History of Kenmore Square    

 CoverPart IPart IIPart IIIPart IVNamesAppendices


APPENDIX I – A Concise Timeline

1868    Back Bay Street grid fill begins with Arlington, Berkley and Clarendon

1876    Street grid laid out all the way to Western Avenue (present-day Brookline Ave.)

1877    Kenmore footprint first illustrated on a map

1878    Advertisement for proposals for "Back Bay Park", to become "Back Bay Fens"

1878    Beacon Entrace to Back Bay park designed (presently Charlesgate East and West streets)

1879    Notice of intent to Extend Commonwealth Ave. to Beacon Street. "To be designed in an oblique manner" - Boston Globe, 27 May

1880 Construction on Back Bay Fens begins

1880    Olmstead designs the extension of Commonwealth Avenue from Massachusetts avenue to Beacon Street

1880    Kenmore Street is named on Olmstead's map of the Commonwealth Avenue Extension.  First mention of the name of this street.   Also includes Ipswich and Jersey.

1881    Bay is filled in fas far as present-day Kenmore street.  Filling south of Charlesgate, Hereford and west of Fens.

1883    Street Commissioners finished list of street on the Back Bay: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Falmouth, Gloucester, Hereford, Ipswich and Jersey

1884    First public mention of "Kenmore Street" - Boston Globe, August 5.

1886    Kenmore Street shown on Olmstead's "Study of Plan" for extension of Commonwealth Avenue

1889    Petition to extend Kenmore Street northwardly from Beacon Street (where Raleigh Street is)

1890    Olmstead leaves Boston

1890    Raleigh Street is laid out and filled

1891    Underground electrification of the square begins.  The area is referred to as “Three Roads”.

1891    Board of Survey proposes the following street names:  Raleigh, Deerfield, Sherborn, Granby, Ashby and Chilmark

1895    Kenmore Street was adopted by the city as an official “highway” (street)

1899    Hotel Buckminster opens

1899    Kilmarnock Street

1899    Hotel Somerset

1900     Landsdowne

1901    Wadsworth Hotel (10 Kenmore Street)

1910    Officially named “Governor Square”

1910    Peerless Motor Car Building

1912    Hotel Charlesview

1912    Fenway Park

1914    Boylston Street Subway (Boston Garden to Governor Square) opened

1915    Braves Field

1916    Kenmore Apartments

1917    Hotel Braemore

1923    Sheraton (Shelton) Apartments

1925    Myles Standish Hotel

1930    Mass transit subway submerged under Kenmore Square

1930    Officially renamed “Kenmore Square”

1930    Cities Service occupies the Peerless Motor Car building and renames it.

1939    White Fuel sign erected

1940    Peerless building renamed to Cities Services building, sign placed on roof

1949    BU purchases Myles Standish

1950    First section of Storrow Drive is opened.

1952    Bridge over the Muddy River connecting the Fens with Storrow Drive is opened, "Bowker Pass"

1965    Cities Services sign rebuilt with the new CITGO graphic

1966    Grahm Junior College purchases the former hotels Kenmore, Buckminster & Wadsworth and 632 Beacon.

1979    BU purchases the former hotels Kenmore and Wadsworth, transforms it into housing

1979    BU purchases 632 Beacon St.

1984    Kenmore Abbey housing opened

1982    BU begins to purchase properties on the south side of the square, Comm Ave.

1983    BU purchases 660 Beacon St.(Peerless) and converts it into a 6-story bookstore in 1985

1986    Methadone clinic begins operation

1987    BU Purchases 533-541 Commonwealth Ave.[i] 

1987    BU Purchases 508-510 Commonwealth Ave.

1989    BU begins evicition proceedings on Narcissus, Celebration and Lipstick night clubs (533-541)

1992    BU purchases 575 Commonwealth, site of Howard Johnson’s.  At this point, BU owned 24 separate parcels in and around the square.

1996    Methadone clinic ceases operation

1997    BU  purchases Comm ave building housing the Rathskellar and shuts it down in Nov.

2003    Hotel Commonwealth opens (500-528 Commonwealth)[ii]

2012    BU sells Hotel Commonwealth, but retains land ownership of 500-528 Commonwealth

APPENDIX II – Locator Map


Figure 42 Locator Map, Based on Boston Ward Map, 1912


APPENDIX III – Development of the Back Bay


From the Massachusetts Historical Society

“This map by Benjamin Dearborn (1754-1838) is a proposal to construct what he called "Perpetual Tide Mills" across the Back Bay and South Bay in Boston. The plan details water and marshland as well as streets and roads of Boston, Roxbury, Brookline, Charlestown, Cambridge, Brighton, and Dorchester. Dearborn's map, which introduces an extensive series of canals, dams, and toll roads, is a variation on a previously proposed Mill Dam project. Creating a Mill Dam and road across the Back Bay came on the heels of the successful Mill Pond project near Boston's North End. 1814 Benjamin Dearborn plan for sewells point annotated.a

Figure 43 A Plan of those Parts of Boston and the Towns in its Vicinity: with the Waters and Flats Adjacent 1814, Benjamin Dearborn[iii]

The aim of the Mill Dam was to use the tides of the Charles River to power mills for industrial purposes. Additionally, the Dam would serve as a toll road. In the end, Dearborn's plan was not realized and a much simpler Mill Dam was built by 1821. Eventually, this project failed in part because of sewage and wastewater build-up in the tidal basins. This build-up caused unpleasant smells that drifted all over the city. As a result, in May 1855, the Back Bay began to be filled in and developed. “[iv]


Figure 44  Boston, 1838, the Mill Dam, now Called Western Avenue[v]



Figure 45 Boston, 1852   Back Bay, Then called "Rail Road Basin", with traversing railroad lines[vi]



Figure 46  City plan to fill in Bay - Dotted lines are proposed.  1874[vii]


1895 bos crop ramsey

Figure 47  1895, David Ramsey Collection – Boston, Established streets and roads [viii]


[i] Suffolk County Land Records, Boston, Mass.

[ii] Construction Lease Mortgage – University Inn, LLC, June 14 2001

[iii] Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013

[iv] “Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013


[v] Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013

[vi] Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013

[vii] Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013

[viii] Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society”, 2013