Insuring the City
The Prudential Center and the Postwar Urban Landscape
An in-depth look at Boston's Prudential Center and what its story reveals about the evolution of the modern American city
The Prudential Center anchors the Boston skyline with its tall, gray tower. It is also a historical beacon, representing a midcentury moment when insurance companies such as Prudential were particularly aware of how their physical presence and civic engagement reflected upon their intangible product: financial security.
Looking to New York's Rockefeller Center, the creators of the Prudential Center aspired to use real estate development as a tool toward civic achievement, reinvigorating central Boston and integrating a large complex of buildings with new infrastructure for the automobile. Architectural historian Elihu Rubin tells the full story of "The Pru," placing it within the political, economic, and architectural contexts of the period. The Prudential Center played a pivotal role in the economic redevelopment of Boston and was arguably one of the most significant urban developments of the 1950s and '60s. It is an important story, and one that provides great insight into the evolution of the modern city in postwar America.
Elihu Rubin is an architectural historian, city planner, and documentary filmmaker. He is the Daniel Rose (’51) Visiting Assistant Professor of Urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture.