In my earlier post about walking to Dorchester, I mentioned a garden area behind Mass. Ave station. My friend Alison responded that that green space is part of the Southwest Corridor, an unassuming name for a space that I found to be uniquely compelling when I walked the length of it yesterday. The weather was odd — sun and clouds, with an occasionally stiff breeze — but it was still possibly the Last Warm Day before autumn tightens its grip.
I didn’t know much of the history behind the Southwest Corridor when I started my trek, but luckily there is plentiful signage along the way that tells the story. Running along the length of the Orange Line between Back Bay and Forest Hill stations, the land was originally acquired and cleared in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for a new multi-lane extension of I-95. After residents rallied against the highway, the land languished until the community began mobilizing to turn it into preserved parkland. The resultant Southwest Corridor combines park resources (tennis/basketball courts, etc.) and green spaces/community gardens with walking/biking paths and a transportation conduit. It’s about 4.7 miles in length and not particularly wide, but it cuts right through the heart of the city and gives you a great urban perspective.
The most interesting thing about the Southwest Corridor, for me, is how it is such a good example (for better or for worse) of urban evolution. It was originally the location of Stony Brook, a main water conduit for industry in the area. It then became the elevated Orange Linesite of the New York and New Haven train line, and was then intended to become a highway before the community rallied against that. Then it was reclaimed by the community as a green space, closely tethered in purpose to the transit system it runs alongside. It also showcases a lot of vestigial features of the city, like the leftover Green Line signage and tracks at Forest Hills from the long-“postponed” E line. It’s a living history lesson. All of the public art (EDIT: more about the art) and signage lining the path only enhance that.
It was a delightfully Boston day. Not only did I see some new parts of the city, but I even saw the Tricycle Guy and ate lunch at Doyle’s Cafe. On that note, this walk reminded me of two things. One: I am long overdue for a thorough jaunt around the South End. Two: I need to spend much more time south of the river. I am missing out on a lot, and there is a lot left for me to discover.