It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the island of World’s End has a distinct secret-paradise-at-the-end-of-the-earth quality. At 248 acres, you can easily get lost in the lushness and diversity of the landscape: the island flaunts woodlands, sandy coves, marshes, meadows, tinier offshoot islands, blueberry thickets, and granite cliffs—all surrounded by crisp blue water—for your viewing pleasure and exploration needs. And isn’t it the point of heaven that there’s a little something for everyone? At World’s End, landlubbers will enjoy picnicking on the grass amidst trees, taking leisurely strolls through the beautifully designed scenery, jogging or hiking along grassy or gravelly trails, and searching for the area’s many native birds; natural-born boaters, on the other hand, will appreciate the opportunity to sail, jet ski, kayak, or go fishing. As they say, welcome to paradise!
First things first: we feel obligated to tell you that World’s End, like a few other Boston Harbor hotspots, is technically no longer an island. The place is connected to the mainland owing to early European settlers’ construction of a causeway between the island proper and the remainder of the reservation, as it’s now known. Before the jetty’s creation, high tide would cover the sandbar that stood in its place, thereby rendering World’s End an isle only on occasion. While the sanctuary may feels as though it’s in a whole separate sphere, World’s End is now securely linked to the rest of Hingham, and it’s a short distance—15 miles—from the city Boston. (You can easily see the skyline on a nice day.)
The entire reservation in its current capacity encompasses both the former island and the remaining parkland, which, by the 1880s, one man had practically acquired in its totality. Prominent Hingham resident John R. Brewer, who bought the land to be incorporated into his family estate, played a crucial role in the shaping of this heavenly haven. Brewer hired Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park and the nation’s foremost landscape architect at the time, to cultivate the reservation. As owner, Brewer requested that the land be divided into manageable parcels that could be sold if he were to encounter financial difficulty, but he generally left the vision to Olmsted. Olmsted’s plan involved reforesting the area, creating curvilinear paths for carriages, and lining these paths with tall trees; Brewer complied with his vision almost completely.
After the Brewer family line became extinct in 1936, a variety of plans were considered for the land, but we don’t think anything could live up to the relaxing serenity of the tree-filled commons along the coast. Although in 1945 the United Nations was—weirdly enough—debating nestling its headquarters on World’s End, that all changed when John D. Rockefeller, Jr. very generously gave the UN six blocks of real estate in Manhattan, and probably for the better. The Trustees of the Reservation now protect World’s End and aim to preserve it entirely for environmental—and pleasurable—purposes.
For more on the stories behind the city’s sanctuaries, pick up a copy of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands by Christopher Klein, or check out last week’s blog. To help you explore the islands on the go, download our free smartphone app. Anchors away!