Boston Common. Urban Park in Boston, United States

Boston Common

Urban Park in Boston, United States

Boston Common - The last warm days Photo © Werner Kunz

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Boston Common

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Boston Common - Boston Common
Boston Common - Boston Common. Photo by Tim Rawle
Boston Common is a large urban public park in Boston. It is the oldest public park in the United States and dates back to 1634, when the area was designated a common pasture. Boston Common, also known as The Common, covers 50 acres of land between Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, and Boylston Street.

The place has had many uses in the past. It has been the site of military encampments, farming, historic speeches, public executions, and cattle grazing. Since 1830, it has been a public park and has had only recreational purposes. The park is designed in English pastoral style and has an open and informal character. It is neighbored by downtown Boston and Beacon Hill.

Boston Common is the starting point of the Freedom Trail that leads past many heritage sites and historic buildings in the city. It also is one of the parks in the so-called Emerald Necklace, a series of parks and parkways that extends from the Boston Common to Franklin Park and through many of the city’s neighborhoods.

History

The area used to be owned by William Blaxton (Wikipedia
	Article) (or Blackstone), an early British settler in the United States and in fact, the very first settler in what would later become Boston. The land was later bought from him by the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the 1630s, the land was used for cattle grazing; it was shared by many families who let their cows graze there. But when wealthier families started buying more cows, overgrazing was the result. In 1646, grazing was limited to 70 cows. Cows gazed on the Boston Common until 1830, when they were banned and the area became a park.

Besides cow pasture, the area has also been used as a military camp by the British during the occupation of Boston in 1775. About 1,000 redcoats stayed there before going off to war to Lexington and Concord. The Common was also used for public hangings. In 1656, a woman named Ann Hibbins was hung on charges of witchcraft, and in 1660, the Puritans executed Mary Dyer for preaching Quakerism. Gallows replaced the oak tree that had been used to hang people in 1769. Executions ended in 1817.

The area became a public park as early as 1830 with the end of grazing and the proposal of renaming the Common, ‘Washington Park’.

After its transformation into a park, Boston Common has celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act and the end of the Revolutionary War. It has also been, and still is, a place for public speaking and rallies. In the 20th century, this was where Charles Lindbergh (Wikipedia Article) promoted commercial aviation, where anti-Vietnam War rallies and civil war rallies were held. One of them was even led by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1979, Boston Common was filled with a huge crowd watching a speech by Pope John Paul II. Nowadays, it still is a popular gathering place. Concerts are held, and sports games and ice skating often take place in the park.

Boston Common was declared a National Historic Landmark in the United States in 1987.

Visiting the Boston Common

A large visitor center is located on the side of the park along Tremont Street, a suggested place to start any visit to Boston. There, visitors can obtain maps of the city and get information on things to see and do.

A major attraction in Boston is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile path through downtown Boston that leads past sixteen historic locations. It starts at the Boston Common and ends at the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Sights on the way are the Old State House, Paul Revere Houses, and Old South Meeting House.

Within the park itself, visitors can see several historical monuments. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Boston) (Wikipedia Article) was erected in 1877 and honors civil war troops. It stands at Flagstaff Hill. The Brewer Fountain is an exact copy of a fountain that was shown at the 1855 World Exhibit in Paris. It was donated to the park in 1868. Another historic site in the Common is the Central Burying Ground, one of Boston’s oldest graveyards. This cemetery contains the graves of American and British casualties from the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. But probably the most famous monument in the park is the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (Wikipedia Article), located opposite of the Massachusetts State House. This is an impressive relief sculpture of the 54th Regiment, the very first free black regiment in the Union Army.

The extensive lawns are popular places to picnic, relax, read, and enjoy the outdoors. Many open-air concerts and events are held there as well.

Similar Landmarks

Other large urban parks in the United States are Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Millennium Park in Chicago, and National Mall in Washington D.C..

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Nov 12, 2014

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