Back Bay Deconstructed

Boston in 1775, with the unfilled Back Bay surrounding the western edge of the city.

The Back Bay is the Grande Dame of Boston’s neighborhoods. Here you will fine fine dining, upscale shopping, and a grid of streets that actually makes sense. Looking around at the the cultural institutions located in Copley Square or the public art along the Commonwealth Avenue Promenade, it is hard to imagine that this area was once a trash and sewage filled lagoon.

The story of the Back Bay is a comprehensive look at Boston’s history, exploring geography, immigration, and technology. By examining this Victorian era transformation, we will link Winthrop’s Puritans and the effects of the American revolution to Boston’s iconic twentieth century skyscrapers.

How did a potato famine in Ireland trigger Boston’s most ambitious engineering project to-date? Which Back Bay landmark floats like a boat in the marsh and sand beneath the streets? Join us as we trace the social and civil engineering of the Back Bay project by strolling from Boston’s colonial coastline at the foot of Boston Common to the heart of the “new” neighborhood in Copley Square.

When: Available by appointment as a group tour.

Meet your guide in front of this sign, just inside the gate at the corner of Beacon and Charles.

Where: The Back Bay Deconstructed tour departs from the gate of Boston Common at the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street.

How Much: Adults $15, Youth (under 18) $10, Seniors (over 60) $10

Getting there: The easiest way to find us is on public transportation. Take the MBTA red or green line to Park Street station. From the station, walk uphill to the statehouse, then turn left on Beacon and walk to the corner of Charles. If you drive, the best option for parking is the garage located under Boston Common on Charles Street (access it traveling northbound from Boylston). Parking is $12 all day on weekends.

Bathrooms: There are public restrooms in the Boston Common Visitor Information Center, which is located in the Common, across from 147 Tremont Street.

How long: This stroll is just over a mile, and takes about 90 minutes.