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The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston

By John Mitchell
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Book Details
  • Author: John Mitchell
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
In 1614, explorer John Smith sailed into what was to become Boston Harbor and referred to the wild lands and waters around him as "the Paradise of all these parts". Within fifteen years, the Puritans were developing the tadpole shaped Shawmut Peninsula, as members of the Massachusett tribe fled. Now, nearly four hundred years later, one must wonder what remains of John Smith's "Paradise." In this work the author strolls through Boston's streets, chronicling the nonhuman inhabitants and surprisingly diverse plant life, as well as the eccentric characters he meets at various turns. Using his modern observations as a starting point, he tells the fascinating stories of the tribal leaders, naturalists, community activists, and organizations who worked to preserve nature in the city over generations, from the Victory Gardens of the Fenway to the expansive woods of Franklin Park. But much of the history is in the land itself. As he battles traffic on notorious Route 128, he considers the ancient origins of the rocks that line the highway and those that form the city's foundation. A walk across Boston Common calls to mind the Tremount Hills, flattened by seventeenth-century newcomers; only Beacon Hill remains. A stroll through the Back Bay allows him to imagine the Charles River, so polluted by sewage that it became a public nuisance and was partially covered over with a massive nineteenth-century landfill. With this natural history in mind, he explores both ancient and new green space from Chelsea to South Boston, including the greenway formed by the Big Dig.

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