In 1875, the voters of the City of Boston and the Massachusetts legislature approved the creation of a park commission in order to promote the creation of public parks in the city.Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect of New York City's Central Park, began to spend an increasing amount of time in the area and was asked by the park commission in the mid-to-late 1870s to be the judge of a 23-entry design competition to build a new park. Olmsted felt that all of the submitted plans were subpar and either did not take into account flood control or focused too much on it and neglected the public park aspect. The Muddy River and Stony Brook flowed through the Back Bay Fens (an artificial marshland commonly referred to as the Fens) which were at the time subject to tidal flow, storm flooding, and sewage discharge. The disappointed park commission then asked Olmsted to be its professional adviser and main landscape architect. Under his direction, what is now called the Emerald Necklace took shape. He directed the Fens to be dredged, graded, planted, and turned into a seemingly natural salt marsh to absorb and clean the flowing waters. He then built a series of parks stretching from the Fens near the existing Commonwealth Avenue greenway to Franklin Park some miles away. The parks were connected to each other by scenic parkways, one of which is Park Drive around the northern and western sides of the Back Bay Fens. Originally Park Drive was named Audubon Road in conjunction with the adjoining Audubon Circle, at the intersection with Beacon Street, in honor of the Audubon Society and the vast avian population within the Olmsted designed Fens. The parkway was renamed Park Drive sometime between 1928 and 1938 when alterations to the Fens resulted in a large part of the artificial marshland being filled for more formal parkland . As part of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston, Park Drive is maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), rather than the City of Boston.
Park Drive begins near the intersection of Boylston Street and Ipswich Street and heads south with two one-way lanes to Peterborough Street. From there an additional one-way road begins with parallel parking on both sides. It runs on the north side of the flowing traffic and is separated by a grassy tree-lined median. The road continues in this fashion until it reaches the end of the Fens where the parking side merges into the main roadway along with traffic entering from the Fenway on the other side of the Muddy Rover. A parking lane is created on the right and the road travels with two one-way lanes towards Brookline Avenue. Two more lanes are added as it crosses Brookline Avenue and passes the Landmark Center in Audubon Circle. The two left lanes become left-turn-only and facilitate access to the Riverway and the reverse direction towards the Fenway. The right two lanes continue straight through the intersection and two lanes in the opposite direction join it. After its intersection with Beacon Street, Park Drive loses a lane in each direction and continues for two more blocks as part of Massachusetts Route 2 before ending at Mountfort Street near the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Park Drive runs alongside the Muddy River from its beginning at Boylston Street to its intersection with Brookline Avenue. The Fenway, which is located on the other side of the Back Bay Fens, allows for continuous travel in the opposite direction of Park Drive. It is accessible from where Park Drive becomes two-way at Brookline Avenue and ends on Boylston Street near where Park Drive begins.