Charles River Reservation Parkways

The Charles River Reservation Parkways, a Multiple Properties District, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 2006. It includes Norumbega Road and Recreation Road in Weston.

Statement of Significance
The following statement of significance is excerpted from the Charles River Reservation Parkways Nomination Form.

River Reservation
The Charles River Reservation, located in Boston, Newton, Watertown, and Weston, is significant as 1 of 3 large river reservations proposed in the Metropolitan Park Commission (MPC) plan of 1893. The initial plan was prepared by Charles Eliot and Sylvester Baxter, with subsequent design work by the firms of Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Olmsted Brothers, and Arthur Shurcliff, among others. The Charles River Reservation was the most urban of the MPCs reservations and the most sophisticated in its planning, design and engineering, particularly in the lower section of the river known as the Charles River Basin.

The parkways that line the banks of the Charles River were established between the 1890s and 1964 and are among the best known and most heavily used roads of the metropolitan park system. Parkways are continuous along both sides of the Charles River Basin from the Charles River Dam to Watertown Square, and intermittent in the Upper Charles. Most of them combine elements of the river parkway and border road types of MDC roads, as well as serving as connecting parkways. The Charles River road system is unusual in that segments of existing municipal roads have been integrated into the parkway system in several sections of the basin to create a continuous parkway route.

Period of Significance
The period of significance for the Charles River Reservation road system is from 1895, when the reservation was established, through 1956. The portion of the Charles River Reservation between the Charles River Dam and Eliot Bridge (i.e. the Lower Basin) was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is not discussed in detail here.

The Charles River Reservation Parkways possess integrity of:
  • Association
  • Design
  • Feeling
  • Location
  • Materials
  • Setting
  • Workmanship
The parkways are also excellent examples of the River Parkway and Border Parkway subtypes in the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston, Parkways.

National Criteria
The parkways meet National Register Criteria A and C in the significance areas of:
  • Architecture
  • Conservation
  • Community Planning and Development
  • Engineering
  • Entertainment/Recreation
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Transportation
These areas are at the state level and fulfill the Parkways Registration Requirements for the associated River Parkway and Border Parkway property subtype, under Section F of this Multiple Property.