Charles River Esplanade Before Hatch Memorial Shell
A waterfront park on the banks of the Charles River was first proposed in 1867. It was not until decades later however that Charles River Esplanade finally began to take shape.
In the 1890s Charles Eliot acquired land along the river, and in 1910 a dam was completed. The land remained mostly unused until 1926 when philanthropist and early Girl Scout leader Helen Storrow bequeathed $1m towards the completion of the park. This money was used for, amongst other things, the building of a temporary wooden shell: an early predecessor of Hatch Memorial Shell.
A Tale of Three Shells
The shell served as a venue for the Boston Pops Orchestra, an orchestra specialising in light classical music and hits from musical theater. They held their first concert at the shell in July 1929 and continued to use it until 1934, when it was replaced with an updated structure. This was made of metal and became a base for the orchestra for the next 6 years.
In 1926 wealthy Boston local Maria Hatch died, leaving a considerable proportion of her estate to a trust tasked with building a park, playground or memorial. Unfortunately, her estate died before the trust could be fulfilled and, for 10 years, it was left undiscovered. Finally, in 1936, it was found by Boston's then Attorney General and put towards today's Hatch Memorial Shell.
The shell was designed by architect Richard J Shaw and built between 1939-40. It is a wooden structure with an arched, semi-circular opening, 40ft high and 100ft wide. In front of it is a platform with names of famous composers engraved in its stone and a staircase that fans out to extend the structure's width to 160ft.
Hatch Memorial Shell Through the Years
The shell is today famous as a concert, film and speech venue and has hosted some very famous names. On June 7th 1945 General Patton gave a speech there to a crowd of 20,000. This is today commemorated in the form of an 8ft bronze sculpture of the general. The shell's stage has also been played by the likes of Green Day, Garbage, Queen Latifah, and of course Boston Pops, who still hold their famous July 4th concert there every year.
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