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Big Dig
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Big Dig

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Key Information:
Group Size: 2 - 6 people
Destination: Boston
Season: January - December
Languages: English
Minimum Cost: 65 US Dollar (USD) Per person
Maximum Cost: 65 US Dollar (USD) Per person

In the 1990s work began on what at the time was—and still is—one of the most ambitious urban engineering projects in history: the burying of Boston's highway system to free its historic center from traffic, shadows, and unsightliness. Dubbed the "big dig" and lasting nearly twenty years, this mammoth project recast downtown Boston, returning its historical streets to the sun and transforming a curving swath of land into one of the best urban parks in the country.

During this three-hour walking tour with a historian or architect, we will use the Big Dig as a lens to look deeper into the history of the city and trace its evolution from the 17th century to the present. This is very much a "built environment" walk, in which we'll look at buildings, streets, and the fabric of the city in order to "read" Boston's history, often hidden in overlooked details.

We will begin by discussing the legacy of English architectural and town planning ideals as manifested in the Old Massachusetts State House and Fanueil Hall, two fundamental monuments in Boston. From here we'll pass by other notable buildings, including Quincy Market, the Custom House, and the nearby warehouse buildings of the Boston Granite School, which together trace the city’s physical expansion along the shoreline. We'll discuss how the previous topography and layout of the city have influenced its present form. We will see how successive styles of commercial buildings narrate the city’s economic development during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, giving rise, eventually, to the construction of a major highway through the city's core in the 1950s.

We will discuss the story of this highway, and the dozens like it that impacted American cities all across the country from the open greenway that now marks the Big Dig. We'll examine questions of transportation, civic identity, and urban planning along this corridor. We’ll look at this project’s goals, some of its obstacles, and the ways in which it has transformed the city. Our walk along the Big Dig’s corridor of parks, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, will reveal the multiple incarnations of Boston’s social and physical identities that have defined this area over the last two centuries. At the end of our time together we'll emerge with a deeper understanding of how Boston has changed over the century and how the current city reflects its history.

This walk is also available privately starting at $300 per group (max 6 persons).