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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

boynton1857 George W. Boynton, New Map of Boston, 1857 backbay1857 Boston, Massachusetts. View of Back Bay, 1857
boynton1860 George W. Boynton, New Map of Boston, 1860 backbay1895 Back Bay, 1895
baileybev Oakley H. Bailey and James C. Hazen, The City of Boston, 1879 downsbev Albert E. Downs, Boston, 1899

The Great Boston Fire, 1872

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

Boston Common and Public Garden

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

Back Bay

bromleycommaveleft G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 11 …, 1890 bromleycommaveright G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 11 …, 1890
commave1872photo Commonwealth Avenue in Process, 1872 commave1878photo No. 1 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, Mass., (1878-1910)
davenportmap Charles Davenport, Proposed Charles River Park, 1880 charlesbankphoto Charlesbank, 1905
westendphoto Barton St. Towards Leverett St., (1910)

Suburban Parks

parkdept1886 Boston (Mass.) Park Department, Map of Boston …, 1886 arboretummap Geo. H. Walker & Co., Arnold Arboretum …, 1900
bromleyfranklinpark G. W. Bromley & Co., Part of Ward 23 …, 1896 bostonparkguide Charles H. Woodbury, Boston Park Guide, 1896

Copley Square

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