Episode 61: Annexation, Making Boston Bigger for 150 Years

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Boston transformed itself from a town on a tiny peninsula to a sprawling city.  In part, this was done by creating new land in the Back Bay and South Boston, but the city gained a great amount of area by annexing its neighbors.  The first was Roxbury, which joined the city of Boston 150 years ago this week.  Dorchester, Brighton, West Roxbury, and Charlestown would follow.  Other towns, like Cambridge and Brookline would not.  Find out why in this week’s show.


Featured Historic Site

Since so much of this week’s episode focuses on the annexation of Roxbury, it only makes sense to choose a featured site from that neighborhood.  Roxbury’s Fort Hill was the site of an important Revolutionary War fort designed by Henry Knox.  It was the southern citadel anchoring the Patriot siege lines, and it prevented a British attack by land out of occupied Boston.  (The map below is an excerpt from this British map.)

After annexation, the Cochituate standpipe provided ample fresh water to the surrounding residents of Roxbury.  Soon, it became a very visible symbol of the public services that other towns could look forward to if they agreed to be annexed by Boston.  Since the 2013 renovation of the castle/standpipe, now is a great time to visit.

Upcoming Event(s)

At 2:30pm on January 17, join historian, archaeologist, and host of TV’s “History Shorts with the Artifactual Historian” GA DiGregorio at Wheaton College in Norton.  He’ll be delivering a free lecture on the historical roots of today’s conflicts in the Middle East.

As the old Ottoman Empire was decaying, Britain and France sought to bolster their own imperial interests in the Middle East.   At the same time, a rising tide of Arab nationalism and Jewish Zionism led to an ever-growing political complexity in the region.  This talk will examine the period between 1913 and 1948 to look for the origins of the current instability in the area.

And on January 7 at 2:30pm, Historic Newton will host a talk linking an eccentric Newton coin collector to a 1973 museum heist that was straight out of the movies.

On the evening of December 1st, 1973 a brown paper bag was left with the security guard at the Harvard Fogg Art Museum, an insignificant act that led to the largest rare coin heist in history. Little did anyone know that over 12,000 rare, Greek coins and metals would be stolen, totaling $5.5 million. How did the robbers pull it off? Was it an inside job? Were the coins ever found? Learn about this infamous heist where many of the coins were held and shown by their collector, Arthur Stone Dewing of Newton, before his death and the coins’ eventual donation to the Harvard Fogg. Admission: Free, donations welcome.

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