Introduction and Timeline

Today, the Hatch is a space for everyone to share in a taste of nature amidst Boston’s urbanity, and to share in the appreciation of music. The history of how the Hatch Memorial Shell came to be features neighbourhood leaders who were determined to realise their ambitious visions for Boston. These leaders drove change for social justice and environmental health, in decades before the limelight of urban growth was turned towards these concerns.

Several elements of the Hatch – the shell itself as well as surrounding structures – memorialise the heroes who shaped and invigorated this space. The geometric layout of the Hatch shell and oval are also testament to the complicated process by which this land was secured. Inspired by three memorial signs around the Hatch, this exhibit will recall the contributions of Helen and James Storrow, Maria Hatch, and Arthur Fiedler throughout the 20th century.

Timeline of key events in the creation of the Hatch Memorial Shell and surrounding Charles River Esplanade:

  • 1876: Boston Park Commission, advised by Frederick Law Olmsted, proposes a connected park system along the Charles River
  • 1891-1893: Charles Eliot devotes his energy and influence into acquiring land along the Charles River with the vision of building a waterside park
  • 1897: Eliot dies before managing to sway the political will toward build a dam to secure the embankment
  • 1901: James Storrow spearheads support for the dam to be built
  • 1910: Dam completed, but the land remains mostly unused
  • 1926: Storrow passes away, and his wife Helen Storrow donates one million dollars to finish his work along the Charles
  • 1929: Arthur Fielder first conducts the Boston Pops in a temporary shell and music oval
  • 1931-1933: Landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff redesigns and refines the Hatch Memorial grass and the esplanade
  • 1940: Maria Hatch donates funds for a permanent granite Hatch Shell in memory of her brother, Edward
  • 1941: Hatch Memorial Shell constructed
  • 1941: Community Boating opens next to the Hatch
  • 1950: A plan for a highway between Longfellow and BU Bridges (Storrow Drive) is brought up again to the City Council. Several neighbourhood groups oppose this plan, but Storrow Drive is soon built. Shurcliff redesigns the Esplanade again to be longer and skinnier, hugging the riverbanks more closely
  • 1976: On 4th July, Fiedler conducts the 1812 Overture with cannons, church bells, and fireworks, initiating a Boston tradition at the Hatch Memorial Shell

Citations for Timeline:

Cox, L. M. (2000). The Charles River Esplanade: Our Boston treasure. Boston, Massachusetts: Metropolitan District Commission.

Pearson, H. G. (1932). Son of New England: James Jackson Storrow, 1864-1926. Boston, MA: T. Todd.