Monday, February 28, 2011
Book Club: Gaining Ground - A History of Landmaking in Boston
I was able to access this very nice book through the Minuteman library network - delivered straight to my local branch library. Nancy S. Seasholes put this book together out of her Ph.D dissertation - a common incubator for such books. And while it does bear the mark of such books - detail piled on detail in places - don't let that put you off. Within the fourteen chapters is the story of Boston's evolution from island town to metropolitan city.
The book's subject is the made land of Boston. This included the obvious - the Back Bay and the South End - plus the less-considered: Charlestown, East Boston, South Boston and the Dorchester shore. As Seasholes points out, the growth of Boston's land are didn't begin with the Back Bay - Bostonians were already filling in shoreline during the 18th Century. Wharves were built out, filled in and built out into the harbor again. Coves and mudflats were filled piecemeal and in 'projects.' And hills were leveled across the town to provide the fill.
Each new landmaking project is described in detail from primary sources, including the controversies that often arose from them. The book is very well illustrated with maps and photographs - for a map-o-phile like me, this is one of the prime virtues of the book. Throughout the book, the author gives you contemporary street maps with the original Shawmut peninsula outline (circa 1630) overlaying it. This is a great tool for keeping the reader oriented.
This isn't a book to read from cover to cover, but that is not a bad thing. Think of it as a reference book - a book to both study and browse. If you really want to know Boston, this is a book to have on your shelf.
I'm reading: Book Club: Gaining Ground - A History of Landmaking in BostonTweet this! Posted by Mark B. at 7:08 AM