Imagine if City Hall were replaced with a large arch

Temporary 300th anniversary arch

The Boston Public Library has posted a number of photos by Herald-Traveler photographer Leslie Jones of the city's 300th-anniversary celebrations in 1930, including several showing the temporary arch the city erected on the site of what's now City Hall. Worth looking at large for all the details. And here's the reverse view, showing what was then an expanded Dock Square (now City Hall and City Hall Plaza). No doubt, Sam Adams just stood there, glowering.

Another view of the temporary arch

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These old pictures of Boston

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These old pictures of Boston are bittersweet: so many beautiful squares and buildings and a palpable sense of 'city.' It's almost hard to imagine what Boston was like back then.

No elevation change?

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I'm not noticing any significant elevation change between Faneuil Hall and this arch and beyond. Are all those stairs necessary now because City Hall was built on an artificially raised plaza?

Also, thanks for this Adam, I really do love these glimpses of the past.

This has confused me too for

This has confused me too for years. All the older maps and photos show a relatively flat link between Scollay Sq and Faneuil Hall. How the heck did a massive flight of steps and plaza from Congress St get raised so high and meet up with Cambridge St?

Were the streets really that steep?


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It does look like there is a contour line around that area, but a more detailed map would probably be needed to accurately define the hill there.

On a side note, that map appears to show a completed Soldiers Field Road and Embankment Road, yet it was before Storrow was built to connect those two together. I guess that explains the reason for those different names.

Cornhill still exists

at least, part of it does. The Sears Crescent block (starting at the Steaming Kettle Starbucks and curving east towards Planet Fitness) was on Cornhill. (It wasn't 'Cornhill Street', just 'Cornhill')


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It didn't even occur to me that the name Cornhill could be a reference to.. a hill there. That's starting to make sense. I guess when that area went through urban renewal, they decided to make the plaza flat, and use the new space underneath the raised area for underground parking. Not a crazy idea there, but they shouldn't have left random stairs all over the place on the plaza, and the blank wall staring down congress street isn't so great either.

Soldiers field road?

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Hard to tell from the map - where did SFR terminate on the eastern end before Storrow was constructed?

Bay State Road

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It looks like SFR dumped out onto University Road/Bay State Road/Comm Ave at the same place there is currently an exit just after the BU bridge. This is also right where SFR currently ends and Storrow begins today, according to Google maps (and wikipedia).

Bay State Road strangeness

Even though Bay State Road appears to end just west of Granby Street and turn into a private gated BU driveway, there are BU buildings west of the gate with Bay State Road addresses.

No gate

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I don't recall if there used to be gates or not, but there's no gate on it, just an attendant booth (that's not always manned).

Bay State Road gate

Maybe not, but I think there's still a gate at the other end, at the exit from Soldiers Field Road. At least, Google Street View shows one, with a little indentation next to the gate for bicycles to use.

Never looked there

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Interesting. I guess it's because too many people ended up on Bay State instead of Storrow accidentally (and there's nowhere to correct until you get to Granby). A lot of students cross that area behind the church when the weather is nice, so I assume the gate also helps keep traffic down on the more pedestrian areas back there.

Did Leni Riefenstahl Design It?

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I'm getting a real "Triumph of the Will" feel from that arch. Strong German influences in architecture back then?


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I thought the same thing. In fact I first thought someone had actually photoshopped some historic Nazi rally images into an old Boston photo. I guess not everything that was built in the past really merited being conserved.

The arch was located in Dock

The arch was located in Dock Square. One corner of City Hall was built into the adjacent Adams square - the rest replaced buildings along Brattle and Washington sts.

The Boston Atlas site will let you toggle between old maps and a current satellite image.

LOL good one!..

or a horizontal blue stripe against a black background? or at least a Livery plate

M for Menino!

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The mayor would never think so small. These days he'd want TWO arches!! Yeah! Two arches, like a big "M" for "M"enino! And they'd be made of GOLD just like the State House!

Yeah! I can see it now! Two big golden arches!

Don't know it would be awesome.