With its dense runs of side-by-side townhouses and rowhouses, its apartment and condo buildings one after the other, and its triple-deckers arranged tightly together (whatever the sunlight on four sides), it can be difficult to imagine, let alone find, a sizable lawn in Boston.
In fact, a prospective homebuyer’s best bet would be to look beyond the city, to suburbs such as Brookline, Newton, Dedham, and Needham for bonafide lawns—though even there greenswards might be difficult to locate compared with much of the rest of the U.S., never mind quite expensive.
But where to look within Boston proper? If you must have a lawn—and there’s a whole school of thought about why you should not—better to look in a handful of neighborhoods that, because of their topography and history, offer the most options.
Also, one final note: We’re taking lawns here, not small yards or brick patios. Such accoutrement are pretty common throughout Boston, but they don’t necessarily provide the green.
Boston’s southernmost and youngest neighborhood (it wasn’t annexed until 1912), Hyde Park is named for the famous greensward in London. It’s appropriate. The neighborhood is full of smaller single-families and low-rise apartment buildings on neat plots of grass.
That lack of density and that distance from the city’s urban core lends Hyde Park to having more such lawns.
The potential for finding a lawn in Roslindale is right in the final syllable: Locals named it after Roslin, a bucolic village outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Boston did not annex Roslindale until 1873, and the city has never really drawn the farther-flung neighborhood—one of Boston’s southernmost—into downtown’s aesthetic orbit.
Part of that’s the topography and the geography—primarily that distance—but also part of it is zoning that has long encouraged the development of single-families and other smaller properties, many of them converted into condos and apartments and touting the access to shared or private greenery.
Roslindale’s neighbor—the two have had a fierce, though good-natured rivalry stretching back decades—shares much of the same makeup and zoning. In fact, the once-independent town—Boston absorbed it in 1874—has more single-families.
And that brings with it some of the most sizable lawns in Boston proper, generally on streets with a decidedly suburban look and feel.
Some areas of JP are lusher than others in terms of lawns. Look near Jamaica Pond for the most options. The neighborhood is famous for having more public parkland than any other Boston enclave, so the greenery is not that surprising.
Because its zoning has long encouraged developments larger than the typical single-family, JP doesn’t have quite the relative abundance of lawn options that a West Roxbury or a Hyde Park might have, but they’re there. And they’re generally in better shape.
Boston’s largest neighborhood has probably its most diverse housing stock, including likely around one-third of all triple-deckers ever built in Massachusetts. Part of that stock are sizable single-families—Victorians and colonials, a lot of them—and those houses tend to have larger yards. And the houses are not all that expensive compared with similarly sized properties in Boston.
Because Dorchester is so big—6 square miles, give or take—we suggest narrowing your search to its Ashmont (including Ashmont Hill), Savin Hill, and Neponset areas. These are your best bets for Dorchester lawns.