Inventing the Charles River

Inventing the Charles River

Pub. Date:
MIT Press

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Inventing the Charles River

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262083072
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 12/01/2002
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 515
Product dimensions: 10.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents

1Earth Work1
2The Science of City Building28
3A Water Park60
4The Emerald Metropolis116
5Damming the Basin154
6The Colleges and the Esplanades186
7Highways and Park Ways232
8The Lost Half Mile280
9The Big Dig308
10Crossing the Charles322
11Urban Visions and the Future of the River362
12Views from the River374
About the Charles River Conservancy426
Glossary and Gazetteer451
A Chronology of the Charles River Basin457
Illustration Credits465

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