What Neighborhood Are We In?

Well, it depends on when you're asking...

Before Europeans came, the native inhabitants referred to the general area we now call Dorchester as Mattapan, which meant "a good place to be."

Click on the map images below to see larger versions.

When English settlers arrived in 1638, this spot became part of the town they originally named “Rockberry,” after the distinctive rocky outcroppings that dotted the land. The town’s name soon became Roxbury, and that particular kind of rock is called “Roxbury puddingstone” by geologists.
In 1851, after years of controversy, the town of West Roxbury separated from the city of Roxbury. West Roxbury contained what are now the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale as well as the current West Roxbury. The town line ran along what is now Harvard Street, and so contained the area that would later become the Boston Nature Center.
In 1874, West Roxbury voted to become a part of Boston, largely in order to have access to the city’s water, sewer, transportation, and other public services. In this, they joined Roxbury (1868), Dorchester (1870), Brighton (1874), and other previously-independent towns, which retained their names as neighborhoods; so, the site of the future BNC was still referred to as being in West Roxbury.
In 1916, the Boston City Council decided to shift neighborhood lines a little, and this spot – which was by then occupied by the Boston State Hospital – became part of Dorchester. Originally part of Ward 21, it became part of Ward 14 in 1925.
Beginning in the 1980s, Mattapan – which had long been recognized as a locality within Dorchester – gained official status as a neighborhood of Boston, so now the BNC is in Mattapan. However you describe it, it’s still “a good place to be”!