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during the past four years our municipal building operations have been carried on in this department at actually less cost than would have been the case in private work.
It may fairly be claimed, I think, that this department, as at present managed, has demonstrated the possibility of the erection by municipal corporations of substantial, beautiful, and inexpensive public buildings. So long as such a management can be perpetuated it would be a mistake to abolish the department, as suggested in my first inaugural address; but the salary should be raised to a sum proportionate to the responsibility and labor of the office.
SECTION 5. A New City Hall. Such a building is needed, and ought to be built, either on the Public Garden, or next to the State House, before many years go by. Plans were prepared by the City Architect in 1892, and have been very generally commended; but in view of the more pressing necessity for other expenditures, particularly for rapid transit purposes, it seemed wise to postpone the erection of a new City Hall for some years at least. In the meantime the old Court House has been fitted up for the use of several departments.
THE PUBLIC STREETS.
The plotting of suburban streets in advance of laying out or construction is in charge of the Board of Survey, created in 1891. The laying out, widening, and extending of streets, and all matters relating to changes of grade, are in charge of the Board of Street Commissioners, created by St. 1870, ch. 337, subject in certain cases to approval by the City Council, and in all cases since the passage of St. 1892, ch. 418, to the approval of the Mayor. Everything that relates to the maintenance, watering, and cleaning of streets, and the construction of most streets, is in charge of the Superintendent of Streets. The City Engineer has charge of constructing some streets, and both he and the City Surveyor devote a large part of their time to the work of the Board of Street Commissioners and of the Street Department.
Other matters relating to the streets which have recently received the attention of the City Government are the bridges across the tide-waters surrounding the city; the grade crossings of the various street railroad companies; the presence of overhead wires in and across the streets; the compensation to be paid for the use of the streets by the private citizens and corporations having privileges therein; and the relief of the business streets of the city from overcrowding.
SECTION 1. Street Lines and Grades. The topographical conditions of the original town were ill-adapted to good street lines, and the resulting narrow and crooked highways have been a subject of criticism and regret for over 200 years.1 Nothing could be done with the lanes
1 As early as 1665 a royal commission described the streets as "crooked with little decency or uniformity;" and the necessity for constant widenings was recognized in the building act of 1692. A readjustment of street lines has been attempted after nearly every large fire, beginning with that of 1676.
THE PUBLIC STREETS.
of the old town except to widen and extend them at enormous expense; but when the original limits of the town were enlarged by annexation and by the filling of the tidal flats on either side of Boston Neck, efforts were made to see that in the new territory thus acquired the mistakes of the old town were not repeated. South Boston, annexed in 1803, was laid out upon a systematic, rectangular plan, under the provisions of a special act of the Legislature.2 The "Neck Lands," being that portion of the public lands on either side of Boston Neck, redeemed by filling for building purposes, were laid out by the City Government with broad, rectangular streets; and the same plan was adopted for the development of the land acquired by the filling of portions of the South Bay. When the Back Bay was filled, this portion of the city was also laid out upon a systematic, rectangular plan, through the coöperation of the Commonwealth, the city, and the private owners of the flats.
After the annexation of Roxbury in 1868, and Dorchester in 1870, it became apparent that the streets previously laid out in the suburban territory thus acquired were nearly as tortuous and narrow as those of the city proper, and that unless something was done the people would suffer a repetition in these portions of the city of the evils so plainly felt in the older part. It was therefore determined to secure the laying out of new streets in Roxbury and Dorchester upon public lines, and various plans were devised for the accomplishment of this purpose, the practical result being the creation of the Board of Street Commissioners in 1870. This Board had, however, no power to lay down street lines in advance of the actual taking for highway purposes, and before many years it became evident that its work was largely confined to an acceptance or rejection, as public streets, of private ways laid out haphazard for the benefit, and according to the personal ideas, of the individual
1 Since 1822 nearly forty millions of dollars have been spent for street widenings, extensions, and changes of grade mostly in the city proper. See Auditor's Annual Report for 1893-4, pp. 202-208.
2 St. 1803, ch. 111.
land-owners, without reference to the general needs of the travelling public or to the growth of the community. It thus appeared especially after the amount of suburban territory within the city limits had been more than doubled by the annexation, in 1874, of West Roxbury and Brighton that there was need of more systematic methods of street plotting; and a demand arose for the adoption of methods similar to those in force in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, and the newer Western cities, for the development of streets upon a comprehensive, public plan. The result of this agitation, lasting twenty years, was the passage, in 1891, of the act creating the Board of Survey.1
The theory of this law, in so far as it relates to. street plotting, is that the city, through the Board of Survey, shall prescribe the lines to which all future streets must conform. The owner is is entitled to compensation, as under the former system, when the land shown upon the Board of Survey plans as appropriated to street purposes is actually laid out as a highway by the Board of Street Commissioners, providing he can prove damage and insists upon compensation. The duration of the Board was limited to three years from the first of May, 1891, in the belief that its work could be accomplished within that period; but so many difficulties were encountered and so much delay was caused by accidental circumstances, such as the necessity of waiting until certain grade-crossing problems had been solved, that when the first of May, 1894, was reached only about one-fourth of the work contemplated by the original act had been completed. The existence of the Board was therefore extended to May 1, 1897. I can see no reason why the entire work, as originally contemplated, should not be finished by that date.
1 See inaugural addresses of Mayor Shurtleff, Mayor Cobb, Mayor Martin, Mayor O'Brien, and Mayor Hart, as well as the inaugural address of January 5, 1891; also report of the commission appointed in 1884 to prepare a revision of the city charter, Doc. 120, of 1884.
2 St. 1891, ch. 323.
8 By St. 1894, ch. 335.
THE PUBLIC STREETS.
It was inevitable that such a radical change in the method of laying out public streets in this city, as was contemplated by the law of 1891 and its amendments, should create hostility on the part of land-owners, particularly those of the speculative kind, who not only desire to develop their own property without regard to the rest of the community, but insist on having it done at public expense; but on the whole there has been less opposition to the Board of Survey than was expected. Its assistance has been eagerly sought by most of the more responsible land-owners and builders; the plans hitherto filed have met with general approval; and I believe that when the work is done, the public will welcome it as a great reform, and oppose all efforts to undo it. One hundred and eighty-four plans have been filed to date, covering 3,391 acres, and showing 91.27 miles of prospective streets laid out, widened, or extended.
While the work of the Board of Survey will take care of the new streets in the still undeveloped suburban sections of the city, the streets of the business portion of the city cannot be improved by any such means, but only through the expenditure of great sums of money for widenings and extensions, at public expense, or by the adoption of hitherto untried methods. One such method is the duplication of the capacity of the streets by constructing subways beneath them, a plan about to be tried by the Boston Transit Commission under the authority of ch. 548 of the Acts of 1894. Another method would be to give the Board of Street Commissioners power to widen streets by arcading.1 Another is to establish building lines.2
With some of the principal streets of the business section of the city duplicated by the construction of subways, with others widened by arcading, and still others widened or
1I petitioned for such a law in 1894, but there was opposition from real-estate owners; and this opposition, together with the difficulty of drafting a satisfactory bill, was sufficient to cause the rejection of the petition.
2 See St. 1893, ch. 462, accepted by the City Council October 28, 1893, and St. 1894, ch. 439. These laws were passed at the instance of the Executive Department; and under the authority of them building lines have been established on Beacon street and Boylston-street extension.