Field Trip :: Charles River Esplanade + Hatch Shell


Image: Rand Lemley
By Rand Lemley, BArch Candidate
The Charles River Esplanade is one of the most beloved parks in Boston, and for good reason. Stretching from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge, the Esplanade is the perfect spot for a picnic, run, or bike ride. But it wasn’t always such a nice place to enjoy a sunny day.

Image: Rand Lemley
During the 1800s, the Charles River became one of the most industrialized regions of the country. As a result, the river became filled with pollution. This fouled water was the reason that Back Bay was filled in. In 1893, the Metropolitan Park Committee was established and put forth a plan to create a park system along the river. Six years later, the Charles River Dam was constructed, which made the Lower Charles River into a freshwater basin. The banks of the river were landscaped and became known as the Esplanade.
Image: Rand Lemley
Probably the most recognizable feature of the Esplanade is the Hatch Shell, across Storrow Drive from Beacon Hill and the Boston Public Garden. This amphitheater was built in 1941 as a permanent replacement for the temporary tents built for Boston Pops concerts since the inaugural 4th of July performance in 1929. It is now the home to the largest open air concerts in the city, including the Landmarks Orchestra summer concert series.
 
Image: Rand Lemley
The Art Deco structure has a beautiful inlaid wood interior. The wood’s deep brown hue and rich pattern place the Hatch Shell in conversation with the red brick and tradition of craftsmanship of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay. Yet the concrete exterior of the shell sets this design apart from its immediate surroundings. The metal boxes flanking the shell are reminiscent of the Park Street Station entrances, but have far more Deco flair. The flair extends to the side entrance to the building, a heavy bronze door with both circular and rectangular elements set in rhythm. One of the more curious things about the Hatch Shell is the US Army cannon that faces the river. Though it sits in place year round, it is only used one night of the year for the 1812 Overture during the Boston Pops 4th of July performance.

Image: Rand Lemley 
Take full advantage of the summer weather. Get out and enjoy the wonderful green spaces Boston has to offer. For more information about the events taking place at the Hatch Shell this summer, click here.