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Charles River Park

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1958–1967, Victor Gruen. Hawthorne, Longfellow, Whittier, and Emerson pls.
  • Charles River Park (Keith Morgan)

The symbol for what the urban renewal planners wanted the West End to become, Charles River Park is a village of apartment towers, town houses, and athletic facilities designed to replace blocks of demolished buildings. In 1950, the City of Boston published a new general plan for the city that recommended the obliteration of most of the former West End. The creation of the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1957 led to the authorization of wholesale demolition of tenements and the displacement of 2,248 families. Awarded the redevelopment rights in 1958, the Charles River Park Corporation hired Victor Gruen, best known as a designer of suburban shopping malls, to create the master plan. He envisaged a village of apartment towers set in parklands and isolated by peripheral roads from the surrounding city. Ultimately two thirty-eight-story towers (1 and 4 Longfellow Place), two twenty-three-story towers (8 and 10 Emerson Place), and four sixteen-story slab apartment buildings (2 and 9 Hawthorne Place, 1 Emerson Place, and 6 Whittier Place) rose amid manicured grounds. The promises of new housing for former residents never materialized. Instead, middle-class apartments, especially convenient for those working at Massachusetts General Hospital (which now uses part of the complex as an outpatient unit), rose on the tabula rasa of wholesale demolition.

At a far corner of the original development parcel, Lowell Square/West End Place (The Architectural Team, 150 Staniford Street), a red brick apartment block trimmed with cast stone and focused on a massive entrance arch, opened in 1997, financed by Keen Development Corporation and the Archdiocese of Boston, offering more affordable housing for former West Enders nearly half a century after the promises were made. Both the new Charles River Park Synagogue (1970, CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares, 55 Martha Road) and the old St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church (1862, 66 William Cardinal O'Connell Way) attest to the religious and ethnic diversity of the former West End. The West End House (1929, 16 Blossom Street), a brick settlement house funded by James Storrow, also still stands, now used by Massachusetts General Hospital.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Charles River Park", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 99-99.

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