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Water main break on Common sends torrents rushing down Charles Street, into Garden

A service road sank in the Boston Common near Charles Street and Boylston Street due to a water main break that flooded the the Public Garden and surrounding area in Boston on Saturday morning.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Torrents of water from a broken main surged down Charles Street Saturday morning, flooding the roadway and parts of Boston Common and the Public Garden.

The break, which was reported to Boston police around 4:20 a.m., occurred near the intersection of Charles and Boylston streets on a paved service road that runs along the Common’s perimeter, according to Tom Bagley, a spokesman for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

The water main break buckled the service road and left piles of sand and debris caked over part of a nearby sidewalk. The water flowed across Charles Street into the Public Garden, where the banks of the lagoon lapped around the legs of park benches, and submerged a walkway under the suspension bridge.


Crews responded to the scene by 5 a.m., and it took about an hour to stop the gush of water, Bagley said. In a photo taken after daybreak, part of Charles Street appeared to remain blocked by flood waters.

Bagley said Saturday evening that crews were installing a new section of pipe, a job that was expected to take  a few hours to complete and get the pipe back into service.

The service road will be repaved Sunday or Monday, he said.

The pipe dates back to the 1870s, and was rehabilitated in the 1980s, Bagley said.

Elias Kingsbery, 4, left, and his brother Immanuel, 2, explore the flooded lagoon while visiting the Public Garden with their family in Boston Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Water service in the area was not affected by the break, except for a Park and Recreation Department maintenance garage, Bagley said. Water did not reach the parking garage under the Common, he said.

Charles Street was closed off between Boylston and Beacon streets for much of the morning, and reopened around 11:30 a.m., Bagley said.

It’s unclear why the main gave way, but the pipe could have been affected by factors such as its age, and vibrations from vehicle traffic, according to Bagley.


“The roadways are back open, which is really important, everything looks pretty normal, except for that section of the Common,” Bagley said.

Throughout the morning, crews could be seen clearing piles of sand and stone that had been left covering the sidewalk and pedestrian crossing near the intersection of Charles and Boylston streets.

Austin Kingsbery, left, watches his son, Elias, 4, navigate the benches overlooking the flooded lagoon at the Public Garden.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The repair work drew the attention of passersby, including Coline Leroy, 19, who is visiting Massachusetts from Paris, with her 62-year-old mother. Anne.

The two had stopped by the Common on their way to Trinity Church and the Central Library, and Leroy stopped to peer through a fence at the damaged sidewalk.

“It’s really surprising,” Leroy said. “You don’t expect to see this in Boston.”

Vicki Brown, 71, and her husband, Roger, 75, who are visiting from Bellingham, Wash., for a wedding in Massachusetts, watched the repair work from across the street late Saturday morning.

Roger Brown, who said he used to work for a water and sewer district, examined the warped pavement where the water main broke, and offered his appraisal.

“I guess they didn’t have difficulty locating the source of the break,” he said with a laugh.

Vicki Brown praised the response of the work crews.

“They’re doing a good job,” she said of the cleanup.

Globe correspondent Maria Elena Little Endara contributed to this report.

A worker at the scene of a water main break along Charles Street Saturday morning.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Kate Selig was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @kate_selig.