Samuel H. Pook was 23 when he designed Surprise, the first of several of his very fast clipper ships, and one of the most successful clippers in the China trade. Pook later became a naval architect for the U.S. Navy.


In 1839, just six years after East Boston began to be developed as a neighborhood, Samuel Hall established a shipyard on this site. It grew to include dry docks that used the most advanced steam-powered technology and marine railways, still visible today along the waterfront. Among the 110 vessels Hall built here was Boston's first clipper ship–Surprise. Her launch in 1850 was accompanied by church bells ringing. The names of some of Hall's other vessels are engraved on the granite paving.

Hall's shipyard was one of several along the stretch of the waterfront from here north to the Meridian Street Bridge, where Hall, Donald McKay, Robert Jackson, Paul Curtis, and others built world-famous ships. Spurred by the California Gold Rush and a demand for faster ships, they launched more than 200 vessels in 20 years.

Together with the Charlestown Navy Yard across the harbor and shipyards in South Boston, East Boston shipbuilders made the city one of the premier ship building centers in the country during the mid 1800s.


How did the Harborwalk come to exist? [expand]

How did Colonial laws help create today's Harborwalk? [expand]

What's a clipper ship? [expand]

How was Samuel Hall connected to a self-emancipated black man? [expand]

Are there any physical reminders of East Boston's shipbuilding industry left today? [expand]

Who built the wooden vessels? [expand]



Banner image: Surprise by Xanthus Russell Smitth, courtesy of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, National Park Service

Photo of model: Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Translation and recording thanks to the generosity of the Boston Marine Society

Our gratitude to the Perkins School for the Blind and David W. Cook for their partnership in creating the audio files.

About us

The Friends of the Boston Harborwalk is a group of volunteers, affiliated with Boston Harbor Now, dedicated to enhancing enjoyment of Boston's 43-mile Harborwalk. The Friends meet monthly to plan and coordinate our three main priorities.

1. Host monthly two-hour long tours connected to the Harborwalk or Boston Harbor;

2. Facilitate waterfront clean-up days to ensure that the full length of the Harborwalk is clean, safe, and inviting;

3. Create engaging interpretive signs to help people learn about and enjoy the rich stories connected to Boston's waterfront.

For more information and to join the Friends, contact Mike Manning, Chair, .