and Boston. On May 18, 1631 Theodore Williams started a ferry between Winnisimmet (which is now Chelsea) and Charlestown, with Everett right across from it. It charged three pennies a person. A second ferry was granted to Samuel Maverick in September, 163. The second ferry ran from Windmill Hill (Cops Hill) Boston to Winnisimmet. The two new ferries were merged into one and ran continuously for more than 300 years with the last ferry ride being made from Chelsea to Charlestown in 1939.
From sail boats, the original ferries morphed into steam-driven craft which again evolved into steel maritime craft capable of carrying automobiles with names like Tom Thumb, Byron, Boston, and Chelsea. With the advent of the Chelsea ferry the growth of Chelsea was guaranteed and was accomplished during a very swift period of time.
The new Encore ferry effort is a genuine effort to interconnect through the use of Boston’s major waterway, the contiguous communities that exist on both sides of the river. While it is designed to draw thousands of visitors by ferry to the Encore casino and hotel site, it has also unwittingly set itself up as an extraordinary new piece of maritime history.