Boston's Metropolitan Past: Baxter & Eliot's 1893 Plan






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The Boston Metropolitan Park Report of 1893 is a big, bold plan in a small book. Commissioned by the Massachusetts state legislature, and authored by journalist Sylvester Baxter and landscape architect Charles Eliot, it offered a new vision of how open space and parks could be a part of the rapidly expanding metropolitan area. It proposed that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchase specific privately-owned sites for the sole purpose of permanently reserving public open space and parks, a regional approach to land use planning that was virtually unknown at that time. While the so-called Emerald Necklace park system, developed in large measure through the planning and design of the well-known landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., had recently been developed in the city of Boston, the Baxter-Eliot plan represented something new. It dramatically expanded the scale of park planning to an area more than ten miles in radius from downtown Boston.  

This plan was likely the first of its kind in the nation, and certainly the first implemented. In the 1890s, zoning did not yet exist and landscape architecture and city planning were just emerging as new fields of inquiry and practice. Baxter and Eliot's report to the Metropolitan Park Commissioners is frequently cited, and recognized as historically significant, in the early development of city planning, yet it has never been the subject of an in-depth analysis. This website project is intended to bring greater exposure to the plan and to stimulate discussion about its relevance for city planning today.

Please select a link on the left hand side of the page to navigate the site and to learn more about the plan.