A former garbage repository for the City of Boston, Spectacle Island became the Big Dump for the Big Dig, receiving more than 4,400 barge loads of dirt excavated from the Central Artery and the Third Harbor Tunnel between 1993 and 1998. It has been converted into a public park under the aegis of the Boston Harbor Alliance. A dike with a clay cap over the top was built to contain the garbage that was eroding into Boston Harbor. Onto this base two to five feet of topsoil were added to sculpt a new natural environment.
Spectacle Island had been a favored Indian haunt for fishing and shelling. The name was given by the initial settlers, who thought the pair of drumlins connected by a low stretch of sand resembled eye spectacles. Before it became a garbage dump, the island had served as the location of a quarantine hospital, resort hotels, brothels, and a horse-rendering factory. A one-hundred-acre park opened here in the summer of 2003, becoming the newest addition to the thirty-four-island Boston Harbor Island National Park Area.