Even without a tourist pamphlet or the guiding light of a native resident, a walk through Boston neighborhoods tells any first-timer the story of Boston’s rich and diverse history. There is Beacon Hill, which began its development in the late-18th century, where the northern slope was built to house former slaves, sailors and artists. Then there is the Back Bay, filled and built curing the 19th century, featuring beautiful Victorian brownstone homes. Finally, the Seaport District exemplifies the contemporary facelifts undertaken by major cities across the nation to transform “rotten” neighborhoods into vibrant residential, commercial and social hot spots
A Comparison Of Famous Boston Neighborhoods
The planners of each of these developments had similar goals in mind: improve existing land for the use of residents and businesses while using notable architectural styles that would be celebrated throughout history. The “hows” of accomplishing these goals, however, were very different.
Beacon Hill, for example, was developed primarily to provide more housing for a rapidly growing population. The south slope was designed for Boston’s wealthiest families, while the north slope consisted largely of tenement housing for the working class and the poor. Development began in the late-18th century so it’s no surprise that Beacon Hill’s defining features are Federal-style row houses, gaslit streets and brick sidewalks.
The Back Bay neighborhood development was a major undertaking (they did, literally, fill a bay after all…). Thus, it was constructed largely with the well-to-do in mind, becoming Boston’s premier center for arts and culture.
As such, in additional to the Back Bay’s famous rows of Victorian brownstones, it’s also home to some of Boston’s most famous landmarks, including Copley Square, Boston Public Library, the original Museum of Fine Arts and Trinity Church.
Boston’s Seaport District is the newest of the developments and, in addition to vastly improving the dilapidated and antiquated sea port, it added a much needed element to Boston’s landscape – hotels. Also known as the South Boston Waterfront, the seaport area’s proximity to downtown and the airport have made it the ideal spot for transportation hubs, a fabulous children’s museum , shopping and dining establishments, office buildings, condominiums and lofts. The Seaport district’s development is largely due to the vision of the late Mayor Tom Menino, which commenced with the relocation of Boston’s City Hall and other civic buildings.
Only history will tell us which of the Seaport District buildings will span the test of centuries in the manner of their Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighbors. For now, the area is largely commercial, and still considered a “wasteland” of sorts until further, more desirable architectural development takes place. It requires residences and neighbors to develop a community, so odds are that until a more significant amount of desirable, residential construction takes place, it will be a while before the Seaport District “feels like home” or inspires any of the nostalgia and attraction that Beacon Hill and Back Bay do. Although there are a quite a few residential buildings, the scale of the buildings and the width of the streets , in addition to the lack of trees that combine the area to make it feel like building in parking lots instead of a neighborhood that people will want to walk around such as those like Back Bay, South End and Beacon Hill.
Living in such an historically rich city demonstrates first-hand what an important part architecture plays in the lives of its residents and in the city’s public image at large – and how integral it is to creating a sense of history, cohesiveness and community.
Looking to design a residential or commercial building that will stand the test of aesthetic time? Contact the design team at Leslie Saul & Associates Architecture and Interiors.