The Cultural Landscape Foundation Guide to Boston


In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service (NPS), The Cultural Landscape Foundation and NPS are partnering to document nationally significant landscapes in five cities. The third of five interactive online guides, the What’s Out There Cultural Landscapes Guide for Boston was preceded by guides to Philadelphia (March 2016) and New York City (October 2016), and will be followed by guides to cultural landscapes in Richmond, VA (Fall 2017) and Baltimore, MD (Spring 2018). From the city’s founding in 1630 to the City Beautiful movement in the 20th century, Boston’s landscape legacy is rich and nationally significant. Discover the extraordinary range of Boston’s designed landscapes through illustrated essays of more than 60 sites, all of which can be explored on an interactive map. Read the profiles of more than 50 designers and visionaries whose work has shaped Boston over the course of three hundred years. For access, visit https://tclf.org/places/city-and-regional-guides/boston.

As an example of what you’ll find, quoted below is an essay on Brook Farm Historic Site in nearby West Roxbury. This summer, treat yourselves to some day trips exploring the many featured landscapes:

Consisting of 179 acres and located in the West Roxbury neighborhood, the site is best known for its short tenure as a utopian community for Transcendentalists during the 1840s. The commune was founded by former Unitarian Minister George Ripley and was organized around contemporary principles of equality. Though Brook Farm was one of dozens of communal experiments in the U.S. at the time, it gained heightened notoriety due to the participation of prominent literary figures and intellectual leaders. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Blithedale Romance (1852) was inspired by his time on the commune. The community constructed multiple residences, a school, greenhouses, and other ancillary agrarian buildings. The experiment proved financially unstable, and the utopian enclave fell into disuse during the years leading up to the Civil War, when it was used as a training camp for Union soldiers. A cemetery, The Gardens at Gethsemane, was established on several acres of the historic farm in the 1870s. The site housed a Lutheran orphanage from 1872 to 1943, and Brook Farm Home, a Lutheran school and treatment center, from 1948 to 1974. Although a high-rise development was proposed in the 1980s, the site was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1988. It is now operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as a historic site.

What remains of historic Brook Farm is its cultural landscape: rolling fields, woodlands, and wetlands. Today’s visitors can stroll, picnic, and hike. Though the historic structures from the era as a Transcendentalist commune were destroyed by fire over the years, a number of their foundations remain, allowing for interpretation and an understanding of spatial character. Brook Farm was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places the following year.