Lisa Delfino Connor remembers what Jamaica Plain was like in the ’60s and early ’70s, when she was growing up on Centre Street in the Hyde Square neighborhood. And she knows what it’s like now, having moved to a single-family home in Moss Hill, one of the tonier areas, in 2000.
“There is a sense of community in Jamaica Plain today, but it’s a different sense of community,’’ says Connor, who lives in JP with her husband and two daughters, ages 13 and 14. “Back then, everybody knew everybody. The mothers were home with the kids. I don’t know that it’s like that anymore.’’
Same with diversity. “It was always very diverse, with Irish, Italians, Polish, Germans, Armenians, and Lebanese people,’’ she says, recalling the neighborhood makeup decades ago. “My friend Rosa’s family was one of the first to emigrate from Cuba, and a lot of Cubans and then other Hispanic people started moving into Hyde Square/Jackson Square.’’
Today Hyde Square is known as Boston’s Latin Quarter. But the diversity elsewhere in JP is of a different sort. “There are all different kinds of people — professionals, students, creative people,’’ but what you don’t see much of is a blue-collar base, Connor says. “It’s been kind of sad to watch. Because of all the gentrification, people have had to leave because they can’t afford to live here.’’
Still, she loves JP. “There are a lot of great restaurants, a lot of great coffeehouses,’’ she says. “We’re close to everything. If I have something to do in Brookline, I hop on the T. If I having something in town, I hop on the T. I walk down to Centre Street all the time. If I have to drive, we’re close to 128. We’re pretty lucky.’’
Number of shamrock shutters at the Jamaicaway home of James Michael Curley, who served twice in Congress, four terms as mayor of Boston, one term as governor — and five months in federal prison for mail fraud
Average asking price of 18 single-family homes on the market here recently
Length of the path around Jamaica Pond, which is part of the Emerald Necklace string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Part of the Arnold Arboretum, another Emerald Necklace gem, is also located here.
Price of an “Original Cuban’’ sandwich at El Oriental De Cuba in Hyde Square
The population is 22 percent Latino, 13 percent African-American, 5 percent Asian, 56 percent white, and 4 percent other. Besides ethnic diversity, there’s an artsy circle and a strong LGBT community.
JP is the third most expensive neighborhood in Boston, according to the community group Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition. Meanwhile, 37 percent of households have an income below $35,000.
An abundance of restaurants, shops, and coffee houses — many independently owned — line Centre Street. You can have Thai and Cambodian food at Wonder Spice Cafe, then amble across the street for a drink at The Galway House, a fixture since 1962.
Vanessa Parks is a freelance writer in Central Massachusetts. Send comments to [email protected]