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Pilot House Waterfront History Exhibit Serves as a Warning for Sea Level Rise

A look at the exhibit on Atlantic Avenue

The sea level in Boston is changing more rapidly in our time than in the past several centuries. The Waterfront History Interactive Exhibit serves as a warning for the flooding from sea level rise and storm surges to come in the near future to both the Waterfront and North End communities.

The relatively new exhibit at 2 Atlantic Avenue explains that when compared globally, “Boston will experience more severe sea level rise because of ocean dynamics and the gravitational effects of melting ice sheets.” The effects of climate change and sea level rise are already impacting life in the North End / Waterfront neighborhoods. This past year saw several storms (see here and here) that flooded the Waterfront, and with the rising tides, these storms will only become more intense and dangerous.

A red-dotted line shows the Boston Coastline in the year 2100 if climate change is not acted upon now.

In the coming decades, the sea level will rise past more than two feet – it’s currently at zero feet in 2018, and was at negative eight inches nearly a century ago in 1930. Not only will this sea level rise affect the area, but it will also allow for even more damaging storms. As the Waterfront saw in early 2018, intense flooding will occur when a strong storm surge hits Boston. By 2050, storm surges could reach up to seven feet, taller than most people, in the North End / Waterfront neighborhoods according to the exhibit.

For reference, one big storm from January saw a three foot storm surge, and the flood waters reached the Rose Kennedy Greenway for the first time in Boston history. Several buildings saw water damage and flooding. All throughout the city, thousands lost internet and television access, not to mention power outages. A seven foot surge would surely surpass the January storm in terms of damage done.

A look at the North End /Waterfront areas between 2050 and 2100. Note the rising tides shown by the light blue on the map. As far as Faneuil Hall will see regular flooding. Areas near North Station will be affected too.

The sea level rise in the year 2050 could increase by two feet, or even more according to the exhibit, from where the level is today, and could rise past three feet by 2100. So, even without storm surges worse than the ones seen earlier this year, there will be constant flooding in the area unless action is taken before the water rises.

Though the exhibit does not offer concrete ways to combat the rising tides, it does give the North End / Waterfront neighborhoods a look at what is to come if something is not done about climate change soon.

In addition to the information the exhibit provides regarding climate change and the Waterfront, it also gives the viewer some insight into the changes made on the waterfront throughout its history. Each panel in the exhibit gives information from the following years. To see all the information from each year, head to the exhibit on Atlantic Avenue.


  • Boston merchants begin to establish trading networks all over the globe.


  • Lewis Wharf, constructed in 1796, became the site of historical events. Marquis de Lafayette of France landed the war ship Hermione to help the American colonies fight the British in 1780.
  • In 1835, Scarlet’s Wharf was purchased by Lewis Wharf.


  • Industrial and commercial businesses begin to take over the Waterfront warehouses.


  • As early as 1868 buildings were demolished along the waterfront and land was filled in to create Atlantic Avenue.
  • In 1927, the Central Artery project was introduced. It “physically and visually” cut off the Waterfront from the rest of the city.


  • “The Lewis Wharf Granite Building was successfully redeveloped for residential and commercial use.”


  • The Harborwalk began creation in 1984. It spans 47 miles of connected public walkways along the edge of the Boston Harbor.
  • The Big Dig was completed in 2007, reconnecting the Waterfront to the rest of the city once more.


  • Sea level rises to two feet with storm surges reaching seven feet.


  • Sea level rises to three feet with storm surges reaching eight feet.

For more information and to see the exhibit in person, head to the Pilot House Waterfront History Interactive Exhibit at 2 Atlantic Ave inside the Bank of America ATM. The exhibit is open to the public Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To find out more information on how to combat climate change, head to Massachusetts Climate Action Network. If you are interested in seeing more renewable energy in Boston, head to Community Choice Energy Boston.

2 Replies to “Pilot House Waterfront History Exhibit Serves as a Warning for Sea Level Rise

  1. Sea level rise at the Boston tide gauge
    over a 30 stretch of time has been as much as 5.0 mm/yr (1950) and as low as 1.0 mm/yr (1995) the current rate is 4.9 mm/yr and overall since 1921 the rate is 2.8 mm/yr. Two feet by 2050 from the above article comes to 19 mm/yr every year for the next 32 years. Does that seem resonable?

    Steve Case – Milwaukee, WI

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