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Boston: A Topographical History, Third Enlarged Edition Third Edition, Enlarged Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674002685
ISBN-10: 0674002687
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Editorial Reviews


There have been many books written about Boston, but none with more information so charmingly and accurately written...[There are] riches packed between the hard covers of this book, excellently conceived and excellently created. (Boston Globe)

The third edition to Boston: A Topographical History appears forty years after Walter Muir Whitehill's original text, brought up-to-date by Lawrence Kennedy. The underlying theme of the book remains remarkably important...There is a truly impressive feat here. Kennedy and Whitehill have documented incredible physical changes over nearly four hundred years. The book is wonderfully illustrated...well-researched and accessible. It not only provides an overarching narrative of the history of the city of Boston, it shows how cities in general adapt, alter, and preserve their surroundings. (Michael Mazzano H-Net Reviews)

"[Boston: A Topographical History] is a lively history of the city from its founding up through the mid-1960s, the age of the so-called New Boston. Whitehill clarifies such mysteries as the name Tremont, which refers to the three hills--Pemberton, Beacon, and Mount Vernon--that once stood where the now much-reduced Beacon Hill remains. With this book, graced with useful old maps and engravings, you can understand that Canal Street followed the bank of Mill Creek, Causeway Street was once a causeway across the old mill pond, and West Hill Place (near Charles Circle) was once a small hill by the Back Bay. (David Mehegan Boston Globe Magazine)

Short, living, and admirably illustrated...What we have is a most learned and entertaining guide to the past and present of Boston. (Times Literary Supplement)

Over the years Boston has played an important role in American history and consequently a topographical history of the city is of more than local interest...In an informed and witty manner, [Whitehill] traces the history of Boston by means of the physical and resultant social changes which have affected the city...[this history has been] delightfully...told in this attractive book. (James J. Heslin New York Historical Society Quarterly)

A good companion, pleasingly written, informative and entertaining, and copiously illustrated. (Nicholas B. Wainwright New England Quarterly)

Whitehill's scholarship is both profound and far-reaching...In short, this is an admirable contribution to the growing literature of American urbanism. (Leonard K. Eaton Progressive Architecture)

About the Author

The late Walter Muir Whitehill was the Director of the Boston Athenaeum.

Lawrence W. Kennedy is Professor of History at the University of Scranton and author of Planning the City upon a Hill: Boston since 1630.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Third Edition, Enlarged edition (May 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674002687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674002685
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Muzaffer Muctehitzade on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is very good book about the City of Boston, as it was developed in stages. The Book explains the development and expansion of the city in time and according to location. It is very vivid and especially if you have been a pedestrian offen on the streets of Boston, It starts to make sense and starts to give joy. As I read the book I started to appreciate more and more the efforts of BRA and Back Bay Society.unfortunately before they acted quite a number of beautiful structures has gone.Book has very extensive history from 1700 to 1970's and than it is summary or may be it is a living history for you. There are numerous pictures but the number of pictures is not as much as those you may find in other types of books, like Boston in Pictures, etc. After all it is a narrative book but there is sufficient amount of pictures to help you visulize. I wish a more comprehensive book were to be produces to show in same pages all the developments, similar to "Boston, Than and Now" but with more older pictures and more story as this book has. Read this book and sit across the Charles on Cambridge Side than you start to see Trimont, Mill Dam, Neck. It is great book.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I moved to Boston in the mid-1980's. Only after reading this book did I understand why I always got lost driving around the city. The old cowpath myth is far too banal compared to the real cause of the city's twisting mysteries: the perpetual reshaping of the city's landmass begun during the Mass Bay colony and continuing today. There's a reason the Big Dig happened here.

I love this book. This is history told from a unique perspective and by a real pro. Whitehill's reputation as a distinguished historian is what initially drew me to this book. His skill as a storyteller and his dry New England wit kept me thoroughly engaged. I have re-read this book many times. It is at the top of my books-to-read-about-Boston list. I always recommend it to any new Bostonian I meet.

I wish the old man had lived to see the Big Dig in all its engineering glory. His history of this grand project would have been a true delight.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a fascinating account of how Boston grew and developed. It stays on the point, is concise, and really improves the understanding of this city. A must read for a Bostonian.
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