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
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?
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.
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.
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.