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A local's guide to Dorchester, Boston's largest neighborhood

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Matt Malloy, South End transplant, is CEO of new Dorchester Brewing Co.

Matt Malloy, co-founder and CEO of the new Dorchester Brewing Co. at 1250 Massachusetts Avenue, takes us through the operation's namesake, Boston's largest neighborhood by area and one of its most diverse demographically and real estate-wise. Yes, it's another Curbed Boston People's Guide.

A gorgeous Queen Anne house exterior in Dorchester
The Queen Anne Romanesque Revival at 35 Melville Avenue exemplifies Dot's property diversity.
Gibson Sotheby's

How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

I've lived in Dorchester since January 2005. Moved here from the South End. I live in an area called Ashmont Hill. I restored a house there and have a big back yard that I love to spend time in.

How has it changed since you moved in?

Over the last 10 years, I've noticed a lot of people renovating their homes. There is real pride in these Dorchester neighborhoods. Not just basic renovations, but really meticulous renovations. More great restaurants are opening up now. More energy. More exciting innovations and community groups. Dorchester is alive and thriving. You can tell it is starting to go through a massive transformation in many ways.

The James Blake House at 735 Columbia Road dates from around 1661, and is considered Boston's oldest house.
The James Blake House at 735 Columbia Road dates from around 1661, and is considered Boston's oldest house.
Daderot via Wikipedia

Tell us something(s) we don't know about it.

Wow—there are many things most people don't know about Dorchester. There is amazing history. For instance, the oldest home in Boston is in Dorchester. People should check out the Dorchester Historical Society. And, yes, there is one.

Dorchester is massive and there are so many cool and interesting neighborhoods. There are well-known neighborhoods like Savin Hill and Ashmont that are becoming increasingly popular. But many people in Boston haven’t spent time in our less widely known neighborhoods like Port Norfolk, Clam Point, Meetinghouse Hill, and the Polish Triangle among others.

Dorchester was its own separate city until 1870 when it became part of Boston. If Dorchester were its own separate city, I believe it would be the fifth-largest city in Massachusetts.

It's beautiful here. When people come to my house they always say, 'I never knew this neighborhood existed. It's so nice here.' And I always laugh to myself because Dorchester is amazing and they have preconceived notions from the lopsided coverage it always seems to get on the news. People need to explore Dorchester more.

Finally, it's a real neighborhood. When we first moved in, neighbors brought us cookies and brownies. Every Christmas people are always dropping off a thoughtful gift or cards. I am still blown away every day at how amazingly wonderful and diverse my neighbors are. I feel lucky to live here. Oh, and Halloween, over 400 kids come to our house. I love Halloween again.

What are some the misconceptions about Dot?

1: It's dangerous... no, it's not. There are pockets, just like everywhere, where you may need to be more careful.

2: There aren't great restaurants. Wow. So many new restaurants and places to go here. Ashmont Grill. Dbar. Steel & Rye. Now Dorset Hall.

3: It's all Irish. Yes. There is a large population of Irish (my last name is Malloy, and I love hearing Gaelic spoken at a local bakery), but, more importantly, it's incredibly diverse and I live here because of that diversity. I moved out of the South End because it simply changed too much. I love living in a neighborhood where it's a true melting pot.

Name three of its hidden gems.

1: The Dorchester Historical Society. Go to an open house there. Very cool. The inside of the barn is amazing.

2: Go on the Ashmont Hill house tour this June. You'll be able to go into a bunch of cool old homes. You'll be blown away. It's a great way to see these old houses from the late 1800s.

3: Walk the Neponset River Reservation. Great birds. Beautiful river. Many people that live here don't know it's here or have never walked it. Walk it.

Busy cafe and bakery scene at home.stead in Dorchester
Home.stead bakery and cafe shortly after its opening at 1448 Dorchester Avenue.
Janice Checchio via home.stead

Five years from now—what does it look like real estate- and streetscape-wise?

Well, first off, there will be a new brewery in Dorchester that we hope turns into a great location for the community to get together—beer is about community, not just great craft beer.

Another community-centered location is hoping to open up soon in Upham’s Corner, a bike shop and café called Sip & Spoke. There is about to be an explosion of new development in the Ashmont area by Trinity Development (great developers). Dot Block will be built and the area near our brewery will have hundreds of new units and development. There are challenges with 'gentrification' as well. I hope we can navigate them as a community.

We have a great mayor, who really cares about our city, and active neighborhood groups who are going to ensure this transformation is beneficial to the overall neighborhood experience. In addition to all this development, more restaurants and eateries will come online. For instance, a new small eatery just opened up in Fields Corner called home.stead. If all new eateries could be this good, I'd be 20 pounds heavier.

Rendering of the multi-building Dot Block in Dorchester
A recent rendering of the multi-building Dot Block proposal.

A final word?

Dorchester is about community and celebrating diversity. I never plan to leave and feel such an affinity for my neighborhood, neighbors and various cultures I run into every day. I challenge anyone and everyone to step out of their daily routine and explore a seemingly under-appreciated part of Boston. And, come this summer, you can do it with a great Dorchester-made craft beer in your hand.