Prudential Center & Tower – Skywalk Observatory

The Prudential Center in Boston opened on Patriot’s Day in April 1965 with an elaborate 3-day ceremony. This was a well-planned event and one that was designed to emphasize Prudential’s commitment to national independence, as well as represent the combined efforts of public and private enterprise. There were 35,000 visitors on the first day of the grand opening, enjoying the outdoor concerts, spring flower planting, and the drama of the firing of a Revolutionary War cannon, triggered by a signal from Mariner IV in outer space. On the second opening day, the Boston Marathon finish line was stretched across the Center’s northern plaza, a tradition that is still followed today with a great deal of Boston civic pride. The first major event held at the Prudential Center was a televised panel discussion on “The Free Society and Its Posture in World Affairs,” attended by Adlai Stevenson, Sir Anthony Eden, and George Lodge (son of Henry Cabot Lodge), and moderated by Walter Cronkite.

Prudential Center is a 23-acre complex located between Boylston Street and Huntington Avenue in the Back Bay area of Boston. The Center was built on an elevated platform 18 feet above street level over an old train depot and freight yard, owned by the Boston and Albany railroad, and an extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike. In an effort to deflect the corporate image of the city and provide services for both public and private functions, the Prudential Center was primarily designed, managed, and financed by private enterprise. Supposedly, this would be a Center with easy accessibility from the street, similar to Rockefeller Center in New York City. However, the construction did not allow for the same accessibility, and as a result, a parking garage now serves the needs of suburbanites and visitors to the Prudential Center. At a cost of close to $200 million for 2.2 million square feet of commercial office space, retail shopping, and dining, the Prudential Insurance Company became the largest real estate investor in Boston at the time.

The Center was designed to connect the Back Bay and the South End areas of Boston, while allowing expansion and further development to the west. Two blocks of shops, banks, and restaurants line the east and west sides, connecting Boylston Street and Huntington Avenue through glass-roofed corridors. In addition to the Sheraton Hotel on the west and three luxury apartment buildings on the east, there are 15 acres of outdoor gardens, walkways, and an ice skating rink for public enjoyment. A civic conference center, originally named the War Memorial and later changed to the Hynes Convention Center, was also added to enhance the importance of private and public interests in the city.

The Prudential Tower, the 2nd tallest building in Boston, is the largest and the most visible building in the Center. The 52-floor Tower, with the highest observation deck or Skywalk in New England on the 50th floor, is the main tourist attraction at the Center. From within the glass-enclosed observation deck 700 feet above street level, visitors have a panoramic 360-degree view of the city and neighboring states on clear weather days. Along with numerous exhibits in the Skywalk Observatory, visitors can take the 45-minute, self-guided audio tour that highlights the historical, cultural, and architectural attractions in Boston. A recent addition to the Skywalk was made in October 2006 with a “Welcome to Boston” film celebrating the importance of the European immigrants who settled here.

The view from the east side of the Skywalk, facing Copley Square, includes the Hancock Tower, downtown, the harbor, and Logan Airport. Continuing around the Skywalk, there are more spectacular views of Faneuil Hall, Fenway Park, the Boston Common and Public Gardens, as well as the Esplanade and the Hatch Shell. Visitors can also see the Charles River, Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, and MIT, in addition to Beacon Hill, the Christian Science church headquarters, the Massachusetts State House, and Newbury Street.

Hours: Open 7 days a week, March 1 — October 31, from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and November — February 28, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Note: Skywalk open until 10:30 p.m. on July 4. When other special functions and events are held at the Skywalk, the Observatory is temporarily closed to the general public.

Prices: adults – $10.50, seniors – $8.50, children under 12 – $7.00. Price begins at 7:30 p.m. on the 4th of July — adults $20.00 and $12.50 for kids, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the Skywalk Observatory Kiosk in the Prudential Center Arcade from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or alternately at the Skywalk entrance on the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower.

Comments are closed.