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> Back Bay
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Back Bay is named as the Bay in the back of
the town. It is a tidal bay, and at low tide primarily
tidal flats. Native American fish weirs in this
area, off of what is now the Common, go back at
least 1000 years. They were found during building
excavations for The New England on Boylston Street
(between Berkeley and Clarendon Streets.)
British troops cross Back Bay on their way to Lexington
Mill Dam runs from Beacon Street to Charles Street
and across to Sewellís Point, Brookline. The dam
is the brainchild of Uriah Cotting and the Roxbury
Mill Corporation. The structure is 50 feet wide
and one half mile long with a toll road running
over it between a row of trees. It is called Western
Avenue and later Beacon Street.
Back Bay is annexed to Boston.
The city discharges raw sewage into the basin of
The Public Garden opens. It is the idea of horticulturist
Horace Gray. The Garden is later redesigned by George
Meacham in 1859.
A second perpendicular dam is extended from Mill
Dam to Gravelley Point, Roxbury that divides the
bay into two parts. The Boston and Worcester and
Boston and Providence Railroads run across the marsh.
Steam power and railroads combine to accelerate
the filling of Back Bay. However, the dam and railroads
disrupt the tides and combined with pollution make
the area a stagnant cesspool.
Several contracts were awarded to fill in the Back
Bay. While some of the fill was given to the contractors,
the rest was taken by train from Needham.
Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue Mall are
laid out. Arthur Gilman and Gridley J. Fox Bryant
design a street plan for Back Bay that is a grid.
Streets are named for Massachusetts towns from Arlington
to Ipswich and arranged in alphabetical order.
Edward Clarke Cabot designs the Russell and Gibson
Houses on Beacon Street
The Arlington Street Church is constructed and designed
by Arthur Gilman and Gridley J. F. Bryant. It is
the oldest church in Back Bay. By this time, Back
Bay has been filled to Clarendon Street.
Emmanuel Church is designed by A.R. Estey on
The initial buildings of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Museum
of Natural History are built side by side on Boylston
Street. MIT is founded by William Barton Rogers
whose father Partick was an Irish immigrant who
fled to the United States after the failed Irish
uprising of 1798. Both MIT and the museum later
The Central Congregational Church is built on Berkeley
William Gibbons Preston (1842-1910) and Clemens
Herschelís (1842-1930) suspension bridge in the
Garden is the smallest of its kind in the world.
The First Church (originally founded in 1632) is
moved to Berkeley and Marlborough Streets. That
same year, William Robert Ware establishes the first
architecture school in the United States at MIT.
Thomas Ballís (1819-1911) statue of George Washington
is unveiled in the Public Garden. Patrick
S. Gilmore hosts the National Peace Jubilee
in St. James Park to celebrate the end of the Civil
War. A 10,000 person chorus, 1,000 piece orchestra,
and 100 anvil percussion section played the Anvil
Chorus of Il Travatore as the finale.
Oliver Wendell Holmesí (1809-1894) townhouse is built
on Beacon Street. It is now an apartment building.
At this point, Back Bay has been filled to Exeter
Thomas Paget takes visitors on the first swan boat
ride in the Garden. Park Square station is built by
Peabody and Stearns as a stop on the New York, New
Haven, and Hartford Railroad. It is later demolished.
The Trinity Church is built in Copley Square.
Brattle Square Church, designed by Henry H. Richardson,
is built on Commonwealth Avenue. The structure is
constructed on 4,500 wooden pilings that were sunk
into the ground.
The original Museum
of Fine Arts opens in Copley Square on the site
where the Copley Plaza Hotel now stands (built 1911).
The Trinity Church rectory is designed by Henry.H.
Richardson (1837-1886). Peabody and Stearns finish
a townhouse for John Phillips which is now the First
Lutheran Church of Boston on Marlborough Street.
Emerson College of Oratory is founded. At this point,
Back Bay has been filled nearly to the mainland.
The Harvard Medical School is built at Boylston and
Exeter Streets. The Prince School is built and named
after Mayor Frederick O. Prince (1818-1881).
Copley Square is named after Beacon Hill artist John
Hollis Street Church is built. Edward Everett Hale
(1822-1909) is its pastor for many years as well as
being the chaplain of the United States Senate.
A 100 foot promenade is extended into the Charles
Mary Baker Eddy's first
Christian Scientist Church in Boston is built on Falmouth
and Norway Streets. The Boston Public Library opens
at Copley Square.
The Lenox Hotel,
designed by Arthur Bowditch, is constructed.
William Lindsay (1858-1921), inventor of the ammunition
belt, commissions Chapman
and Frazer to build him a mansion on Bay State Road.
Today, "The Castle" is owned by Boston University.
Charles Brigham designs the First Church of Christ,
Christian Scientist Church on Huntington Ave.
The Lindsay Memorial Chapel is added to the Emmanuel
Church in honor of William Lindsayís daughter Leslie
who dies along with her husband, Thomas Mason, on
their honeymoon when the Lusitania is torpedoed.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel opens.
The Storrow embankment is created with a park that
runs along the Charles River promenade.
Storrow Drive is constructed from 1949 to 1951.
Construction of the Prudential Building in the old
Back Bay railroad yards. Back Bay station is moved,
and the railroad is put underneath the Center. Mechanics
Hall, the main convention center for Boston (on Huntington
Avenue where the Christian Science reflecting pool
is now) is torn down in 1959. Hynes Auditorium, then
War Memorial Auditorium is under construction from
1960-1964. It opens on February 22, 1964.
The Back Bay Neighborhood Association (formed in 1955)
is given the power to veto any exterior changes to
The John Hancock Tower is constructed (1968-1975)and
becomes the tallest building in New England.
The Boston Architectural Center (founded 1889) is
decorated with a trompe líoeil painting by Richard
The surrealist Tramount Mural is painted by Morgan
Bulkeley on Newbury Street.
The Friends of the Public Garden erected a statue
commemorating Robert McCloskeyís famous book Make
Way For Ducklings which is set in the Public Garden.
The Newbury Street mural is designed by winners of
a local art contest. Each figure has a Boston connection.
Barbara W. and Gail Weesner. Back Bay: A Living
Portrait. Boston: Century Hill Press, 1995.
Anthony Mitchell. Back Bay. Images of America.
Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1997.