40+ Posts About Boston’s Back Bay

Copley Square, Trinity Church, Hancock Tower, Spring Flowers, Boston, Back Bay

Copley Square and Trinity Church

Since I started The Next Phase Blog in 2013, I have written over 200 posts about places and things around the city of Boston. A page on the blog—called Posts About Boston—has links to all of them.

Because I have written different series, though, the links are not all grouped together under the heading of the neighborhood they describe. So, I thought it would be helpful to just list the posts for a particular area.

The Back Bay

Boston Common, Public Garden,Back Bay Map, Boston, made landI decided to start with the Back Bay. I first learned the history of the Back Bay when studying the Boston By Foot tour that covers this 570-acre parcel of made land and I have given that tour many times. Once, when the guests got the starting point wrong and had limited time, I even led the tour backwards.

The Back Bay is a delightful place because it was designed to be an elegant, upscale neighborhood that would keep people with a particular ancestry and background — the descendants of the Puritan founders — from leaving the city. They would hardly stay for less. And it’s one of Boston’s newer locations, dating back only to 1856 in terms of actual living space; that is, not a mud flat.

The Back Bay’s Made Land

Fish Weirs, Back Bay, Shawmut Peninsula, Shawmut Indians, New England Mutual Life Insurance Building

The Back Bay fish weirs with Beacon Hill in background

I started by reading about that mud flat (it stank), how it was developed, by whom and when. The Boston By Foot tour includes all that, plus how buildings were stabilized in the gravel fill, the architectural styles used for both public and private structures, how they were decorated, and what occasionally went wrong.

Then I read more, walked around, took pictures, focused on specific items and wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Posts About the Back Bay

Wow! Who knew? By now, I have written more than 40 posts just about the Back Bay and I’m not done. Links to these posts appear below, roughly grouped by category. In them, you will find information, answers to questions you might have, and — I hope — inspiration to go out and see for yourself.

Back Bay Buildings

  1. The Fairmont Copley Plaza: Boston’s Grande Dame
  2. The New England Mutual Life Insurance Company
  3. The Hancock Building’s Weather Beacon
  4. The Berkeley Building: Shining Bright in the Back Bay
  5. Spiritual Temple or Movie Theater?
  6. Arthur Bowditch and the Berklee College of Music
  7. The Haberstroh Building in the Back Bay
  8. Overnight Guests at Boston Police Headquarters
  9. Haddon Hall: Tall in the Back Bay

Boston’s Missing

  1. Two Statues Find a New Home
  2. “Quest Eternal” at the Pru
  3. The Kakas Fur Company Polar Bear

Hidden Gems

  1. Mapparium, Christian Science Center, Massachusetts Avenue, Back BayThe Mapparium
  2. Boston Public Library Courtyard
  3. The Tiffany Sanctuary
  4. The Salada Tea Doors
  5. Museum Restoration
  6. St. Francis Garden –
  7. History Dioramas
  8. Pru Garden
  9. The Copley Station Headhouse
  10. Small Treasures of Boston’s Back Bay

Boston’s Angels

  1. The BPL’s Frieze of Angels
  2. Cornelius and the Angel: A Tiffany Window
  3. The Solitary Church Court Angel
  4. Angel of the Waters
  5. Brattle Square Angels

Statues and Fountains

  1. Boston’s Bronze Rhinos
  2. Boston’s Kensington Lions
  3. The Tortoise and the Hare and the Boston Marathon
  4. Boston’s Fountains: The Bagheera Fountain
  5. The Ether Monument’s Good Samaritan

Other Back Bay Stuff

  1. Boston Public Library, BPL, courtyard, Palazzon Della Cancellaria, Charles Follen McKim, Back Bay

    Courtyard of the BPL

    Obnoxious Noises Around Boston Common

  2. Potions, Parking and Profits in the Back Bay
  3. Why So Few Skyways for Boston? 
  4. Boston’s Back Bay: The Once (and Future?) Body of Water
  5. On the Tour: The Back Bay from the Ground Up
  6. Walking Through Boston’s Back Bay
  7. Phillips Brooks and the Christmas Carol
  8. Boston’s Doors: The BPL’s Bronze Portals

Boston’s Streets

  1. Two Boston Streets and George Washington

Weekend Wandering

Crowninshield House, H.H. Richardson, Benjamin Crowninshield

Medallion in panel brick arches

Now that warmer weather is here, you can find these places and things yourself or join in when Boston By Foot rolls out a brand-new Back Bay tour this year. Either way, you’ll have a good time learning more about buildings you might pass on your commute, Sunday stroll, daily dog walk, or weekend wandering.

Speaking of walking, that’s the best way to experience the Back Bay. You see, big vehicles like buses, trolleys, and DUK-Ws can’t go there. A motorized tour can only show you the Back Bay’s fringes.

Plus, even if they could take you down the pleasant, scenic streets of this neighborhood, they would go too fast for you to see the smaller details that give the area its charm. Their narrators would also not have enough time to relate some of the most interesting stories. Trust me, walking is the way to go and, because the Back Bay is flat, a tour through it poses no physical challenges.

Recommendations Appreciated

I’m always interested in hearing about interesting buildings, decorations, or other things to write about. If you see something in the Back Bay that puzzles you or you want to learn more about, just let me know.