Copley Square was named for the great Boston painter John Singleton Copley who was born in Boston in 1737. In the 1870’s the square was an awkward piece of leftover land in the Back Bay area south of Boylston Street. The area was never given any serious design attention until landscape architects Sasaki, Dawson and DeMay’s stepped in. The trio later won a national competition for Copley Square’s design that was executed in 1969. Today, the square bustles with the energy of tourists and residents who live in elegant, beautifully restored brownstone homes.
Begin by exploring the Boston Public Library, affectionately referred to as the BPL by Bostonians, it is the centerpiece of Copely Square. Librarians working the reference desk of this massive architectural wonder in the heart of Copley Square continue to provide answers to questions on subjects ranging from geography to music. A striking example of Massachusetts tax dollars at work.
Next head to Trinity Church, an Episcopal church with an Anglican tradition, is a treasure trove, both spiritually and musically. The cathedral-size church boasts an elegant fine art interior and stained glass windows designed by John LaFarge. Approximately 2,500 members worship there every Sunday.
Some of the leading religious thinkers of their eras have served as rector at Trinity. One is Phillip Brooks (1869-1891), whose faith and leadership was the human cornerstone of the church as it is known today. He was also a civic activist, and upon his death the entire city of Boston closed for a day while citizens commissioned a statue in his honor. Aside from his spiritual leadership, Brooks is perhaps best known for his lyrics to the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The church has another musical claim to fame. Every Friday at 12:15 p.m., a free organ or choir recital is held for the public to enjoy. The first weekend in December is the church’s traditional candlelight carol service, an inspiring way for Christians to connect to the holiday season in a non-materialistic way.
Next, head to the John Hancock tower, designed by I. M. Pei (he also designed the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris), stands next to Trinity and casts long shadows over the church. During construction, Boston residents feared that the design was too high tech for Copley Square. Their fears were unfounded, however, and today the tower is one of the most beautiful structures in the city.
The tallest building in New England, the 62-story tower is even more famous for another reason: the technology for a building covered with an all-glass façade had not been perfected, and windows began falling by the dozens before construction was complete. The design flaw was finally analyzed and corrected, and each of the more than 10,000 panes of glass had to be replaced. The observation deck on the 60th floor, originally open to the public in response to community feedback, was permanently closed for security reasons after the destruction of the World Trade Center.
For lunch, try Stephanie’s on Newbury, a restaurant that features an outstanding menu and outdoor café that’s perfect for spotting visiting celebrities; people watching in the Back Bay can be as fascinating as it is in Paris. The famous Dubarry on Commonwealth Avenue, known for a colorful mural painted on an outside wall, features French cuisine. Diners eating al fresco are just as apt to see women dressed to the nines holding court to a trio of miniature dogs on rhinestone-studded leashes as they are to see college-age students zipping around on skateboards.
Afterwards, peruse the trendy boutique-style stores that line Newbury Street, Boston’s version of Rodeo Drive. Here you’ll find Geerlings & Wade for their fine wines, Chanel, Burberry and a store appropriately named “The Boston Baked Bean” noted for its fashions for all ages and genders, gourmet gifts and toys. Upscale shopping featuring Tiffany’s and other pricey stores is also found in Copley Place, a massive indoor shopping emporium.
After a full day exploring and shopping, head to the Top of the Hub for a romantic, elegant and sophisticate meal. This is an astoundingly beautiful place offers views from its 52nd floor location of the Boston skyline from every table. The menu offers contemporary cuisine influenced by the cooking styles of Asia and California and features lobster and clam chowder as well as seasonal entrees. The wine list features selections from California, France and Italy and on weekend nights there are jazz bands to dance to.
Copley Square has many fine hotels that offer weekend and holiday package deals. The Copley Square Hotel (set to re-open in the spring of 2008), The Lenox and Westin Copley Place hotels are among the very best.
What & Where:
Boston Public Library (700 Boylston St; 617-536-5400)
Trinity Church (206 Clarendon St; 617-536-0944)
John Hancock Tower (200 Clarendon St)
Stephanie’s on Newbury (190 Newbury St; 617-236-0990)
Geerlings & Wade (218 Newbury St; 617-247-8902)
Chanel (5 Newbury St; 617-859-0055)
Burberry’s Limited (2 Newbury St; 617-236-1000)
The Boston Baked Bean (291 Newbury St; 617-266-0050)
Copley Place (100 Huntington Ave; 617-369-5000)
Top of the Hub (800 Boylston St # 52; 617-536-1775
The Copley Square Hotel (47 Huntington Ave; 617-536-9000)
The Lenox (61 Exeter St; 617-536-5300)
Westin Copley Place (10 Huntington Ave; 617-262-9600)