Emerald Necklace: Historical Photo Map

riverway1907When completed in the 1890’s, the Emerald Necklace was a complex park system divided into a salt water marsh and fresh water riverine environment. The Back Bay Fens, perhaps the most complex portion of the Necklace, was actually a salt water marsh that was regulated by the tides. After the construction of the Charles River Dam in 1912, the Charles River Basin created a giant freshwater pond in the lower Charles River and Back Bay Fens. No longer fed by the tides or salt water, the marsh ecosystem died out and the entire Muddy River became a freshwater environment.

With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900’s, the Emerald Necklace park system became an increasingly important transportation route. Despite the fact that Olmsted designed the park system in a curvilinear manner to deter heavy transportation, a number of infrastructure projects took place throughout the 20th Century. Perhaps the most destructive to parkland was the Bowker Overpass, constructed in the 1960’s to connect Storrow Drive to the Fenway. The Overpass nearly eliminated the pedestrian connection to the Charles River and signaled the beginning of a long decay period in the Charlesgate portion of the Back Bay Fens.

The historic photographs on this map show the Muddy River as Olmsted intended: a salt water march and pleasure route of parkways. The pictures range from 1895 to 1906 and are from the Library of Congress. Journey back in time and imagine Boston and Brookline at the dawn of the 20th Century…

Click on the cameras to view historic photographs of that location.

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