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Boston Run – Copley Sq. Start

August 1, 2009

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Boston Public Library from Copley Sq.

Boston Public Library from Copley Sq.

Copley Sq. – Hatchshell – Longfellow Bridge – MIT – Harvard Bridge – Commonwealth (3.53 mi.)

Run Start: Copley Sq.

Access: Green Line: Copley Sq. Stop

Distance: 3 miles

Water Fountains: 2

Restrooms: 1

You will begin your run in Copley Sq. in front of the Boston Public Library. Run north on Dartmouth St., the street running in front of the library. Run straight until you reach Beacon St.

Back Bay

Pedestrian Traffic: Light

You will be running through the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. The Back Bay is one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Boston after Beacon Hill.

You are now crossing Newberry St. This is the high end shopping street of Boston. Home to many designer and

Newbury St.

Newbury St.

boutique shops. Here you can easily spend an entire afternoon people watching from a sidewalk cafe or browsing the shops yourself.

The Back Bay was built on what was originally part of the Charles River. Between 1857 and 1880 a major reclamation project was completed to fill in the area and build the neighborhood. Over 450 acres were added to the city of Boston. During the project land was taken from the original three hills of Boston. Today only one hill remains: Beacon Hill, where the New State House sits. It is presently 60 feet shorter than its original height.

Turn Right at Beacon St.

The Back Bay was designed by Arthur Gilman. He was inspired by Haussmann’s renovation of Paris occurring around the same time. This resulted in the many wide, tree-lined avenues of the Back Bay, and the collection of residential Brownstones that you can see along the streets of the Back Bay.

At 137 Beacon St. (just after you cross Berkley St. on your right) you will see the Gibson House Museum. This is a brownstone built in 1860 for the Gibson family. Catherine Hammond Gibson and her son were one of the first families to move to the Back Bay. This home was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Edward Clarke Cabot, a Boston architect. Charles’ son, Charles Jr. lived in the house until 1956 when he passed away. Even as he was living there he began to preserve the home and its objects as a museum, and in 1957 the Gibson House Museum officially opened. Today you can visit Wednesday – Sunday. Tours start at 1, 2, and 3pm daily.

When you reach Arlington St., turn left and cross Beacon St. Go up the ramp and over the pedestrian bridge to the Esplanade.

This is David Mugar Way. You will see the last remaining bronze plague put up in 1939 indicating the original name of the Esplanade. Storrow Memorial Embankment never stuck after the area had casually become known as the Esplanade in 1910. However the name did catch on as the name of the highway you will be crossing over: The Storrow Memorial Highway.

As you come off the bridge you will see an open field to your right. You will want to run around this area and continue eastbound past the stage.

The Esplanade

Pedestrian Traffic: Light

The Esplanade makes up a 3-mile stretch of the Charles River shore on the Boston side. It is used by many Bostonians throughout the year. In the summer you can find people relaxing near the lagoon or participating the festivals or watching the many concerts at the Hatch Shell. It is also frequented by many runners, as it makes up part of the 17-mile Charles River Running Trail.

The Hatchshell

The Hatchshell

You are running past the Hatch Shell. It was built in 1940 after Maria Hatch left money in memory of her brother Edward to build a permanent structure. The idea for a concert lawn was first conceived by Arthur Feidler a violinist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Before the permanent structure was built a temporary one was built and disassembled each year. Today the Hatch Shell host many concerts throughout the summer season, the most famous being the Boston Symphony’s Fourth of July Concert. For which Bostonians will spend the entire day on the Esplanade to ensure their perfect seat for the concert and fireworks. You can find a schedule of concerts, festivals, and movies here throughout the summer season online.

The Esplanade was first built in 1910 after James Storrow fought for the approval and building of a dam across the river. The dam eliminated much of the tides in the river, but the Esplanade remained mostly unused. The wall along the water’s edge actually made the water choppier for boaters and the lack of shade made it too hot to enjoy the area. After James’ death in 1926 is widow Helen Osborne Storrow donated $1 million to the beautification and development of the river bank. With the $2.3 million approved by the legislature and the $400,000 given by the city of Boston the Esplanade was expanded and landscaped. Parks, playgrounds, a music lawn, and boathouses were all added to the Esplanade and it was dedicated as the Storrow Memorial Embankment in 1936.

**Water Fountain Located Here**

You will see the Community Boating club on your left. This was the first public sailing program in the country, established in 1941. It was originally established to provide children with activities and today still provides membership to those under 18 for only $1. Today adults may also join and take lessons at the boathouse.

You will want to go up the ramp to cross on to Longfellow Bridge. You will be crossing the bridge into Cambridge.

Longfellow Bridge

Pedestrian Traffic: Medium

Longfellow Bridge

Longfellow Bridge

The Longfellow Bridge was originally called the Cambridge Bridge but was renamed after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The bridge was built on the site of the original West Boston Bridge that Longfellow wrote about in his poem “The Bridge”. Bostonians know this bridge as the Salt and Pepper Shaker Bridge because the shape of the large towers holding up the bridge.

Once crossing the bridge you will turn to the left, running along the Charles River.


Pedestrian Traffic: Very Light

Across the river you will be able to see the Esplanade. Often you will see sailboats from MIT and Harvard boathouses in the River on a nice day.

To your right you will see MIT. Founded in 1866 and originally located in Copley Sq. of Boston, the then Boston Tech



moved to this location in Cambridge, and was renamed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. World War II saw the establishment of MIT’s reputation as a leader in cutting edge research. Today MIT alumni are leaders in many fields. As you run past the University you will see the Green Lawn in front of the MIT Dome where MIT graduation is held every year. If you go to the top of Dome you will find a library inside. The dome has also been subject of several ‘hacks’ throughout the years.

“Hacks” are practical jokes by MIT students. Some of the more recent ‘hacks’ include putting Harry Potter’s Scar on the Dome and transporting Caltech’s Cannon to the MIT campus.

You will reach the next bridge, turning left to run across. This is the Harvard Bridge and Massachusetts Avenue (or “Mass Ave” to locals). If you run on the West side of the bridge you will see that is marked in units called Smoots. This was an MIT “hack” from 1958. Oliver Smoot was a laid end to end across the Harvard bridge as a measurement from MIT to Boston. Chosen because he was the shortest in his fraternity, the bridge measures exactly 364.4 smoots.

Continue on Mass. Ave. until you reach Boyleston Ave. where you will turn left.

Commonwealth Ave.

Pedestrian Traffic: Medium

On Mass. Ave. you will cross over Commonwealth Ave. This bridge marks mile 26 of the Boston Marathon as the runners run down Commonwealth Avenue toward the finish in front of the Prudential Tower on Boyleston.

If you look to your left you will see Commonwealth Avenue Mall. It was designed by Arthur Gilman in 1856 to represent a French boulevard. It was originally planted with large American Elms in1880. Some of the elms are still here after surviving the Dutch Elm Disease that has devastated the species in recent decades. Today the trees on the mall include sweetgum, green ash, maple, linden, zelkova, Japanese pagoda and elm.

The mall makes up part of the Emerald Necklace Park System. The system is made up of nine parks linked by parkways and waterways. It was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead in the late 19th century. Consisting of 1100 acres, it stretches nearly 7 miles from Boston Common to Franklin Park. While he didn’t design Boston Commons, Boston Garden, or Commonwealth Avenue Mall, he did design the system to incorporate these three parks. The system was designed to provide an escape from city life for the residents of Boston.

Continue past Commonwealth Ave to Boyleston where you will turn left.


Pedestrian Traffic: Medium to Heavy

On the corner of Boyleston and Mass-Ave. you will find Berklee College of Music Performance Center where you can find a variety of musical performances performed every week by both professional and student musicians.

On your left as you run down Boyleston you will find a variety of bars and restaurants enjoyed by the citizens of Boston. One of the well known bars include the Pour House where you will often find students gathered to enjoy the half off burgers Saturday nights or affordable weekend brunch, or just the locals looking for a low-key night out.

On your right you will pass the Hynes Convention Center, which is actually is connected to the Prudential Center. This is Boston’s largest convention center and houses many conventions throughout the year, including the 3-day Boston Marathon Expo prior to the marathon.

Next on your right you will see the Prudential Center. One of Boston’s largest malls is located on the bottom floor of

Prudential Tower

Prudential Tower

this ­­52 story building. The Prudential Tower was built in 1964. At the time it was the tallest building in America outside of New York City, but was surpassed five years later by the John Hancock Center in Chicago. It is currently the second tallest building in Boston and home of the highest observation deck in the city on the 50th floor. Admission is $11 and the deck is open 10am – 10pm during the summer, and 10am – 8pm in the winter, seven days a week.

Just before reaching Copley Sq. you will see the Boston Public Library on your right. The Boston Public Library was the first free municipal library in the US. It was founded in 1848; this building was opened in 1895 and was designed by ­­­­­Charles Follen McKim. Inside you will find Bates Hall, a large reading room where many of Boston’s students still study, beautiful murals decorating the walls, and a relaxing courtyard. The newest part of the library was completed in 1972; designed by Philip Johnson. It now houses the library’s circulating collections. Architectural tours of the Boston Public Library are available everyday except Wednesdays.

You’ve now reached Copley Sq. and your starting point. Hopefully you have enjoyed your run and tour of Boston.

**Water Fountains and Restrooms are located inside the Boston Public Library on the lower level**

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2009 9:26 PM

    Nice, I’ll have to try this run sometime. A few suggestions for your blog:

    1. Add some numbers or headings when changing directions. This will break up the page and make it easy to read.
    2. Add a map of the run near the top of each entry. Maybe you can link them to a map on
    3. Use the split function in WordPress to add a “read more” link after a paragraph or two of each entry. This way, it will be easy for people to quickly browse the home page to see what sort of runs you have available.

    Looking forward to the next Boston run!

  2. Beth permalink
    August 10, 2009 1:29 AM

    This is very informative and a great idea to combine the sightseeing and running. Good luck on your running.

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