Historical Markers: Back Bay

Arlington Street Church - Arlington and Boylston Sts.*

The first church to be built in the newly-filled Back Bay, this parish moved from Federal Street in 1861. Arlington Street Church continues today as a Unitarian Universalist congregation committed to social justice. The building's design was inspired by the eighteenth century London church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The architect, Arthur Gilman, also designed the Back Bay street plan.

Click to view an historic image.

Berkeley Building - 420 Boylston St.*

The Berkeley Building, a distinctive example of the Beaux-Arts style, was designed in 1905 by the firm of Codman and Despradelle. This early Back Bay commercial building features a terra cotta exterior on a steel frame. In 1988 the building was restored to its original appearance by architects Notter Finegold + Alexander.

Click to view an historic image.

Boylston Street Fire Station - 941 Boylston Street.*

Built in 1887, this was the first combined fire and police station in the city. It was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque-style by city architect Arthur Vinal. The turret tower was used for drying fire hoses and the central bay led to the stable yards. Still home to the Engine Company 33 and Ladder Company 15, the station is noted for several fire-fighting innovations. It housed the first ladder truck in Boston equipped with a 3-horse hitch and was the first to acquire a turntable aerial truck. In 1976, the police station was renovated into galleries and became home to the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Click to view an historic image.

Community Boating - 21 Embankment Road

Originally known as the Community Boat Club, this is the oldest public sailing program in the country. It was founded in 1937 by Joseph Lee, Jr. as a summer program for the children of the West End neighborhood; the boats sailed from a pier near Massachusetts General Hospital. The children also helped to build the boats in the winter; the structured activities filled an important need for many young urban residents. Community Boating expanded to offer programs to metropolitan Boston residents of all ages, and became the largest program of its kind in the country.

First Corps of Cadets Armory - Arlington and Columbus Avenues*

The First Corps was chartered in 1741 as the bodyguard for Massachusetts' royal governors. Designed by William G. Preston in 1897, the building's fortress-like character reflects the Victorian romanticism of military service. Besides keeping civic order, militia served as elite social fraternities.

Click to view an historic image.

Massachusetts Audubon Society - 273 Clarendon St.

In 1896, Harriet Hemenway, a prominent Bostonian, began a campaign with her cousin Minna Hall to save the bird population that was threatened by the use of feathers in women's hats. Their efforts led to the formation here of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, one of the first environmental groups and the oldest surviving Audubon Society in the country. Built in 1869, this French Academic-style house was owned by Henry Adams in the 1870s. The great-grandson of President John Quincy Adams, he lived and wrote here while teaching at Harvard.

Museum of Natural History - 234 Berkeley St.

This classical French Academic-style building was designed in 1862 by architect William G. Preston as the new home of the Boston Society for Natural History, which had been founded in 1830. In the 1860's, many of Boston's cultural institutions relocated here to the Back Bay, the elegant residential district being built on the tidal marshes behind the city. When the museum moved here in 1863, the new building dominated the western edge of the landfill. The classical design reflected its role as a "temple of learning." The renamed Museum of Science moved to its present site on the Charles River in 1949.

Click to view an historic image.


Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

Wally’s Café Jazz Club is the last surviving reminder of Boston’s jazz heyday. It was founded in 1947 by Joseph L. “Wally” Walcott, an immigrant from Barbados, when this area was at the heart of Boston’s African-American community and home to many jazz clubs. Wally’s was one of the first racially integrated venues in New England and is still known as a training ground for young jazz musicians. The club was originally across the street, but moved to its current location in 1979. Jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and Art Blakey performed here.

* Indicates Designated Boston Landmark