As the name suggests, the West Back Bay was intended originally as an extension of the first-class residential district of the Back Bay. The Charles River Improvement Company, founded in 1890 by Charles Francis Adams, purchased the rights to fill land out to the line of the Boston Harbor Commissioners (the Charles River was still a tidal estuary and part of Boston Harbor). Beginning along Bay State Road, from east to west, new residential development continued until the First World War. South of Bay State Road, Kenmore Square (WB1) emerged at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, first as a residential enclave but quickly converted to commercial purposes. As the automobile grew in popularity, the corridor along Commonwealth Avenue from Kenmore Square west to Packard's Corner (AB1) in Brighton became the site of dealerships and garages (WB16) in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Ironically, the automobile also undermined the surrounding residential development, making the flight to the suburbs easier and faster. Boston University recognized the potential of underdeveloped land along Commonwealth Avenue and purchased a large parcel in 1920 that became the magnet for its Charles River Campus (WB13).
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