Government Center

Note: the "Walk to the Sea" and Freedom Trail walking tours include selected sites in this area.

Following I. M. Pei and Partners' 1960 Master Plan, buildings for city, state, and federal offices along with private office and retail space, parking, and public transit were developed around a plaza. The plan protected major historic landmarks and views, though large sections of the old city had to be leveled to make room for the program. The Sears Crescent and steaming teakettle were preserved, as were views from various points on the plaza of Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, Old North Church, and the U.S. Custom House Tower. New buildings were limited in height, bulk, setbacks, open space, and spatial relations with other buildings. The focus was City Hall. Pedestrian links were provided to Washington and State Streets via Washington Mall, to One Center Plaza, Faneuil Hall, the market area, and a “Walk to the Sea” (see separate walking tour).

Government Center’s redevelopment was an abrupt change in the scale and character from the historic city and its high-density, low-rise building form that had served Boston well for centuries. Planned for large celebrations and demonstrations, the plaza was too large and undefined, lacking the elegant form that makes it appear inevitable as the great Italian piazzas do even centuries after their creation. Its design and use remain as unsolved challenges for the city today.