On June 3, 1893, the Metropolitan Park Commission was established by the Massachusetts state legislature to oversee and maintain the Metropolitan Park System. The last nine miles of the Charles River (from Watertown to Boston Harbor) was still a tidal firth. A plan was formed to dam the mouth of the river creating the fresh water Charles River Basin. In 1910, construction of the Charles River Dam was completed, and shortly after the newly landscaped banks of the river became know as the Charles River Esplanade.

The Esplanade went through a vast expansion beginning in 1928, which widened and lengthened the park land. The improvements were aided by a one million dollar donation from Helen Osbourne Storrow, in memory of her husband James. (Today, the route which runs alongside the Esplanade, Storrow Drive, honors their name.) It was during this expansion that the first lagoon was built, as well as the Music Oval, where a temporary concert shell was placed. The summer of 1929 was the first year Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops performed on the Esplanade. In 1941, the construction of the new music shell took place with a $300,000 trust, donated by benefactor Maria Hatch, to build a memorial for her late brother, Edward.

Another major change to the Esplanade began in 1949, with the construction of Storrow Drive. To make up for park land lost to the new road , additional islands were built along the the Esplanade. In the 1960's, the Esplanade was linked to Herter Park in Brighton, and other upstream parks, with the construction of the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike path. This 18-mile path travels along the entire basin on both the North and South sides of the river. The Charles River Basin and Esplanade retains a unique place in this country's history of public recreation. Frederick Law Olmstead's 1889 design for Charlesbank included the first outdoor gymnasium in the United States. Community Boating was the country's first, and remains among the best, public boating program. For a modest fee, thousands of people have learned to sail on the Charles.

The 'Hatch Shell', as it has come to be known, is Boston's epicenter for large outdoor performances and open-air events. Emblazoned in bronze lettering on the face of the steps are the names of some of the world's greatest composers. Classical, local and international, Oldies, Blues, Jazz, and Rock and Roll performances are held from spring through fall amidst one of the most charming and historical cities of our nation. The most notable event happens every July 4th as Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops during Boston's Independence Day celebration. A patriotic score, including Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, accompanies a grand finale display of blazing fireworks over the Charles River. For many visitors, a blanket, picnic cooler, and family members on the Hatch Shell lawn is the perfect way to spend a warm summer evening.

  • Year Constructed: 1941
  • Construction Cost: Under $300,000
  • Renovations: $4.5M (1991), $2.4M (2018)
  • Height: 40 ft.
  • Width: 110 ft. (160 ft. including stair base)
  • Style: Art Deco
  • Exterior Finish: Rustic Terrazzo (DePaoli Mosaic Co.)
  • Acoustician: JHS Acoustics
  • Lawn: approximately 90,000 ft2
  • Renovations (1991): Notter, Finegold & Alexander, Inc.
  • Renovations (2018): BPDL, Inc. (Precast terrazo exterior)
  • Renovations (2018): Folan Waterproofing & Construction (Exterior terrazo and roof)
  • Architect: Richard J. Shaw