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also of great width; and between Washington street and Tremont is Shawmut avenue, which commences at the Roxbury line, with a prospect of early being continued in that city, and terminates in Dover street, where it discharges its travel to continue through Washington or Tremont street, both of which grow narrow as they approach the centre of the city. Washington street can only be widened very gradually, and probably its width will never be materially increased. From the railroad bridge to the Common, Tremont street is very narrow. On the westerly side of this street the buildings, for the most part, are of small value, and I commend to your consideration the expediency of establishing a degree of prospective widening, which shall render this portion, as fast as it shall be rebuilt, more nearly commensurate with that beyond.
Other improvements of this class, in other sections of the city, will be demanded, as opportunity for accomplishing them shall offer, prominent among which is the extension of Charles street to Leveret street, the initiative to which has already been made.
BACK BAY IMPROVEMENTS.
Among the prospective improvements deserving of particular notice by the City Council, is the addition to our building territory upon the Back Bay, so called. For many years the extensive flats west of Charles
street, and more recently west of the public garden, have been the subject of vexed and irreconcilable controversy. Sundry parties claimed therein rights, titles, privileges and easements of various descriptions, the fruit of occasional and disconnected legislation, which rendered the adoption of any systematic and rapid improvement of the territory impossible. As this region has long been the subject of conjectural and speculative improvement, it may be interesting to know something of the history of the city's rights therein, the nature of the settlement which has just been accomplished, and the advantages which are likely to result from it. Not to go back beyond the point of time necessarily involved in this settlement, nor to presume to state every particular, it may be said, in general, that previous to the year 1827, the city held the fee of about one hundred acres of flats in the Back Bay; that in that year, for considerations deemed to be sufficient and satisfactory, the city ceded to the Boston Water Power Company all its right, title and interest in these lands, and received in turn, as was supposed, an easement of drainage for the adjacent lands which form, in a measure the natural water-shed to the basin.
Among the advantages which the city was to derive from this arrangement, and probably the most important of all, was the agreement on the part of the Boston Water Power Company, that the water in the basin nearest the shore should be kept at a certain
specified depression below high water mark;— an arrangement very convenient for them to fulfil, inasmuch as the action of their mills by tide water rendered it necessary that the water should always be less in the discharging than in the receiving basin, in order to secure the requisite head and fall. This depression of water in the basin nearest the shore drained sundry acres of land belonging to the city; and thereby placed them, during the continuance of this agreement, beyond the action of tide waters. This depression of the water also afforded convenient drainage for the territory adjacent to that which was exposed by it. To depress and remove the water appeared to be equivalent to raising the land; and the valuable consideration received by the city was the saving of the cost of raising all this adjacent territory by artificial means. Although this arrangement was made under circumstances of probability which justified its consummation, yet a change of these circumstances subsequently involved the city in great embarrassment and difficulty concerning the territory in question. The embarrassment was this: The water in the shore basin being, as was supposed, permanently depressed, the grade of the streets and the elevation of the buildings thereon was fixed with reference to drainage into that basin, grade actually several feet below high water mark; and when buildings were multiplied largely in this vicinity, and at the same time the use of the basin by the Water
Power Company, became irregular and less extensive than formerly, the drainage upon these flats, and their frequent and protracted exposure, with an accumulation of animal and vegetable matter, rendered the Back · Bay a nuisance, in the ordinary sense of that term, to the neighborhood and to the city. The dilemma in which the city was placed, therefore, and from which it is not yet fully delivered, is that it claimed and depended upon the right to drain into a territory which was rendered a public nuisance by the exercise of this right. In seeking relief from this dilemma, in 1850, a large sewer was laid through the portion of Tremont street between Dedham and Dover streets, and through Dover street, discharging at the bridge into the eastern channel. This sewer afforded relief, and was a tolerable substitute for the Back Bay drainage; but more recently a new difficulty has arisen. The sewer under consideration discharged its contents into tide water; whereas the territory to be drained was below high water mark, and could therefore discharge only at low water. The rapid covering of the territory depending upon this sewer with houses, has so far overburdened it, that when a heavy fall of rain occurs in conjunction with high tide, there is liability to an overflow of water into these houses, owing to the incapacity of the sewer, while its sluice gates are closed by the tide. The last legislature of this Commonwealth converted the Boston Water Power Company substantially into a land company; and in connection the Commonwealth and this Company have devised a scheme of extensive improvements, by filling up the Back Bay, and adapting the territory to building purposes.
It may here be remarked that both the Commonwealth and the Water Power Company denied that the city of Boston had any right whatsoever in this territory, not excepting even the right to drain into it; and the improvements which they contemplated were projected on a plan which disregarded such a right. By the agreement finally concluded, however, the Commonwealth and the Water Power Company have agreed to furnish the city with an artificial channel for drainage, in place of the natural one which their improvements destroy. This consists of a sewer commencing at, or near, Camden street, in the vicinity of the Messrs. Chickering's building on Tremont street, and running nearly parallel to the Providence railroad, to a point nearly opposite Dedham street; thence across the Back Bay, and discharging through the Mill Dam into Charles river.
In the opinion of competent judges, this sewer will be of ample dimensions for the purpose; it being three feet in diameter in Camden street, and nine feet at its outlet. The City, under the indenture, will build a street and sewer in continuation of Dedham street, and connecting with the main sewer at the junction of