BOSTON'S GOLD COAST: The North Shore, 1890-1929 by Joseph E. Garland

BOSTON'S GOLD COAST: The North Shore, 1890-1929

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Garland continues his appreciation of Boston's North Shore (1978) with a gallivanting wit (which occasionally carries a corrective sting) and a buoyant prose--making of the bulky material a shapely, appealing diversion. After assessing changes in transportation and demography, Garland begins on a relatively egalitarian note, ticking off the wonders of a chain of amusement parks to which the huddled masses of Boston were beginning, thanks to the trolleys, to tottle forth. (Bluer blood, meanwhile, congealed at the prospect.) He then takes note of the heyday (and demise) of the ""Arks,"" grand hotels as exclusive as Balmoral; and of the airs and graces of the wealthy at play. He roams over handsomely turreted landscapes and chronicles the rise of Society's sports-oriented clubs--including the venerable Myopia Hunt Club, founded by the near-sighted Prince brothers as a lark (which would in the Twenties entertain ""shy and nervous"" Edward, Prince of Wales). Then there are Presidential visitors. President Taft, who arrived at that ""breezy parapet of Republicanism"" in the summer of 1909 (and was to be ousted by his landlord the next year because of the trampling curious hoards), wearily conducted some disagreeable political business before gratefully hacking at golf balls--which he did rather well. There was a brief 1918 visit by Wilson when he sat ""with Colonel House with maps of Europe spread out before them"" (and embassies ""felt the destinies of Europe were being decided""). Silent Cal's summer sojourn was a disappointment, as after he arrived--""dressed in his accustomed ascetic precision""--he seemed to disappear. Garland details the gallantry and earnest homefront industry of native sons and daughters in the war years, and also the gilded extravagances of the Gilded Age to come--some bootleg follies, much fast living, and the break-up of the patriarchal estates. There are two lilting, attractive chapters on North Shore congregations of artists and theater groups--plus a nostalgic wind-up celebrating continuities of penultimate families, social rituals, and, above all, lasting affection for a place and institution. Imaginative research and marvelous photographs; in sum, popular history with a twist of style.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown