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A street map of the Boston area is an eloquent history in itself, if you know how to read it. Like most cities, Boston grew in fits and starts, starting with a small initial settlement whose cow paths (or just drunken-Puritan paths) laid the pattern for the financial district, expanding with a spurt of urban planning here and there, merging with nearby settlements to make pockets of winding alleys in the midst of rectilinear tendrils of legislated geography. Old money and politics mingled on the fashionable southern face of Beacon Hill while the wannabes among hoi polloi settled as close as they could get in townhouses on the brand-new landfill of the Back Bay. It's still true today: yuppies can buy their way onto the Public Garden ends of Beacon Street, Marlborough Street, and Commonwealth Avenue, relegating the better-off students and Scientologists to the further reaches near Kenmore Square, but Louisburg Square is off limits to them. If your family hasn't lived here for three hundred years, to squared-off streets with you! But I digress: we're talking about the names of those squared-off streets, not how they came to be and who inhabits them.

Any local knows the pattern: Beacon Street, Marlborough Street, Commonwealth Avenue, Newbury Street, and Boylston Street run away from town and toward Allston, while the cross streets follow the alphabet.

  1. Arlington (borders the Public Garden, home to the Ritz-Carlton hotel and the Arlington Street Church)
  2. Berkeley
  3. Clarendon
  4. Dartmouth
  5. Exeter
  6. Fairfield
  7. Gloucester
  8. Hereford

And then you're at Mass Ave, and the Fens throw things all to hell. Ipswich runs more or less parallel to Comm Ave, then intersects Jersey, Kilmarnock, and Lansdowne Streets in no particular order. Rumor and continuity, though, indicate that these are indeed intended to be part of The System. Perhaps drunken civil engineers (are there any other kind?) took over at that point.

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