Boston Walks – Back Bay to Harvard Yard

I like to walk. I spent six days walking around Boston in July 2015.

As a tourist in Boston, I stayed in three different parts of downtown. My first stay at the InterContinental Boston on the Boston Waterfront was a good location for colonial Boston history with The Boston Tea Party Museum, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Markey and The North End. Boat tours leave from here too.

I stayed at the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill Hotel near the Charles River, around Massachusetts General Hospital. It was a 15 minute walk uphill on the north side of Beacon Hill to reach the Massachusetts State House and Boston Common public park where I attended the Outside the Box music and creative arts festival a couple of days.

My last hotel stay in downtown Boston was Marriott Copley Place. This is the Back Bay section of Boston, named for its former environment of tidal marshlands or ‘fens’. Back Bay and the area known as Fenway was filled in with dirt between 1856 and 1882 to greatly expand residential space in Boston, more than 200 years after the town was founded.

Google Maps Boston

Google Maps view of Boston Shawmut Peninsula and Back Bay between Boston Common and Fenway Park.

My three hotel stays all placed me within 15 to 20 minutes walk to Boston Common and Boston Public Garden. The public space in Boston is kind of the focal point of the downtown city and basically the center of downtown Boston. My hotels allowed me to walk between Waterfront, Beacon Hill and Back Bay to Boston Common through three different areas of downtown. I kept finding my way back to Boston Common each day for free concerts during the Outside the Box festival.

Walk from Back Bay to Harvard Yard

My last full day in Boston on Monday, July 20 was also the hottest day in the city to that date for summer 2015. Temperatures of 93 F. were given with high humidity that decreased throughout the day.

I decided to walk to walk from Marriott Copley Place to Harvard University in Cambridge. I covered a lot of ground in six hours outside.

Boston fountain

Sheraton Boston (right) and Hilton Boston Back Bay (far left) are seen behind fountain near Prudential Center Boston in the photo.

Mother Church in Boston

One of the first things I wanted to see was a large pool visible from my 25th floor room at Boston Marriott Copley Place.

Loyalty Traveler – My $80 Boston Marriott Copley Place room with breakfast (Aug 6, 2015)

Boston pool

Mother Church, First Church of Christ Scientist – 1894

Mother Church   Mother Church 2

The Christian Science Church is formally called First Church of Christ Scientist and was founded in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy in 1875 after the publication of her book Science and Health. The Christian Science Monitor newspaper building is also located in this complex, beside the church.

Boston Symphony

Boston Symphony Orchestra is considered one of the “Big Five” city orchestras in the USA. Founded in 1881, the orchestra spends their summers in western Massachusetts at Tanglewood, a summer music event location. The sign shows a Boston Pops poster.

There is a Whole Foods Market by the BSO building, if you need food. Another Whole Foods is located behind the Wyndham Beacon Hill Hotel. Boston is a good place for markets. Most neighborhoods I walked through have a regular supermarket like Whole Foods and Star Market.

Whole Foods BSO

Back Bay Fens 1879

The Back Bay of Boston was land known as ‘fens’ in parts of old England to describe marshland. The size of downtown Boston’s Shawmut Peninsula greatly expanded in the mid-1800s after the fens were filled in and allowed real estate development. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park opened in 1912 on reclaimed land, formerly fens.

Back Bay Fens

Back Bay Fens are part of the original Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace urban landscaping project to solve the water pollution problem of the Back Bay fens, as well as expand land development in downtown Boston. I read sometime this past year Boston’s Emerald Necklace iss one of Olmsted’s greatest landscape achievements. Olmsted’s projects have come up frequently in my travels this year. Olmsted designed the landscape for George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, a place I visited in June 2015.

Fenway Victory Gardens, 1942

Victory Garden

I don’t recall hearing anything about World War II Victory Gardens before yesterday when I looked at photos of places I visited in Boston. During World War II, President Roosevelt called on the nation to grow gardens to feed the troops during the war. Boston’s Victory Gardens were established in the Fenway neighborhood in 1942 as one of 20 million ‘Victory’ gardens in the U.S. These gardens produced half of the country’s vegetables during the war.

Fenway Victory Gardens is the only remaining Victory garden in the U.S. to have been maintained since WWII.

This is all information I learned while writing this piece. My desire during my walk was simply to be in the shade of trees and green space on the hot day. Many lots were filled with colorful flowers in July.

Fenway Gardens   Victory flowers

I like the idea of Victory flowers.

One of the cool features of Fenway Victory Gardens are small lots with plants, and in many lots were a couple of chairs for lounging in the grass on a summer day in the city.

I am curious how someone obtains a lot in the gardens?

There is picnic space for the public too.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

I saw the Museum of Fine Arts from the Emerald Necklace greenbelt.

Checking my iPhone maps revealed I had been walking away from Fenway Park baseball stadium, a site I saw when I first entered the Emerald Necklace greenbelt. I basically circumnavigated the Back Bay Fens.

Google Maps Boston Back Bay

Google maps – Boston Back Bay and Fenway

Into the Water at Simmons College

After 90 minutes or so of walking, my water supply was out. One great thing about Boston are numerous institutions of higher education. I walked into a building called Simmons College. I asked the receptionist if I could refill my water bottle in a water fountain. She pointed me down the hall.

Colleges offer a place to stop for a toilet and water fountains. In less than two minutes I was back at reception. In those two minutes I realized I was inside a women’s college. The only two men I saw were in ties, looking higher into education than the ladies in the hall.

Simmons college

Simmons College 1899

Refreshed with a little bit of AC air and a full bottle of water, I came across another HubWay, one of Boston’s useful transportation methods I had already seen a couple of other places, @hubway bicycle rentals. First 30 minutes are free. Don’t get lost on your way to the next hub.

Hubway bikes Boston

TheHubway map showed more than 20 bike locations around Boston with more locations around Cambridge.

Fenway Park

Eventually I reached one of my sightseeing destinations at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912.

Fenway banners   Fenway Yawkey Way

There are tours of Fenway Park available to the public for a fee. The stadium had been the scene of Foo Fighters concerts for the two previous nights.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park Boston – 1912

Interstate 90 runs between Fenway Park and the Charles River. Beside an overpass is the Boston University Metcalf Engineering Building. Another college pit stop for cold water fountain fluids.

Fenway Park and I-90

Prudential Tower in background is near my starting point of the day at Marriott Copley Place.

Boston University

Boston University – Metcalf Engineering Building

A young woman sitting on a bench outside in the shade of a tree reading a book responded kindly to my interruption. She pointed me in the direction of Charles River. I was not doing very well with my iPhone maps in walking direct routes across Boston.

Charles River sun dock

The Charles River offered another green space on the Boston riverbank. The Paul Dudley White Bike Path is named for American cardiologist Paul Dudley White.

PD White bike path

Paul Dudley White (1886-1973) attended Harvard Medical School and joined the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital after WWI, where he eventually became chief of cardiology. After retirement, he worked with the National Heart Institute. Paul Dudley White is considered the pioneer of preventive cardiology through diet and exercise. He was appointed President Eisenhower’s physician after his 1955 heart attack. An anecdote on a plaque by the bike path stated he once walked from National Airport to the White House to consult with President Eisenhower.

Reading about Paul Dudley White reinvigorated me to continue my hot walk over the Charles River into Cambridge.

Harvard Bridge view-1

View from Harvard Bridge with John Hancock Tower, Boston’s tallest skyscraper at 60-story, 790 feet.

Hancock Tower Boston   Harvard Bridge view Beacon Hill

Massachusetts State House dome and Beacon Hill sits in the foreground beside Charles River with a backdrop filled by large skyscrapers of downtown Boston.

Crossing the Charles River on a bridge named Harvard Bridge might lead one to think Harvard is on the other side of the bridge from Boston. Actually, Harvard Bridge enters Cambridge on the north side of the bridge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harvard Bridge sign

“Half Way to Hell” made me laugh. I had already sussed out some stressed out OCD college student had numbered about one third of the concrete panels creating the Harvard Bridge sidewalk. I was searching for a mathematical pattern to the numbers, since not all the panels were numbered.

I snapped a photo of the bridge view from half way to hell.

Halfway view

Cambridge, Massachusetts, the birthplace of USA schools

Seeing Noam Chomsky at MIT would have been great, but I was not really looking at people.

MIT   MIT building

College campuses are relaxing places for me. I enjoy hanging out at colleges when I travel. This was the first time I had been to MIT.

MIT think

I walked around campus, which is kind of hard to distinguish from the town. It is kind of like a commercial district higher education institution with regular businesses in areas around the campus buildings. Mixed commercial, residential, educational streets.

I shopped at Star Market, adjacent to Le Meridien Cambridge, a Starwood Hotel. and ate lunch in an MIT green park space called University Park Commons.

You Can’t Do That in Cambridge

I have to share a story of a young female cyclist being ticketed by a motorcycle cop.

Barium   Cambridge cop bust

I was walking on the main street from Harvard Bridge by a construction site. Paintings with scientific elements were attached to the netting of the barrier between the construction site and the road. I figured they were some kind of MIT art, but after looking at them closely in my photos, there are misspelled words in some of the art pieces and they all reference Central Square Cambridge. Anyway, the elemental art seemed so MIT to me at the time.

I never overheard the cyclist’s violation. I did hear her asking the cop not to ticket her and the cop not persuaded at all as he wrote out the ticket. She rode off toward Harvard Bridge.

Cambridge maps   Margaret Fuller

University Park MIT – Cambridge Maps and Margaret Fuller quote in sidewalk “Nature seems to delight in varying the arrangements, as if to show she will be fettered by no rule; and we must admit the same varieties as she admits.”

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) had a reputation as one of the top literary critics and intellectuals in New England. She is also considered an early American feminist.

Feminist activism was a theme I saw in Cambridge.  My path crossed two more feminist history signs around Harvard.

Feminist marker   Harvard yard gate

Left: 888 Memorial Drive – Site of a Harvard building occupied by feminists who demanded affordable housing, child care and education, and then founded the Cambridge Women’s Center March 6-15, 1971.

Right: 1997 Harvard Yard Gate – a plaque on brick column beside gate reads, “This gate was dedicated twenty-five years after women students first moved into Harvard Yard in September of 1972”

Charles River Cambridge

Charles River, Cambridge pastoral view

Charles River rowers

No Music Zone

This was my sixth day wandering around Boston in July and the first day I had not listened to street performers and amplified bands. They were all over North End Boston tourist areas and in Boston Common during the six-day Outside the Box festival that ended the day before. I walked six hours around Boston and Cambridge and never heard any live music during my walk.

The First Church – The First Parish in Cambridge 1633/1636

First Parish Cambridge

Seriously old establishment for the USA. This church is across the street from Harvard University, also established 1636.

Harvard Yard Main Gate

Harvard was different from all the other colleges I had walked into this day.

Harvard was different from all the other colleges in that I could not access a water fountain or toilet. Harvard is a closed school with lots of public visitors walking around the outside of buildings. You need a college id card to get inside buildings.

Widener Library

Widener Library (1915) at Harvard houses 3.5 million books. The library was established for 1907 Harvard graduate Harry Elkins Widener by his mother. Harry Widener died on the Titanic sinking in 1912. Widener Library celebrated its 100th anniversary this June.

Boston is a city offering great walks through history and culture. I caught the T back to Boston.

Boston is a city easy to walk, perhaps easier to cycle.