Monday, March 19, 2012

The End of Fenway Park

As I have travelled New England and the Northeast promoting Fenway 1912, one of the questions I am most often asked is about the future of Fenway. Although I have my own suspicions in regard to how the franchise might one day decide to dispose of Fenway in favor of a new ballpark, and the question of seat size in the grandstand is an apparently insurmountable obstacle moving forward, in the long run such questions, which presuppose that Fenway remains standing, might be moot.

Blame it on 1755. On November 18 of that year, at 4;30 a.m., and earthquake with an epicenter about 25 miles of Cape Ann, struck the northeast. The most powerful ever recorded in the area, the 6.0 to 6.3 quake was felt from Halifax, Nova Scotia to South Carolina and as far inland as Lake Champlain.

In Boston, some 1,300 of a total of 1,600 chimneys were toppled, providing work for masons for months. Significantly, most of the damage took place where buildings had been constructed on so called “infill”, reclaimed land along the harbor and other areas Mother Nature intended to be either wetlands or completely underwater.


Far more significant areas of Boston are built today on reclaimed lands, and a similar quake would cause extensive damage, particularly to buildings constructed for than forty or fifty years ago and featuring significant use of brick. In 1990 a study by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency estimated financial losses at between $4 billion and $5 billion

That would be Fenway Park.

Constructed on the edge of what was once a tidal marsh, the land beneath Fenway, if subjected to a major earthquake, would almost certainly begin to liquefy and become unstable. A sizable earthquake, even one not as strong as the quake of 1755, would almost certainly cause significant damage to Fenway Park. A quake equal to or stronger than that of 1755 would almost certainly cause its destruction. The End of Fenway Park would come, not with a wrecking ball, but with a rumble.

Glenn Stout is the author of the best selling Fenway 1912.

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