Inventing the Charles River

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The Charles River Basin, extending nine miles upstream from the harbor,
has been called Boston's "Central Park." Yet few realize that this apparently natural landscape is a totally fabricated public space. Two hundred years ago the
Charles was a tidal river, edged by hundreds of acres of salt marshes and mudflats.
Inventing the Charles River describes how, before the creation of the basin could begin, the river first had to be imagined as a single public space. The new esplanades along the river changed the way Bostonians perceived their city; and the basin, with its expansive views of Boston and Cambridge, became an iconic image of the metropolis.

The book focuses on the precarious balance between transportation planning and stewardship of the public realm. Long before the esplanades were realized, great swaths of the river were given over to industrial enterprises and transportation -- millponds, bridges, landfills, and a complex network of road and railway bridges. In 1929, Boston's first major highway controversy erupted when a four-lane road was proposed as part of a new esplanade.
At twenty-year intervals, three riverfront road disputes followed, successively more complex and disputatious, culminating in the lawsuits over "Scheme Z," the Big Dig's plan for eighteen lanes of highway ramps and bridges over the river. More than four hundred photographs, maps, and drawings illustrate past and future visions for the
Charles and document the river's place in Boston's history.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A remarkable and beautiful book outlining the origins of the famed and admired Charles River." Dennis Lythgoe Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah

The MIT Press

"a superb book" The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine

The MIT Press

"...[a] fascinating fact-packed and photo-filled book." Boston

The MIT Press

"Haglund has fascinating stories to tell... serious students of urban development will be engrossed." H. Nolan ASLA

The MIT Press

"Inventing the Charles River is a fascinating account of how a great urban area acquired its current shape." Philip Langdon New Urban News

The MIT Press

"Inventing the Charles River makes it hard to think about the Charles in the same way again." Max Page Architecture Boston

The MIT Press

"...lavishly illustrated with maps, etchings, lithographs, drawings,
paintings, and photographs..." APA

The MIT Press

"...[Tells] a sweeping, detailed story of the directed evolution that produced the Charles that Bostonians and tourists cherish today." Civil

The MIT Press

"The book swells with Haglund's excellent research and hundreds of illuminating maps, photographs, and plans." Michael B. Shavelson Bostonia

The MIT Press

"Throughly fascinating..." Michael Kenney Boston Globe

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262083072
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 515
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Karl Haglund is project manager for the New Charles River Basin at the
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
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Table of Contents

1 Earth Work 1
2 The Science of City Building 28
3 A Water Park 60
4 The Emerald Metropolis 116
5 Damming the Basin 154
6 The Colleges and the Esplanades 186
7 Highways and Park Ways 232
8 The Lost Half Mile 280
9 The Big Dig 308
10 Crossing the Charles 322
11 Urban Visions and the Future of the River 362
12 Views from the River 374
About the Charles River Conservancy 426
Notes 429
Glossary and Gazetteer 451
A Chronology of the Charles River Basin 457
Illustration Credits 465
Index 481
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