Author Sammarco Fills in North Enders on Back Bay

By Patricia Sabbey, FONEL

Anthony Sammarco, noted historian and author spoke recently at the North End Branch Library. His talk was sponsored by the Friends of the North End Library and the Citywide Friends.

Mr. Sammarco gave a riveting and comprehensive account of the filling in and the development of Boston’s Back Bay. What was once stagnant salt marsh became an architecturally stunning neighborhood. Broad plans for the area went beyond residential to include ecclesiastical, educational and cultural institutions. Not only were palatial homes built for the elite of the last half of the nineteenth century, but also the Back Bay, including Copley Square, became the home of some of Boston’s most cherished institutions, including MIT (1866 to 1917), the Old South Church (1873), the Museum of Fine Arts (1876 to 1909) , Trinity Church (1877), and the Boston Public Library (1894).

To accomplish this major development, that almost doubled the size of the City, the area from the Boston Common to just beyond Kenmore Square was filled in. Imagine the detailed planning and creative thought that brought this immense project to fruition!

Due to the massive excavation, people who live fifteen (15) miles to the west in Needham Heights now live on essentially flat land. Using steam shovels and a rail line dedicated for the purpose, earth from Needham Heights was delivered by the trainload multiple times a day for almost fifty years. Almost 600 acres of buildable land was created. Building in the Back Bay continued from 1830’s up until World War I . . . and some thought the Big Dig was the most massive city project!

The Friends of the North End Library invite you to visit their website, www.FriendsNElibrary.org and to participate in the many programs offered by the Friends and by the North End Branch Library. If you are not a member of the Friends, please see our website under “Memberships” for information on how to join or send an email to info@FriendsNELibrary.org.