Newbury Street

This article is about the Boston street built in the 1860s. For the old Newbury Street section of Washington Street, see Washington Street (Boston).
A mix of architectural styles along Newbury Street near the Boston Public Garden.

Newbury Street is located in the Back Bay area of Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. It runs roughly east-to-west, from the Boston Public Garden to Brookline Ave. The road crosses many major arteries along its path, with an entrance to the Mass Pike westbound at Mass Ave.


East of Massachusetts Avenue, it is a mile long street lined with historic 19th-century brownstones that contain hundreds of shops and restaurants, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals. The most "high-end boutiques" are located near the Boston Public Garden end of Newbury Street. As the address numbers climb, the shops become slightly less expensive and more bohemian up to Mass Ave. West of Mass Ave the street abuts the Mass Pike on its unbuilt southern side; the northern side is mainly parking and rear service areas for buildings on Commonwealth Avenue. A proposed, major decking project over the Pike at the "annex" end would involve new structure(s) for the southern side beyond the confines of the Mass. Ave. intersection. This could allow for expansion of the shopping district.

Newbury Street has an eclectic mix of shops and eateries. Its renovated brownstone buildings feature stores at all retail levels, -- physically (basement, street level, and above), stylistically (shabby chic to elegant), and financially (affordable to exclusive). There are coffee shops, trendy cafes and an array of restaurants to suit many tastes. Yet due to the concentration of up-scale stores at its lower end, it is touted as one of the most expensive streets in the world. Luxury goods stores include Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Chanel, Armani, Nanette Lepore, Ted Baker, Ben Sherman, Donna Karan, Burberry, Cartier, Loro Piana, Kate Spade, Bang & Olufsen, Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Donlyn Lyndon writes that west of Clarendon Street,

Newbury Street develops its own very distinctive and appealing character and becomes one of the nicest shopping streets in Boston, or anywhere. Renovated town houses with large glass bays on the ground floor produce a delightful urban landscape.... Owners and tenants... have further animated the street by using the 25-foot (7.6 m) space between the building and the sidewalk for various purposes. Some areas are paved and used for displays or sidewalk sales. Others have thick planting... Some lots have stairs up and down to shops and galleries; others have show windows and display cases for flowers or fashions or other items for sale. But each contributes something extra, and together they make these blocks of Newbury Street genuinely attractive."[1]


Early history

Newbury Street's name celebrates the victory of the Puritans in the 1643 Battle of Newbury in the English Civil War. Newbury Street was one of the earliest roads in Boston, its portion was renamed Washington Street by the end of the 18th century. The current road was created during the filling in of Back Bay in the mid 19th century.

The 1893 edition of Baedeker's United States catalogs Boston's "finest residence streets" as Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street, Marlborough Street, Newbury Street, and Mt. Vernon Street. William J. Geddis, however, notes that it was "the least fashionable Street in Back Bay."

Owen Wister's novel, Philosophy 4, set in the 1870s, mentions Newbury Street:

When you saw [Harvard student Oscar Maironi] seated in a car bound for Park Square, you knew he was going into Boston, where he would read manuscript essays on Botticelli or Pico della Mirandola, or manuscript translations of Armenian folksongs; read these to ecstatic, dim-eyed ladies in Newbury Street, who would pour him cups of tea when it was over, and speak of his earnestness after he was gone. It did not do the ladies any harm; but I am not sure that it was the best thing for Oscar.

The first commercial establishments probably opened around 1905. By the late 1920s, lower Newbury Street had begun to establish itself as a destination for well-heeled society. With the establishment of Boston's Junior League in 1907, formal dances became very fashionable, and elegant apparel shops prospered. By 1911, 24 Newbury St. featured a salon for lessons in "social and aesthetic dance."[2] As more retailers moved in, many lower floor shops began to feature wide glass windows to exhibit luxury goods. In the late 1950s fashionable boutiques included Darée, Charles Sumner, Miss Harvey (at #32), furriers and Joseph Antell. One of Newbury's oldest and most established retailers is the tony Brooks Brothers department store which occupies its original quarters at the corner of Berkeley St.[3]

Transformation into a shopping district

Newbury Street's shopping district
Newbury Street in 2013

The transformation that turned Newbury Street into a trendy shopping district for young people probably began in the 1970s with the opening of the original Newbury Comics.

From 1970 until the late 1990s, lower Newbury Street was lined with posh up-and-coming art galleries. Newbury Street mavens and hipsters spent Saturday afternoons gallery hopping and enjoying the ubiquitous "wine and cheese" art openings.

The legendary music instrument retailer "E.U. Wurlitzer Music and Sound" was a part of the greater Boston music scene since 1890, and the store had been located at 360 Newbury Street (on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue) after moving from its LaGrange Street address in the mid-1960s. The building was a plain yellow-brick building by the time the company went out of business in the mid-1980s. In 1989, it was renovated under the direction of architect Frank Gehry and won the Parker Award as the most beautiful new building in Boston. According to architecture columnist Robert Campbell, Gehry "took a blandly forgettable building and transformed it into a monument... It's the first significant example in Boston of a movement known as deconstruction. Deconstructionist buildings are designed to look as if their parts are either colliding or exploding, usually at crazy angles."[4]

"The Slab" is a large flat rectangle of concrete between the former JP Licks ice cream parlor and the Hynes Convention Center at Massachusetts Avenue. In 2012, the Boston Business Journal announced that Clover Food Lab would lease the 275-square-foot sidewalk space for a year and open a café.[5] However, the plan has not yet been realized as of November 2014.[6]

Once famous for a wealth of bookstores, Boston, like nearby Cambridge, has suffered a steady decline in the number and quality of independent booksellers. The beloved 150,000-volume Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop on Newbury Street, one of the last holdouts, closed in 2004.[7] Currently, the youthful Trident Booksellers and Café on Newbury Street is amongst a small band of independent bookstores still remaining in Boston.

Close to Berklee College of Music, Tower Records at 360 Newbury Street was a favorite spot among music lovers for over a decade. A 1991 Boston Globe article says that "Tower Records stomped into Boston with the nation's largest music store three years ago,"[8] while another says that "When Tower Records opened its astonishing store on Newbury Street, it altered the Boston compact disk market forever, and remade Newbury Street's commercial scene."[9] Long the largest record and CD outlet in the Boston area, it was closed 2002, though the space was soon occupied by another equally huge music store, Virgin Megastore.

Recent history

On April 27, 2006, the Boston Globe reported that the Virgin Megastore was to move out of the Newbury Street area. Best Buy signed a ten-year lease and opened a store in late July 2007 on 41,500 square feet (3,860 m2) of space in three above-ground floors and a basement that is used for storage. Best Buy closed in 2012.[10]

In 2007, Jack Spade opened in a 200-square-foot (19 m2) spot underneath the Kate Spade boutique, and is the second store of its kind in the world. True Religion (1,984 sq ft.) and Zara (24,000 sq ft.) also opened on the street in 2008.

In 2008, Louis, Boston, an upscale retailer, announced that it would leave the area when its lease expired in 2010. Occupying the former home of the once indomitably chic Bonwit Teller store, the Louis edifice is an elegant and iconic 1864 building that once housed the Boston Museum of Natural History.[11]

Notable places

See also


  1. Lyndon, Donlyn (1982) The City Observed: Boston, A Guide to the Architecture of the Hub. Vintage Books.
  4. Campbell, Robert (1991), "360 Newbury: A Bold Beauty". The Boston Globe. December 6, 1991. p. 59
  5. Grillo, Thomas (March 12, 2012). "Clover food truck to open Newbury Street sidewalk café". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  6. Longest, Knoefel. "Clover's Newbury Street Sidewalk Cafe Appears to Be in the Works". Eater Boston. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  8. Hemp, Paul (1991); The Boston Globe. November 7, 1991. p. 61
  9. Muro, Mark. The Boston Globe. October 5, 1991. p. 16
  10. Adams, Dan (April 14, 2012). "Best Buy closing Newbury Street, Wareham stores". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  11. Abelson, Jean (2008), "Newbury Street Icon Louis Seeks Someplace Trendier," The Boston Globe, May 30, 2008
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Coordinates: 42°20′57″N 71°5′3″W / 42.34917°N 71.08417°W / 42.34917; -71.08417

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