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Common Ground

Much of modern Boston was under water when the Massachusetts Bay Puritans arrived in 1630. The Shawmut peninsula was almost an island; high tide cut off the North End from the mainland. Three hills known as the Trimount—Beacon, Pemberton and Mount Vernon—rose above the tidal marshes. Beginning in the early 19th century, an ambitious series of landfills more than doubled the size of the seaport town, an engineering feat unrivaled in American history.

A Beginning to Public Works Projects

Boston's first public works project was the Long Wharf. Built from charred timbers after a city fire in 1711, the wharf extended a third of a mile into the bay. The 1,500-foot Charles River Bridge connected Charlestown with Boston in 1786. As the city grew, workers filled in the coves and ponds around the North End, carving earth from the prominent hilltops. Expansion continued in South Boston and the Dorchester Flats.

The biggest job, the 600-acre Back Bay, took almost 35 years. In 1857, Mill Dam stretched across Back Bay from Boston Commons to Brookline, following the course of today's Beacon Street. Built to harness the tides, the dam had created a brackish swamp instead. Filling in Back Bay posed a problem—no more hills to level—so gravel came by train from Needham. Builders paid for the enterprise by selling future lots; Back Bay later became a top destination for fashion in the city. Waterfront was later added in Charlestown, Fenway and East Boston, culminating with the 2,400-acre landfill for Logan Airport.

Going Deep to Carve Out a City

After 3 centuries of dredging and dumping, Bostonians decided to dig. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project—otherwise known as the Big Dig—excavated 15 million cubic yards of dirt for a highway tunnel through downtown Boston. Along with new landfill material, the dig yielded an archeological windfall, not only in artifacts but in a physical timeline of the land reclaimed from the sea.

Part of the excavated clay and gravel went to Spectacle Island, transforming this city garbage dump into a showpiece of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area , a place many travel to when visiting the city today. The island park, complete with a marina and visitors' center, walking and biking trails, and plenty of grassy spaces for Bostonians to enjoy, opened in 2006.

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Boston, MA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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Travel Information

City Population

617,594

Elevation

20 ft.

Sales Tax

The state sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent. Combined city and state taxes on hotel occupancy in Boston is 14.45 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(617) 343-4500

Fire (non-emergency)

(617) 343-3550

Time and Temperature

(617) 637-1234

Hospitals

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, (617) 667-7000; Boston Medical Center, (617) 638-8000; Massachusetts General Hospital, (617) 726-2000; Tufts Medical Center, (617) 636-5000.

Visitor Information

2 Copley Place, Suite 105 Boston, MA 02116. Phone:(617)536-4100 or (888)733-2678

Air Travel

Logan International Airport (BOS) is just 3 miles east of downtown across Boston Inner Harbor.

Rental Cars

Boston is served by most major rental car agencies. Hertz provides discounts to AAA members; phone (617) 568-5200 or (800) 654-3131.

Rail Service

Amtrak offers service to and from New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., out of Boston's South Station at Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street. Connections to all points in the national Amtrak system can be made at the Back Bay Station, 145 Dartmouth St.; phone (800) 872-7245 for reservations and information. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates commuter rail service; phone (617) 222-3200.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, and Peter Pan Bus Lines, (800) 343-9999, operate from South Station.

Cruise Ports

Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is at 1 Black Falcon Ave. in South Boston.

Taxis

Cabs in Boston are metered, with the fare $2.60 for the first 1/7 mile or less and 40c for every 1/7 mile thereafter. Phoning for a pickup or going to a hotel taxi stand is easier than hailing a cab on the street. Local companies include the Independent Taxi Operators Association, (617) 268-1313. Limousine service is available throughout the Boston area for about $80 an hour, normally with a 4-hour minimum.

Public Transportation

Transportation by trolley, bus, boat and subway is available in Boston.

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