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Massachusetts Conservation


Revere Beach Reservation Historic District

Revere Beach

Revere Beach, c. 1910
Wikimedia Commons





Revere Beach Reservation, a National Historic Landmark, was the first ocean beach in the United States acquired for the purpose of public recreation and one of the first properties added to Boston’s Metropolitan Park System. In 1895, the time of its acquisition, Revere Beach was a seaside resort and overdeveloped. Once the Park System acquired the beach, however, the boundary between ocean and human development was widened, providing a scenic view and open spaces for tourists to enjoy the beach’s natural features.

Prior to the conservation of Revere Beach in the late 19th century, commercial and transportation development flourished. From 1839 onward, private and public buildings stood along the landward side of the dune including commercial buildings and privately owned bathhouses right on the beach itself, some extending to the high tide line. Constructed in 1875, a railroad line ran along the crest of the beach. This development obscured the natural curve of the beach and limited public access to the ocean.

Landscape architect Charles Eliot, who led the project to redesign the beach, called the overdeveloped condition of Revere Beach a disgrace. In an 1896 letter to the Metropolitan Park Commission, Eliot wrote:

What was it that the metropolitan district sought to secure when it purchased this costly sea-coast reservation? It was the grand and refreshing sight of the natural sea beach, with its long, simple curve, and its open view of the ocean. Nothing in the world presents a more striking contrast to the jumbled, noisy scenery of a great town; and this being the case, it seems to us that to place buildings on the beach is consciously to sacrifice the most refreshing characteristic of a sea-beach, and the most valuable element to the people is property therein.


Revere Beach
The curving shore of Revere Beach Reservation
Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Eliot’s design for the property called for restoration of the natural contours of the beach. This required the removal of the railroad and all buildings between the railroad and the sea. The design included the addition of a new boulevard along with several new structures for bathing, a promenade, a bandstand, and several pavilions architect William D. Austin (1856-1944) designed to Eliot’s general specifications. Revere Beach was open to the public with temporary improvements in July 1895.

Revere Beach Reservation is an outstanding example of Eliot’s philosophy of landscape preservation and one of the few Metropolitan Park System projects that Eliot designed personally before he passed away in 1897 at age 38.
During the early 20th century, Revere Beach was a popular site along the New England coast. With popularity came economic growth and the tourism industry, which led to the construction of grand hotels and the Wonderland Amusement Park close to the beach. After World War II, visitation dropped as locals moved to the suburbs and the infrastructure aged. The original Bath House from Eliot’s plan was demolished in 1962 and replaced with a modern structure. That bath house was then demolished in the early 1990s. Following restoration efforts in the 1980s and 1990s, Revere Beach Reservation today retains a high degree of integrity, keeping to Eliot’s landscape design for the configuration of the beach, roadway, promenade and architecture. The historic district is composed of the beach site itself, the historic police station and beach superintendent’s house, a bandstand, and eight beach pavilions.

Plan your visit

Revere Beach Reservation is located on Revere Beach Blvd. in Revere, MA, just four miles north of downtown Boston. The Revere Beach Reservation Historic District has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmark registration files: text and photos. Revere Beach Reservation is open every day from dawn to dusk. Lifeguards are on duty from late June to early September. The beach can be reached by car or by public transportation. For more information, visit the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Revere Beach Reservation website or call 781-289-3020.

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