Revere Beach

The most historic Massachusetts beach is also the first public beach in the United States. Revere Beach was established in 1896, and ever since it has been a reflection of the history of New England and the country’s public landscapes. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2003. In designating it as such, the National Parks Service states: “As the best remaining example of Eliot's philosophy of landscape preservation and social responsibility, the plans for Revere Beach informed the early development of regional planning in this country.” The “Eliot” mentioned was the renowned landscape architect Charles Eliot who designed Revere Beach in Massachusetts and numerous other public spaces before his untimely death in 1897. His works include everything from Harvard’s lush Arnold Arboretum and the graceful esplanades between Cambridge and Boston to Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, Ohio (the second largest metropolitan park in the country).

If you had to choose any beach in the country as being quintessentially American, Revere Beach would be it. It was always the people’s beach, used by working class people from Boston and the other North Shore communities like Lynn, Swampscott, and Salem that were primarily blue-collar towns. This historic Massachusetts beach remains one of the most accessible in the state. There is ample public parking and a convenient T-stop (mass transit train) right at the beach.

Revere Beach is about five miles north of Boston, located along Route 1, the coastal route that runs almost unbroken from Florida to Maine. It forms a natural crescent, with wide expanses of sand stretching for more than three miles and sloping gradually down to the water. This makes it a perfect bathing beach and excellent for families with children. There are scenic views of little Nahant island across the bay, with lighthouses and the Winthrop and Logan Airport peninsulas to the south.

During the Golden Age before the Depression and even into the 1960s, Revere Beach in Massachusetts was known as the Coney Island of New England. Ballrooms and dance halls like the Hampton Beach Casino and the Winnipesaukee Gardens in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire drew dancers and concert-goers. Visitors from all over the world came to enjoy roller coasters, carousels, and other amusement park rides. There was even a grandstand just for people to sit and people-watch. There were famous dance marathons, and the most famous of the Big Bands played here. Hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters lined the boulevard.

Hard times hit the historic Massachusetts beach beginning in the 1960s, and six great blizzards between 1974 and 1978 saw many of the businesses close. Unsavory teenage gangs were known to frequent the beach, and it was even rumored to be a dumping ground for what was called the Boston Mafia. Seedy bars replaced the ballrooms, and many homes were left deserted. Beach pollution was rampant. This certainly justified its lesser reputation among the wealthier, privileged classes who summered at more genteel and refined places like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island beaches.

Today, and since the 1980s, Revere Beach in Massachusetts has undergone a facelift and revitalization. The long, wide stretch of idyllic sand with fabulous views remains. It is the site of the respected New England Sand Sculpting Festival. If you want to schedule your trip during one of the beach events, you will see fabulous sculptures by artists from around the country in July. The graceful walkways and promenade have been refurbished; the typical New England bandstands and pavilions have been restored; the water is clean and monitored; and restaurants line the boardwalk. Try historic Kelly’s, serving famous roast beef sandwiches, and traditional lobster and fried clam rolls since 1951.

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