Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston: On the Street Where You Live

A colleague and I were talking about Boston streets recently. There is some fascinating history to Boston streets. For instance there used to be two streets in what is now Government Center called King Street and Queen Street. King Street is now State Street and Queen Street is now Court Street. In the book: What they never told you about Boston, or, What they did that were lies by Walt Kelley. He tells us that King and Queen Streets were changed to distance themselves from the Royalty in England. In 1722 these two streets were near Corn Hill which is near where Tremont Street and Cambridge Street meet. King Street was named after King Charles I who was in power when the Puritans settled in Boston in 1630. Charles Street, the Charles River and Charlestown, Massachusetts are all named for King Charles I as well.

John Bonner map of Boston from 1722. Copy of rare map of Boston. Published by George B. Foster  Boston 1872

Carlton Osgood.  A New Plan of Boston from Actual Surveys.  Boston 1800f
Another fun fact about Boston streets from the Walt Kelley book states that Washington Street is the longest street in the Commonwealth, not including highways. It starts in Boston just beyond where it crosses Court and State Street and goes all the way to the border of Rhode Island. It is named for George Washington who visited for the last time in 1789. When he left many towns wanted to name a street after him. Over time one long street was created and most of the streets that cross Washington Street have to change their names when they cross Washington Street. Hence Berkeley becomes East Berkeley, Court becomes State Street, Boylston becomes Essex St., and Stuart becomes Kneeland St. The only streets that don’t change their names when they cross Washington are Massachusetts Avenue, Columbus Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

In our Special Collections Department there is a book called Record of the Streets that has short histories of the streets in Boston. The call number is F 73.67 .R44 1910.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian