|In 1614, explorer John Smith sailed into what was to
become Boston Harbor and referred to the wild lands and waters around
him as "the Paradise of all these parts." Within fifteen years, the
Puritans were developing the tadpole-shaped Shawmut Peninsula, as
members of the Massachusett tribe fled. Now, nearly four hundred years
later, one must wonder what remains of John Smith's "Paradise."
Equipped with wit, intellect, and an innate curiosity about people and
places, John Hanson Mitchell strolls through Boston's streets,
chronicling the nonhuman inhabitants and surprisingly diverse plant
life, as well as the eccentric characters he meets at various turns.
Using his modern observations as a starting point, he tells the
fascinating stories of the tribal leaders, naturalists, community
activists, and organizations who worked to preserve nature in the city
over generations, from the Victory Gardens of the Fenway to the
expansive woods of Franklin Park.
But much of the history is in the land itself. As he battles traffic on
notorious Route 128, Mitchell considers the ancient origins of the
rocks that line the highway and those that form the city's foundation.
A walk across Boston Common calls to mind the Tremount Hills, flattened
by seventeenth-century newcomers; only Beacon Hill remains. A stroll
through the Back Bay allows Mitchell to imagine the Charles River, so
polluted by sewage that it became a public nuisance and was partially
covered over with a massive nineteenth-century landfill. With this
natural history in mind, Mitchell explores both ancient and new green
space from Chelsea to South Boston, including the greenway formed by
the Big Dig.
Endlessly readable and full of personality, The Paradise of All These Parts offers Boston visitors and residents alike a whole new perspective on one of America's oldest cities..
The Paradise of All
A Natural History of Boston
by John Hanson Mitchell