Brownstones in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Source: Wikimedia

While technology and innovation drive architectural designs into previously unexplored realms, architects are also influenced by historic design concepts. Well-preserved historical buildings, like the architecture found in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, demonstrate that excellent design stands the test of time.


1921 map of Boston showing the Back Bay neighborhood and vicinity. Source: Wikimedia

Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is considered one of the most well-preserved examples of 19th century architecture in the world. Believe it or not, the entire area-stretching from Arlington Street to Newbury Street-was once a shallow tidal pool, separating the city of Boston from Cambridge. Boston’s rapid growth couldn’t be accommodated without extra land, so city planners transported dirt, sand, and gravel from nearby Needham to fill the tidal pool. With landfill materials shipped in by railway around the clock, the impressive infill project lasted from 1857 through the early 1900s and doubled Boston’s available land.


Brownstone with windowbox located in the Back Bay neighborhood. Source: Wikimedia

Back Bay contains some of Boston’s most famous streets and buildings. The neighborhood’s architecture was subject to the strict guidance of two 19th century architects, Gridley J.F. Bryant and Arthur Gillman. Both men were heavily inspired by 19th century architecture in Paris, which is evident in the buildings’ facades. The architectural styles of Back Bay range from Italianate to Gothic to Queen Anne, as well as many revival styles, including Italian Revival, Beaux Arts, Georgian, and Federal, among others.


First Church in Back Bay. Source: Wikimedia

The winners of our recent 20th Birthday United Way fundraising contest will have the opportunity to accompany Leslie Saul on a tour of Boston’s Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods (OR Miami’s Art Deco District) . We can’t wait to share Boston’s incredible architectural legacy with the winners!