Despite the name, Jamaica Plain glories in a varied topography. Rocky, hilly terrain frustrated early farming and attracted estate development in the eighteenth century and early suburbanization in the nineteenth. Open space remains a key asset, with Jamaicaway and Jamaica Pond (JP6) along the Brookline border and the Arnold Arboretum (JP4), Forest Hills Cemetery (RX29), and Franklin Park (RX28) delimiting the southern boundaries. In addition to the recreational and earlier commercial benefits of Jamaica Pond, the Stony Brook River valley attracted industrial development, especially breweries.
Originally part of Roxbury, West Roxbury (with Jamaica Plain as its most populous neighborhood) split off in 1851 until it was annexed by Boston in 1873. Throughout the colonial period, farmers exploited the land of Jamaica Plain, sending their produce to the Boston market. Because the land route from the Boston peninsula along Washington Street first passed through Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood attracted estate and summerhouse development from the later eighteenth century on. The establishment of the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Company in 1795 provided fresh water to Boston through the mid-nineteenth century. More important, the construction of the Boston & Providence Railroad along the line of Washington Street in 1845 opened the area for commuter residences. The Pondside district, south and east of Jamaica Pond, developed first with middle-class houses. The extension of the streetcar service along Washington and Centre streets in the 1870s accelerated the creation of new commuter neighborhoods on former rural estates. The industries along the Stony Brook Valley east of Washington Street attracted immigrants, especially the Irish, to water-based industries in the later nineteenth century. Surprisingly little has changed in Jamaica Plain since that time. Now Latinos represent the dominant immigrant group, and the relatively low density and preservation of open space continue to make Jamaica Plain an attractive residential area.
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