The phantom roads of World’s End

World’s End was once an island in the greater network of Boston Harbor Islands, but colonial farmers dammed the marshes separating the land from shore.

John Brewer, a Boston businessman, purchased ten acres of land in 1855 to build a summer residence, which became a large farming estate. Brewer continued to buy up land in World’s End and eventually commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds for a planned subdivision of 163 homes. (The 1850s were before McMansions but after subdivisions). The homes were never built, leaving four miles of empty carriage roads.

In 1945, the town of Hingham bid to locate the United Nations on the harbor peninsula. The site was reportedly a finalist. After another failed proposal to put a nuclear power plant on the land in the mid-60s, a conservation organization acquired the land for a park.

Image: One of Olmsted’s abandoned carriage paths on World’s End, photographed by Lee Friedlander as part of a retrospective on the work of the Brookline-based landscape artist.


2 thoughts on “The phantom roads of World’s End

  1. Thanks for the post highlighting World’s End. It’s an underappreciated natural resource. Brewer also owned Sarah and Langlee Islands in Hingham Harbor, and Olmsted’s tree planting included those formerly barren islands as well. Maples, oaks, elms, and cedars are still out on the islands.

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