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Back Bay Fens

Historic Name: Back Bay Park
Boston, MA

Initially called Back Bay Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., thought the name Back Bay Fens better represented his solution. Following his 1879 plan, the revolutionary design created passages of Picturesque scenery while restoring a saltwater marsh to ecological health. Realized with assistance from John C. Olmsted, the plan aimed to provide a solution for the ever-increasing sewage outfalls from burgeoning inner city populations, while also creating a holding/retention area for flood waters. In addition to the innovative use of native plants, the Fens included several bridges and a gatehouse. The celebrated architect H.H. Richardson designed the Boylston Street Bridge and the Stony Brook Gate House while the Agassiz and the Fen Bridge were designed by John C. Olmsted. After the Charles River was dammed in 1910, the ecology of the Fens shifted from salt to freshwater; redesign solutions were undertaken with Arthur Shurcliff, including the southern basin near the Museum of Fine Arts and a rose garden. In 1941, a victory garden was added. A number of memorials have also been added over time. The Back Bay Fens is served by the Fenway and Evansway Parkways.

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