Shurcliff, Map of the Existing and Proposed Circumferential Thoroughfares (Boston, 1909)

The Plan of Chicago was not alone in recognizing the need for a system of radial and circumferential highways in an American metropolis. The same year that the Plan of Chicago was published, the landscape architect and planner Arthur Shurcliff (born Shurtleff) published a traffic plan for greater Boston for the Metropolitan Improvements Commission. A protégé of Frederik Law Olmstead—also  cofounder with Frederik Law Olmstead, Jr. of the landscape architecture school at Harvard—Shurcliff was the designer of the historic reconstructions at Old Sturbridge and Colonial Williamsburg. The traffic plan appeared at a time when Boston’s civic elites were actively promoting integrated metropolitan government. The problems confronting Boston’s regional traffic planners were quite different from those facing Chicago. The report observed that the “simple gridiron of uniform streets with which most American cities are laid out was not applicable to the steep, isolated hills, radiating valleys and irregular shore line of this district.” Nevertheless, as in metropolitan Chicago, the historical development of metropolitan Boston favored the development of good radial highways from central Boston. And as in Chicago, it was the circumferential lines of communication that were deficient. “Of late the inconvenience of these cross lines,” writes Shurcliff, “has been brought to public attention in a new form by the automobile. This type of conveyance has vastly increased the range of individual movement, and has discovered and advertised abroad the weak points of our highway connections.” (p. 194) Serviceable routes for connections did exist between radials. All that was needed was the will to invest in their improvement. Shurcliff’s proposals had little immediate impact, but (again) as in Chicago, they anticipated the creation of circumferential highways that were realized most fully in the interstate era.



Krieger, Alex, David Cobb and Amy Turner, eds. Mapping Boston. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999.



Massachusetts. Metropolitan Improvements Commission. Public improvements for the metropolitan district: Report of the Commission on Metropolitan Improvements appointed under Resolves of 1907, chapter 108, to consider the subject. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., State, 1909.

Arthur A. Shurcliff, Map of the Existing and Proposed Circumferential Thoroughfares of the District and Their Connections (Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts Metropolitan Improvements Commission, 1909). Boston Public Library, Mapart Collection