By Levi Clancy for לוי on
Once known as Scollay Square, Boston's City Hall Plaza (aka Government Center) is an irregular triangle bound by routes to Beacon Hill, Tremont Street shopping district, the North and West Ends, the waterfront and the business and financial districts.
It is a place of celebration, where Bostonians gather to cheer on a local sports team or enjoy an outdoor concert under the summer evening sky. It is a public space that acts as the crossroads of our community, the junction where Boston's historic Freedom, Black Heritage and Walk to the Sea trails meet. This place, where you are now standing, is Boston's front yard, City Hall Plaza (Boston City Hall Plaza Plaque)
In the early 20th century it was a crowded urban dilapidation filled with tattoo parlors, burlesque houses, tabocconists, novelty shops and pawn shops. Teeming with visiting servicemen and merchant seamen, Scollay Square was described by Boston Herald columnist Robert Taylor as "the sailor's Mecca and the sailor's curse."
In the 1950s, Scollay Square was razed and 22 streets were eliminated to make room for Government Center, which includes the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Center Plaza, Government Station (MBTA), City Hall and the nine-acre red brick plaza. Government Center was supported as a bold step into the future and opposed as unwelcoming and sterile.
A token of the past was maintained with the Sears Crescent block (1841), which was spared due to its history as a literary hub (along with neighboring street Cornhill) that attracted the likes of Emerson and Hawthorne.