Charles River Esplanade

CharlesRiverEsplanade_signature_TomKlein_2016_05.jpg
Boston, MA
United States
Charles River Esplanade

Landscape Information

Boston Embankment

This linear waterfront park is located in Boston’s Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods, stretching from the Longfellow Bridge at its northeast end to the Harvard Bridge at its southwest end, and delineated by the Charles River along one long edge and Storrow Drive along the other. Originally known as the Boston Embankment, the park was created as part of the Charles River Dam project in 1910, which had been championed in prior decades by landscape architect Charles Eliot. Eliot’s efforts were initially opposed by residents of the Back Bay neighborhood who feared a loss of views and property values. However, the proposal gained momentum in 1901 when lawyer and banker James Storrow organized a letter-writing campaign, and in 1903 the state legislature approved the project. In the 1920s and 1930s landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff designed expansions to the promenade, adding a lagoon, plazas, boat landings, and playgrounds. In 1941 the Hatch Memorial Shell, an outdoor concert venue, was constructed.

A pedestrian path extends the length of the park, tracing the Charles River shoreline. A bicycle path lines the interior of the park, adjacent to Storrow Drive. While initially connected to the Emerald Necklace, the expansion of Storrow Drive and the creation of the Charlesgate Overpass limited connectivity to the esplanade. However, it remains a popular destination for walking, jogging, and dog walking.