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The idea of a rural park for the city of Boston was
originated in the 1850s. At the time Boston possessed no major park system except for the
Boston common, which had been set-aside in 1634.
In 1867, a park bill for Boston was passed by the Massachusetts State legislature. The
park commissioners ask Olmsted's advice on areas to be considered as possible park sites,
in late 1875. Olmsted designed a whole new park system for Boston. He recommended
immediate approval of specific areas along the Charles River, in the marshy Back Bay,
around Jamaica Pond, and in West Roxbury.
In 1877, the park commissioners voted to apply the name "parkway" to the entire
seven-mile continuous linkage of parks. This linkage was in the form of a giant
semi-circle that ran around the city. The commissioners fully endorsed what Olmsted had
conceived and proposed some years before as the "Promenade."
Boston Common and the Public Gardens in the heart of the city begin the large park. From
there, Commonwealth Avenue, a handsome, tree-lined esplanade would lead directly to the
Back Bay Fens. The route would then follow the course of the Muddy River, which went
upstream, first northwest, then making a ninety-degree turn southwest to a large cattail;
swamp that would continue to Jamaica Pond. Finally, a park strip called the Arborway would
be added, joining the pond and the Arnold Arboretum and the entrance to Franklin Park.