Back Bay Fens

The Back Bay Fens, which started in 1878, is the oldest of the five Olmsted-designed parks in the Emerald Necklace. It's also the one most changed from its original form. The park that remains has been dramatically altered, primarily due to the construction of the Charles River Dam, which transformed the original salt water marsh into fresh water in 1910.

The historic features of Olmsted’s original plan are limited to a few stretches of watercourse from Avenue Louis Pasteur to the Tremont Entrance (now called Evansway); the Boylston Street Bridge, Agassiz Road Bridge, the Agassiz Shelter (Duck House); several gatehouses; and some early trees.

The Back Bay Fens was first designed as a sanitary improvement with the main feature a 30-acre tidal basin to accommodate the tides and the storm waters of the Stony Brook. During times of flooding, approximately 20 additional acres could be covered with water.

A second aim was to restore the salt marsh to it's original condition, since the land was at or near sea level. Essentially, the Fens was an engineered sanitary solution first and a park second.

Learn more about the history of the Back Bay Fens.
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