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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Back Bay

November 29, 2013 6:40 AM

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Back Bay is one of Boston’s most exciting, diverse, and expensive neighborhoods. Here are five things you didn’t know about Back Bay.
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The “Hancock buildings” are a part of the well-known Boston skyline. (Photo Credit: John Hancock Tower)

1. 3 “Brother” Towers

We all know that the 60-floor John Hancock Tower is the tallest building in Boston and in New England at 970 ft. It is officially titled Hancock Place, but is just one of three “Hancock buildings” in Back Bay. The Old John Hancock Building, more popularly known as the Berkeley Building, towers at 495 feet as the 18th tallest building in the city. This building is known for its weather beacon, which flashed both red and blue when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series this year, as well as in 2004 and 2007. The original “Hancock building” is the Stephen L. Brown Building, which was built in 1922 and still stands tall in the Boston skyline.

The Victory Garden in Back Bay Fens grows vegetables, herbs, and flowers. (Credit: Fenway Victory Gardens)

The Victory Garden in Back Bay Fens grows vegetables, herbs, and flowers. (Credit: Fenway Victory Gardens)

2. Victory Garden

Within Back Bay’s section of the Emerald Necklace, is the Fenway Victory Gardens. This garden is the only remaining and operating of the World War II Victory Gardens, which were run by communities to help supplement diminishing food supply during the war. Now, over 7 acres of vegetable patches, flowers beds and herb gardens are tended to by about 300 local community members in the Fenway Garden Society.

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“Dancing Bacchante and Infant Faun” is the highlight of the outdoor courtyard. (Photo Credit: Boston Public Library.)

3. Fountain of Knowledge

Back Bay is home to the Boston Public Library’s central location, composed of the Johnson Building and the McKim Building. Unique to the McKim Building is its outdoor central courtyard, a spacious area featuring a beautiful, granite water fountain. The fountain surrounds a sculpture designed by American architect Frederick William MacMonnies. Titled “Dancing Bacchante and Infant Faun,” the sculpture is encircled by dancing water jets. A peaceful area of chairs and tables surrounds the fountain, where people can enjoy a drink from the café while reading a book.

Copley Place is the second-largest mall in Boston.

Copley Place is the second-largest mall in Boston. (Photo Credit: Simon Malls)

4. Boston’s Big Malls

Back Bay houses the two largest malls of Boston, the Prudential Center and Copley Place. At the base of the Prudential Tower is the Prudential Shopping Center. The 75 shops that attract shoppers every day are spread out over 14 acres. Copley Place, the city’s second-largest mall, which connects to the Pru, stretches 9.5 acres. Combined, they’re about half the size of Boston Common.

Comm. Ave.

A street of Back Bay brownstones.

5. Homes with History

Back Bay’s Victorian brownstone homes give this neighborhood validity as a being architecturally-significant. It is also considered one of the best-preserved models of 19th century municipal planning. The numerous, parallel rows of three or four-story brownstones located on Newbury St. and Commonwealth Ave. are a great example of urban architecture. In 1973, all of Back Bay’s brownstones were inducted to the National Register of Historic Places.

Kaylee Hill is a junior in the College of Communication at Boston University, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sociology. She is the Digital Media intern for CBS Boston this Fall. Follow Kaylee on Twitter: @KayleeEHill.

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