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






learn about the context






find out what happened










In this paper, I propose to analyze Sylvester Baxter and Charles Eliot's 1893 plan for parks and open space in metropolitan Boston.   One of the earliest regional plans in the United States, it was submitted as a report to the Board of Metropolitan Park Commissioners, an agency established by the Massachusetts legislature.

I will address three types of questions in this paper:

•  What does the plan advocate?   How does it propose to accomplish its goals?   What evidence is provided to support its claims?

•  What was the political context in which the plan was created?   How can this knowledge aid our interpretation of the plan?

•  What is the significance of the plan for today?   What can we learn about planning history, Boston, regionalism, and/or landscape planning by reading this plan today?

From my initial research, I have learned that the plan has several notable characteristics, including (a) sponsorship by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and (b) publication during a transformational period in Boston's history.  

At first glance, the plan appears to have been well positioned for success, with sponsorship at the highest levels.   I hope to uncover some of the details concerning the formation of the Commission and the activities of the legislature in relation to this plan.   I also hope to learn more about the response to the plan and how it affected park and open space planning in Boston.

During this period, "streetcar suburbs" developed, immigration re-shaped city life, political machines controlled municipal governance, developers built the Back Bay and the city constructed the Fens, and the professions of landscape architecture and urban planning emerged.   This research has the potential to yield new insights into our understanding of this period by examining the interaction of citizens, experts, and politicians in the planning process.   While several scholars have researched the work of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. during this period, less is known about Sylvester Baxter and Charles Eliot.   Both men appear to have been influential during the 1890s and both appear to have been as interested in city planning and metropolitan governance as they were in landscape.   My hope is that this research will further our understanding of this significant period in planning history.