North End Parks
The North End Parks on the Rose Kennedy Greenway have reconnected Boston. Designed by landscape architecture firm GGN (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol), the park has been created in an area that was formerly an eyesore. It is also utilizing previously underutilized space as well as creating a beautiful segue into Boston as one enters via the Zakim Bridge and descends into the tunnel known as the “Big Dig”. With the dismantling of the old elevated Central Artery, the North End Parks now serve as a sun-splashed link between this historic neighborhood and the rest of the city.
The North End is bound by Atlantic Avenue, Cross Street, and Commercial Street, which abuts the Boston Harbor waterfront. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, two of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions, are also closely associated with the North End, though technically they fall just outside its boundaries. The North End is Boston’s oldest neighborhood. Over the years, it has been home to almost every group of immigrants to come through Boston, but today it is mostly associated with the Italians. The neighborhood has a strong Italian flair and is the home of some of the city’s best Italian restaurants, which is why it is sometimes called Boston’s “Little Italy.” Although the North End is the oldest neighborhood, most of the surviving architecture dates from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Tenement style housing is particularly common, though the neighborhood has a mixture of architecture, including such historic structures as the Old North Church (1723), and the Paul Revere House (1680).
The 3-acre (12,000 m2) parks are a significant "hinge" point between the grand civic spaces of Quincy Market, Government Center, Haymarket and the intimacy of Boston's oldest neighborhood. The city's historic Freedom Trail, which used to sit in the dark shadow of the elevated highway, weaves through the park.
The North End Parks site is defined by the surrounding streets—John Fitzgerald Surface Road, North, Cross and Sudbury streets - and by the O'Neill/I-93 tunnel structures and interchanges at the Callahan and Sumner tunnels beneath the parks. Once a "land bridge" that connected the peninsula of Boston with Sudbury Street to the west, the site has a rich history, more than 300 years, as a crossing ground for Bostonians. This site was also the low point between Beacon Hill and Copps Hill and subsequently was the logical choice for a mill canal that connected the swampy area known as the Mill Pond (later the Bulfinch Triangle) with the bay.
The North End Parks design concept features flexible spaces including green landscapes with a path system, plazas with pergolas and water features that run through both parks and appeal to a wide range of people, including North End residents of all ages and the thousands of tourists and Bostonians who visit each year. The enthusiastic involvement of the neighborhood and an engaging public process were essential in shaping the design of a new "front porch" for the North End.
A boxwood hedge frames the perennial gardens of irises, lavender, peonies and poppies that border the western edge of the parks. A variety of plants will flower continuously through spring, summer and fall. Trees such as magnolia, ash and a larger Washington elm adorn the parks. As a vibrant expression of Italian origins of today's North End, the community porch pergola is planted with flowering vines.
Chairs and tables and benches abound to read a book or enjoy a local slice. The parks leaning rails on Hanover Street feature quotes from some of the North End's prominent residents as well as a timeline of historic events. The parks are divided by the reconnected Hanover Street, which can be shut down to connect the two parks.
- 2008 MassPike.com page on North End parks