What’s in a Name: Snow Hill Street

SNOW HILL (a shortcut from Charter St to Prince St) – has nothing to do with snow or ice. According to the origin of its namesake, the street is named after Snowhill Lane in London:

“It occurs very early as Snor or Snore Hill, later as Sore, and finally as Snow Hill. It has been suggested that the name is derived from the Celtic word snuadh = a brook, the street leading once to the Fleet River” (City Street Names by Louis Zettersten).

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During seventeenth century Boston, the descending slope of Snow Hill would have made the neighborhood to be the Quebec of Boston- like skiing down Le Massif or Mont-Sainte-Anne. (City of Boston map)

Snow Hill, formerly known as Windmill Hill and Copps Hill, is a street that is rooted to the origins of Boston. Prior to urban renewal projects that recessed neighborhood waterlines, the summit of Snowhill went foot-and-mouth with the north most waterline, otherwise known as North Margin Street. In an attempt to summarize a visual depiction of what the old Snow Hill once looked like:

“The beach at the foot of the headland, opposite Charlestown, was made into a street with earth taken from the summit of the hill, which was where Snowhill Street now crosses it. This made Lynn Street,– now Atlantic Avenue extension, — and afforded a continuous route along the water.  Going north, the rising ground at Richmond Street indicates the beginning of the ascent. The hill has been known as Windmill Hill and as Snow Hill; but our ancestors were never at a loss for names, as appears in the redundancy of their street nomenclature.” (Old Landmarks and Historic Personages of Boston by Samuel Adams Drake). 

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