The Back Bay is one of the city’s premiere neighborhoods—affluent Boston at its toniest best. From Copley Square, the Prudential Center and the Public Library to elegant brownstones and chic boutiques on Newbury Street, this is a neighborhood with charm and sophistication to spare. Promenade down Commonwealth Avenue—a tree-lined thoroughfare with a pedestrian mall modeled after the boulevards of Paris—or wine and dine in some of the city’s liveliest nightspots. The Back Bay lies along the Charles River facing Cambridge. Built on landfill, it’s one of the only Boston neighborhoods where the streets are laid out in a grid. The Green Line provides easy access. In addition to world-class strolling and shopping, the Back Bay is also home to the John Hancock Tower, Trinity Church, Newbury Street shopping and the Prudential and Copley Square shopping malls.
BACK BAY SITES OF INTEREST
Copley Square is a public square named for John Singleton Copley, donor of the land and a famous portrait painter of the late 18th century and native of Boston. Copley Square is well known for the architectural delights that grace the area.
In March 1872, the Trinity Church parish in Boston wanted to move from the old Trinity Church on Summer Street to Copley Square in Back Bay, a brand new but popular district. Henry Hobson Richardson proposed a church based on Romanesque architecture found in southern France. Richardson's innovative style would become known as "Richardson Romanesque."
Old South Church | 645 Boylston Street, Phone: 617-536-1970
Gathered in 1669, Old South Church in Boston is one of the most historically significant churches in the United States. Standing at the northwest corner of Copley Square, Old South Church is an outstanding and colorful example of Northern Italian Gothic architecture, advocated in the 1850s by the English architectural critic John Ruskin. This National Historic Landmark building is an unusually ornate design for a New England Congregational church. It radiates the opulent taste and the sense of optimism and progress of the Industrial Revolution following the Civil War. Known as the "New" Old South Church, this third home of the congregation was completed in 1875 and is distinguished by its tall bell tower, brown, pink and grey stonework, walls of Roxbury puddingstone, decorative carvings, polychromatic roof of red and black slate tiles, and copper cupola or lantern.
Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through the study and practice of contemporary music. For more than half a century, the college has evolved to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With more than a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing more than 70 countries, and a music industry "who's who" of alumni, Berklee is the world's premier learning lab for the music of today—and tomorrow.
The Boston Architectural College is a dynamic institution on the leading edge of design education. Located in the heart of the Back Bay, the BAC is an independent college of spatial design, founded in 1889. With more than 1,100 degree program students, the BAC offers accredited undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and design studies.
This is the place to start if you descend from an early immigrant to New England. You can check the society’s online library catalog from any terminal to see if someone has already written a genealogy that includes your family, or you can look for your ancestor in one of the several reference books located behind the desk. Staff genealogists here are knowledgeable about early New England ancestry and will be glad to help you with your search.
One great way to explore the Back Bay is to start at the Public Garden and walk up Newbury Street. The shops slowly change from extremely high end to more bohemian. At Massachusetts Avenue, going to the right will bring you to Commonwealth Avenue. Going to the left bring you into the Berklee College of Music, many more shops and eventually Symphony Hall. Near Mass Ave is Boylston Street, a vibrant avenue with bars and restaurants on one side and the Prudential Center, Copley Square and Hynes Convention Center on the other.