Mary Ellen McCormack Housing Development – Boston MA


Boston’s Old Harbor Housing Project was constructed as a federal Public Works Administration (P.W.A.) project during the Great Depression.

“Built in 1936, and opened on May 1, 1938, the Old Harbor Village was the first public housing development in New England and it remains one of the largest. It comprises more than 1,000 apartments in 22 three-story buildings and 152 row houses. The complex was renamed after the mother of John W. McCormack, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who championed housing and human rights.” (Wikipedia)

“One of the largest of the low-rent housing projects fully financed with P.W.A. funds is the development erected in Boston, known as Old Harbor Village. It occupies a former unused site of 31 acres, the purchase price of which was $517,133, or 40 cents a square foot. The buildings erected provide an average of 126 rooms to the acre and cover 23 percent of the land area.

The development consists of a series of 3-story apartment buildings and 2-story row houses, all of which are fireproof. The structures provide a total of 3,902 rooms, arranged into 1,016 family-dwelling units, divided so that 41 percent are 3-room, 40 percent 4-room, 16 percent 5-room, and 3 percent 6-room units.

A charge of $4.88 a room per month is the average base shelter rental, which does not include any utilities except cold water. The actual rent paid averages $6.68 a room per month, which includes heat, hot water, and electricity for light, cooking, and refrigeration. The buildings were first occupied on May 1, 1938.

The structures contain 10,167,7000 cubic feet and were constructed at a cost of $5,394,317, or 53 cents a cubic foot. The construction cost per room averaged $1,382 and was $5,309 per family-dwelling unit.

The entire development cost $6,273,500, including land, construction, and miscellaneous items, which averages $1,608 a room and $6,174 a family-dwelling unit.”

PWA Project No. H-3302.

The original New Deal structures are slated for demolition. The site will be redeveloped and all existing buildings will be demolished.

Source notes

C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. "Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration." (1939).

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

10 Kemp St.
Boston, MA 02127

Location notes: Originally called Old Harbor Village.

Coordinates: 42.326780, -71.056186

2 comments on “Mary Ellen McCormack Housing Development – Boston MA

  1. Lived at 176 O’Callaghan Way for twenty five years. The row houses are still in excellent condition. It’s a dam shame it’s all about to be torn down! They don’t make them like this anymore. One can only wonder if this demolition and reconstruction is Mayor Walsh’s thank you to the labor unions.


    Hi, I think that my family might have lived at 17 Gavin Way (or some other part of the Mary Ellen McCormack Project) in December 1979. Is there any way to confirm this – – any way to access records? It would have been under the last name Woods or Burke.

Leave a Reply

Before leaving a comment, please note:

  • Comments allow viewers to share information with others or alert us to errors or changes in a New Deal site.
  • We are not involved in the management of New Deal sites and have no information about visits, hours or rentals.
  • This page shows all the information we have for this site; if you have new information or photos to share, click below.


We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.