Boston Public Library

View the Exhibition

The Gilded Age – the era from the late 1860s to the late 1890s – was a period of significant growth and transformation in Boston.  Ingenious engineering projects allowed the city to expand, and a devastating fire led to swift and progressive redevelopment of the commercial district.  Designed to document Boston’s radically changing geography, this exhibition focuses on the evolving street pattern and emerging park system, developed for the City’s growing population.

This story begins with the Boston Common and Public Garden.  Moving west, the exhibition examines the growth of open spaces in Back Bay, then south to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, finishing with the development of Copley Square – the permanent home of the Boston Public Library.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the maps.

Filling in the Back Bay, 1858-1882

George W. Boynton, New Map of Boston, 1857 Boston, Massachusetts. View of Back Bay, 1857
George W. Boynton, New Map of Boston, 1860 Back Bay, 1895
Oakley H. Bailey and James C. Hazen, The City of Boston, 1879 Albert E. Downs, Boston, 1899

The Great Boston Fire, 1872

Charles R. Parsons, Bird’s-Eye View of Boston …, 1872 Thomas Nast, Columbia Lays Aside Her Laurels …, 1872
J.H. Bufford’s Lith. Words and music by C.A. White, Homeless To-Night …, 1872 [After James Wallace Black], Panoramic View of the Ruins …, 1872
Thomas W. Davis, Plan of Burnt District …, 1873

Boston Common and Public Garden

John Bachmann, Bird’s Eye View of Boston, 1850 G. W. Bromley & Co., Plan of Boston Common and Public Garden, 1888
No. 13 Public Garden, Boston, Mass., 1880 Tremont Street Mall, Boston Common, 1880

Back Bay

G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 11 …, 1890 G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 11 …, 1890
Commonwealth Avenue in Process, 1872 No. 1 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, Mass., (1878-1910)
Charles Davenport, Proposed Charles River Park, 1880 Charlesbank, 1905
Barton St. Towards Leverett St., (1910)

 Suburban Parks

Boston (Mass.) Park Department, Map of Boston …, 1886 Geo. H. Walker & Co., Arnold Arboretum …, 1900
G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 23 …, 1896 Charles H. Woodbury, Boston Park Guide, 1896

Copley Square

G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Wards 11, 17 & 18 …, 1883 Copley Square, 1909
Louis H. Ruyl, Public Library – Copley Sq., 1908