A geography of the retail structure in Greater Boston: fourteen years change in shopping districts and their internal features
Schell, Eileen Mary Conaghan
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The change in Greater Boston's retail structure are measured by comparing the 1960-1961 store patterns and their internal features with those which existed in 1946-1947. The foundation for the comparison is provided by Kenneth W. Walters' doctoral dissertation, "The Secondary Shopping Centers of Metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts," Department of Sociology, Syracuse University, 1949. Over 36,000 stores in Boston and the thirty-nine cities and towns forming the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) City Zone were field mapped in 1960-1961. Then these stores, and those in the BC inventoried by Walters, were classified according to a system devised to reflect their "retail strength." "Retail strength" is a measure of the importance, desirability, and stability of each association of stores. The purpose of the classification is to understand the functional differences which occur within the same Shopping District, and the differences which occur between different Districts. Classification is also necessary to understand the type of change which has taken place over the comparative period in any given District. By examining changes which have taken place in man's relationship to his environment many of the changes in the methods of retailing are more easily understood. The Planned Shopping Center and the Self-Service Department Store in particular are notable additions to the retail structure. These modern facilities have had profound repercussions upon the older conventional Shopping Districts. Other changes are attributable to the changing role of the isolated store and the changing role of the chain store. New methods of merchandising, especially self-service, have affected store size and shape. In general, new units are larger than their predecessors. The older stores have adapted to the new space requirements by consolidating several older units. Maps and cartograms, or conventionalized maps, are the principal method used to describe and compare the areal distribution of shopping facilities. The Boston's maps of Metropolitan Boston, showing the location of retail facilities by means of graduated symbols, are used directly in the analysis of change. The Boston Globe's maps are also used to construct maps of the pattern of streets devoted to retailing in 1946-1947 and 1960-1961. Simultaneous examination of both sets of maps in overlay enables comparison of the location of each Shopping District within the study area to the location of all other shopping areas, population distribution, and road networks. The size, form (relationship of store location to street grid), and the continuity or discontinuity of store distribution within the District are recorded on the Cartograms. Other internal features taken into consideration are store associations (the number and type of retail units) and store size. The Cartograms show the following physical characteristics of each District - The 1946-1947 Retail Structure, Demolitions and Conversions to Non-Retail Use, New Construction and Conversion to Retail Use, Internal Change (Consolidation and Division of Stores), and The 1960-1961 Retail Structure. The Cartogram Dot Distribution Series shows the location of vacancies and selected types of stores in each District for both comparative periods. They also designate which stores were engaged in the specified type of retailing during both periods. The relative differences of stability in drug, food, appliance and department stores are assessed in greater detail, and tabular summaries of these changes are presented and interpreted. In addition, a comparative analysis of selected Shopping Districts is presented to clarify the relationship among the changes associated with shopping area patterns, the internal morphology of Shopping Districts, and the individual store features. The retail structure in Greater Boston is compared to the theoretical or idealized spatial pattern suggested by Walter Christaller's central place theory. The comparison discloses no accordance of pattern with this theoretical distribution.
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