Middlesex Fells Reservation, Stoneham, MA
1850 - 1927

Sylvester Baxter

Born in West Yarmouth on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Baxter went to work at the printing office of Smith & Porter for two years while studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. After leaving the printing office he worked as a rodman for a civil engineer. In 1871 Baxter began a long and distinguished career as a journalist and author, covering a wide variety of topics, including architecture, landscape architecture, and city planning. From 1871 to 1875 he served on the staff of the Boston Daily Advertiser, covering the Great Fire of Boston in 1872, which inspired his interest in city planning. Between 1875 and 1877 Baxter studied at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin. He worked for the Boston Herald from 1879 to 1883 and again from 1887 to 1905, writing numerous important articles in support of the Boston municipal park system, as well as the first guide to the Boston Park System (1895). In 1879 Baxter lobbied for the preservation of the Middlesex Fells and gave the site its name. He wrote a pamphlet in 1891 entitled Greater Boston: A Study for a Federalized Metropolis Comprising the City of Boston and Surrounding Cities and Towns, a compilation of several articles originally published in the Boston Herald. Baxter actively campaigned for the goals it proposed, including the creation of additional wilderness reservations. From 1892 to 1893 he was the secretary of Boston’s preliminary Metropolitan Park Commission, and with Charles Eliot, he secured the passage of state legislation making the commission permanent. Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston. Baxter formed and became secretary of the Metropolitan Improvement League, out of which came the Boston Metropolitan Commission, of which he was secretary from 1907 to 1909. He died in San Juan, Puerto Rico.