Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More maps of Boston, 1800 vs. 1875

This is a map from the website Early America that shows what Boston, Cambridge, Roxbury, and Brookline were all like around 1800. You'll have to click on it to see any of the details, but it's a pretty good size image, and should be easy enough to read. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the Back Bay... the area to west of Boston on the map... a place that screams "Boston" to me... doesn't exist. Newbury Street is water, and Fenway Park is, presumably, fens. There is also a lot of Cambridge that's water as well... the area that's now by the Charles, which consists mainly of MIT. The Dorchester Flats eventually becomes Southie. The flats near Noddle Island are what become Logan airport.

It's interesting to see that Brookline was it's own little town... or collection of houses, anyway... I guess that's why they are so snotty about maintaining independence. Also... the Muddy River is actually a river and not just little ponds and culverts by Longwood!

What I also found interesting was that you can see proto-Porter Square (where I live) in the upper left corner where the road out of Cambridge intersects the road from Lexington... nobody lives there yet, but they were clearly anticipating my arrival on the scene.

So here is an 1875 map and you can see a lot of the differences... I snagged this from Harvard, which has a lot of digitized maps of Harvard and Cambridge if you're good at searching the HOLLIS catalog. Regardless, it's clear a lot has changed in 75 years or so... the creation of Back Bay, while not completed, is all planned out and proceeding apace. Look how straight those streets are! What our Duck Tour guy said was you could actually start at the Common and walk down Newbury Street and see the development of 19th century architecture as the land was slowly reclaimed over the decades. You can also see that South Boston was created at the point to make sure we could have the movie Good Will Hunting. Cambridge has simply exploded in growth, but Brookline still looks a little sleepy... though I guess even now it's mainly houses, though densely packed. Somerville seems to have happened at some point as well. There is no Mass Ave or Comm Ave yet though... which is a little confusing since I think of them both as being major landmarks.

Anyway, that's our Boston History Moment for the day, as I don't really feel like talking about politics.