Boston’s Back Bay


Initially created by filling 450 acres of the Charles River basin, construction of the Back Bay began in 1858, and after 30 years of around the clock activity, the city grew from 783 acres to 1,233 acres. The neighborhood was originally designed to be solely a residential district, and deed restrictions were imposed requiring uniform setbacks from the street, brick and stone construction, and maximum building heights. By about 1890 however, the public demand brought a commercial element to the area and this is now one of the city’s most vibrant areas for shopping and dining. The central anchor of the neighborhood is the tree-lined mall down the center of Commonwealth Avenue. Running perpendicular to Commonwealth Ave. are Beacon and Marlborough Streets to the North, and Newbury and Boylston Street to the South. Because the area was designed, it is a bit of an anomaly in Boston as the streets are in a grid pattern, and the intersecting streets (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarenden, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Glocester, Hereford, Ipswich and Jersey) run in alphabetical order. This is a sharp contrast to adjacent areas such as Beacon Hill with its one way street, dead ends and curves. The Back Bay runs along the Charles River and Storrow Drive and is bordered by the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood at Charles Gate East, the South End to the South and Boston Common at Arlington Street. The Back Bay features some of the most beautiful and varied buildings in the city. In Copley Square alone there is the sleek, glass facade of the John Hancock Tower, across from the nation’s first publicly supported municipal library, The Boston Public Library, and standing next to the magnificent Trinity Church. Just blocks away are the Mansard roofs of the Second Empire inspired townhouses along Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, as well as examples of many other architecture styles which came in and out of favor in the 19th century. Today the Back Bay continues to be home to many of the most highly sought after addresses in the city. Some of the signature luxury residential buildings in the Back Bay include The Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons and The Clarendon.

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