By the mid-20th century, the busy commercial district of Scollay Square was widely seen as an eyesore and a center of vice. The warren of 22 streets featured theaters that had been turned into burlesque houses, surrounded by bars and tattoo parlors that attracted sailors on leave.
Eventually, public opinion censured the lively squalor, and Scollay Square became a candidate for urban renewal. Its buildings were razed and replaced by the “superblocks” of Government Center, where, by 1969, a monumental new City Hall anchored a vast 10-acre plaza. Bostonians still debate the consequences of urban renewal, but the bold rebuilding reversed the decline in Boston’s fortunes that occurred during the first half of the 20th century.
Mayor John Collins arrived on the scene in 1960. He picked Ed Logue to direct the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Together they reshaped downtown Boston.
Scollay Square was the second Boston neighborhood to be demolished for a modern rebuilding project. Collins and Logue envisioned in its place a new City Hall that would become the centerpiece for a rejuvenated downtown which vaulted Boston into the modern age.