October 30, 2013
Boston creates the first literary cultural district in the country
by Nick Davies
Downtown Boston is set to become the US’s very first literary cultural district, Beth Teitell writes for the Boston Globe. It’s not 100% certain exactly what that will entail, or what the precise boundaries of the district will be, but the local community of bookish types hopes that by 2015, it’ll be a thriving part of the city’s renaissance.
The effort to designate the area comes from a coalition led by Grub Street, an independent writing center that won a $42,500 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to plan and refine the project over the course of two years. Henriette Lazaridis Power, editor of literary magazine the Drum, says that she envisions it as “a Broadway for writers. The way Broadway is a loosely defined geographic area of New York and everyone knows that’s where you go to find theater, this is a place where people who want to take in writing in the forms of events will go, and writers will find resources there.”
In addition to current goings-on, the district will focus on Boston’s literary history. While New York has become the main hub for publishing in this country, Beantown was once enough of a gathering place for the literati that 19th-century writer Bret Harte once said that “it was impossible to fire a revolver without bringing down the author of a two-volume work.” Teitell points to some of the famous authors who populated its streets, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott and writes that some of the landmarks that will definitely figure into the literary map include:
- the Boston Public Library in Copley Square
- the Athenaeum at 10½ Beacon Street
- Washington Street, former home of numerous literary magazines and newspapers
- Beacon Hill, once home to poets including Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
- the Public Garden and its Make Way for Ducklings sculpture
Grub Street’s executive director, Eve Bridburg, says that the creation of this cultural district is part of the city’s recent resurgence. Since Grub Street was founded in 1997, the city has seen the start of 826 Boston (a nonprofit writing and tutoring center) and the Boston Book Festival, which attracts 25,000 every year. To celebrate that, plans for the district include walking tours, street art, and an app featuring an audio story written for a particular route through the neighborhood.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.