Back to History of Needham
Back Bay Connection
Back Bay in Boston used to be a salt water marsh. In the 1800's it was decided to fill in Back Bay to make more space in the city.
Needham used to be a town with 7 hills. In 1858, Nyron C. Munson of Shirley, Massachussetts, was hired to bring land from East Needham to Back Bay. For about 40 years, starting in 1850, a train arrived from Needham about every 45 minutes, day and night, with a load of gravel to help fill in the Back Bay.
These 35-car trains brought gravel, sand and other ground materials from East Needham to Boston, 24 hours a day, six days a year to fill in the Back Bay! (570 acres of soil) Visit this interactive map of Boston and watch the land fill in!
Back Bay was formed from Needham soil. Starting in 1858, for more than 30 years, trains from Needham were loaded with gravel and dirt to fill up the marsh known as Back Bay to make a new part of the city. Trains ran day and night, making 16 trips, and pulled 35 loaded cars into Boston each day. In total, 112 acres of Needham were turned into a desert by the removal of the soil. 570 arces of gravel were taken to Boston by train.
There used to be a hill near the Kendrick Bridge that is now lying under the Prudential Center and John Hancock Tower in the Back Bay. This east Needham area has now become the New England Industrial Center along route 128.
In 1897 the trolley came to Needham. People could take a trolley to Boston, Natick, Newton, Dedham and Dover. The trolley helped people get to the Needham stores faster and more often and business was good. In 1901 five trolley lines came to Needham so people could travel far distances faster and cheaper. The trolley only cost a nickel. Trolleys made life easier for people back then.
Kathleen Martell, Instructional Technology Specialist
Needham Public Schools, Needham MA