National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
Fenway Park, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

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Fenway Park Grandstand 9/29/2012
Bain Collection, Library of Congress

Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, is home of the Red Sox, one of the oldest baseball teams in Major League Baseball. Fenway Park was constructed in 1912 and it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at local, state, and national levels of significance. It is historically important as a location associated with a community, for the history of the sport of baseball, for momentous team moments, and for nationally important baseball players, such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski. From its groundbreaking in 1911 to the present day, Fenway Park has been the home of the Boston Red Sox. Only Wrigley Field/Chicago Cubs, and, until recently, Yankee Stadium (demolished 2010) New York Yankees, share the same longstanding association of a ballpark with a team. Fenway Park is significant as one of the few remaining stadium complexes built during the “Golden Age of Ballparks”, (1909-1923).

 

ARCHITECTURE
Designed by James E. McLaughlin, the Fenway Park façade is a good and intact example of the Tapestry Brickstyle. Typically built in red brick with cast-stone or stucco detail, Tapestry Brick is characterized by walls laid in decorative brick patterns, often in one plane, and ornamented by stucco accents that contrast with the brick. While at times Tapestry Brick was used as a modest architectural expression, Fenway Park exhibits more exuberant ornamentation, such as projecting and recessed courses or planes of brick, diamond patterns in brick and stucco, hood molds over the entrance arches, and the pedimented frames, which now hold commemorative plaques.

HISTORY OF AREA
Where Fenway Park stands was once wet marshland called the Back Bay Fens. Eventually this area was drained and turned into a park called Emerald Necklace, designed by world-renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. This public park area and subsequent neighborhood development continued in the 19th-century and the neighborhood became the West Fens or Fenway Park.

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John B. Smith Building Photograph courtesy of the MA SHPO

JOHN B. SMITH BUILDING
This nomination also includes the adjoining John B. Smith building, built in 1914, which has housed a number of retail and wholesale businesses, a media headquarters, and a bowling alley. The two-story, reinforced-concrete, red-brick building occupies its entire lot. The pressed-brick cladding is offset by cast-stone detail. Each street-level entrance and present storefront is articulated by a simple molded surround. The three pedestrian-scale entries on Brookline Avenue have a square-arched surround. At the second story, there are shallow projecting pavilions over each of the three pedestrian entries.

The earliest tenants included a number of automobile related businesses and typically at least one auto dealer. By the 1940s the building was also a media headquarters, housing WMEX Broadcasting Station, World-Wide Broadcasting, and more. As early as 1930, the city directory lists the Shortwave and Television Laboratory, Incorporated, at this address. The first simultaneous transmission of a radio and television signal originated from this building on February 5, 1930. In 1949, a connecting passageway was constructed from the second story of the Fenway Park Grandstand to the Smith Building to allow the media easier access to the stadium.

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Fenway Park today
Photograph courtesy of the MA SHPO

HIGHLIGHTS OF FENWAY PARK
Inside the park, the central feature is the playing field measuring approximately 7.5 acres. Noted for its quirks and asymmetry, the field's current dimensions are: left-field foul line, 310 feet; left-center field, 379 feet; center field, 390 feet; deep center field, 420 feet; deepest right-center field, 380 feet, right-field foul line, 302 feet; and backstop, 52 feet. The left-field, metal-clad wall (the Green Monster, 1934) defines the short left-field dimension and has a steel ladder running up the face of the wall.

The bullpens, constructed in front of the bleachers in 1940, shortened right and right-center fields to their current dimensions. At that time, the right-field wall was rebuilt in a curve to meet the corner of the new bullpens, replacing the angular alignment of the original wall in the right-field comer. Fenway Park's small foul territory is another of its distinctive characteristics. Portions of the left and right-field foul lines run within inches of the field wall, which encloses the seating, thus adding to the intimacy of the game. Two features of the park well known to fans are the right-field foul pole, named in honor of shortstop Johnny Pesky, who, in his nineties, is still seen at games in uniform, and the left-field foul pole, named for Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who won memorable game 6 of the 1975 World Series by hitting a home run off the foul pole in the twelfth inning.

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If these seats could talk... Photograph courtesy of MA SHPO

Another unique feature to Fenway Park is the manually operated scoreboard, evoking a sense of the past and tradition. The original scoreboard, installed in March 1912, was replaced in 1934, and the new scoreboard was installed in the left-field wall. The existing scoreboard is a replica of the 1934 scoreboard.

FENWAY PARK CULTURE
Fenway Park has acquired significance beyond its role as the place where the Boston Red Sox play baseball. It is tied to a symbiosis in the relationship between the team and Red Sox fans and an entire region, and Fenway Park has become a place of pilgrimage, a place to experience even when there is no baseball game underway. The crowds of more than 200,000 visitors that tour the ballpark each year do not take into account those who, when the ballpark is closed, walk by, come in tour buses or by car, get out, take pictures of the park, or take their own photo at Fenway Park.

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Fenway Park facade today
Photograph courtesy of MA SHPO

The nature of the experience of Fenway Park derives from the intimacy of the space and the proximity of the fans to the team (as well as to each other,) and from the pleasure of being a part of the continuum in the team's history as well as the past longstanding agony of enduring the team's failures. All are participants in whatever transpires at Fenway. The tradition of attending Red Sox games at Fenway Park (and perhaps the actual tickets to the seats) is passed down through multiple generations, and the shared experience of children attending with their parents or grandparents creates a cherished memory.

 

 

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NPS Director Jon Jarvis throws the first pitch Photograph courtesy of Boston Red Sox
Video of First Pitch on Youtube

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF HISTORY AND FENWAY'S FUTURE
“We are pleased to recognize the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, home of Boston Red Sox, one of the most storied teams in sports history,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Built in 1912 during the Golden Age of Ballparks, Fenway Park is the nation’s oldest operating major league baseball stadium, and we look forward to the next century of baseball history at Fenway.” A recent rehabilitation has ensured that Fenway Park will remain a viable venue for major league baseball and a major presence in the lives of the people of Boston and the region.

To see more photographs of Fenway Park and other National Register properties go to our photostream on Flickr.

Read the full Fenway Park nomination.

National Park Service Press Release - Historic Fenway Park Receives National Recognition as Part of 100th Anniversary Celebration

Compiled from Massachusetts Historical Commission, Fenway Park NRHP Nomination, Massachusetts SHPO December 2011.