Boston Common

Boston Common

Infobox_nrhp | name =Boston Common
nrhp_type = nhld

caption = View of the Water Celebration, on Boston Common, October 25, 1848
location= Boston, Massachusetts
locmapin = Massachusetts
area =50 acres
built =1634
architect= Multiple, including Augustus St. Gaudens
designated= February 27, 1987cite web|url=
title=Boston Common |accessdate=2008-04-16|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
added = July 12, 1972 (original, in NRHP also including Boston Public Garden)
February 27, 1987 (new, in NHL of Boston Common alone)cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
governing_body = Local
refnum=72000144 (original) 87000760 (new)

Boston Common is a central public park in Boston, Massachusetts. It is sometimes erroneously referred to as "Boston Commons". Dating from 1634, it is the oldest city park in the United States. Its 50 acres (20 ha) of land are bounded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street, and Boylston Street. The Common is part of the Emerald Necklace of parks and parkways that extend from the Common south to Franklin Park in Roxbury. A visitors' center for all of Boston is on the Tremont Street side of the park.

The Central Burying Ground is found on the Boylston Street side of Boston Common. There one can find the burial sites of the artist Gilbert Stuart and the composer William Billings.


The Common's purpose has changed over the years. Originally it was owned by William Blaxton (often given the modernized spelling "Blackstone") until it was bought from him by the city. During the 1630s, it was used as a cow pasture by many families living in Boston. However, this only lasted for a few years, as affluent families bought additional cows which led to overgrazing. [Loewen, James. "Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong". New York: The New Press, 1999. p. 414 ISBN 0965003172]

The Common was used as a camp by the British before the Revolutionary War, from which they left for the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It was used for public hangings up until 1817, most of which were from a large oak which was replaced with gallows in 1769. Mary Dyer was hanged there in 1660.

On May 19, 1713, two hundred citizens rioted on the Common in reaction to a food shortage in the city. They later attacked the ships and warehouses of wealthy merchant Andrew Belcher, who was exporting grain to the Caribbean for higher profits. The lieutenant governor was shot during the riot. [Zinn, Howard. "A People's History of the United States". New York: Perennial, 2003. p.51 ISBN 0060528370]

A hundred people gathered on the Common in early 1965 to protest the Vietnam War. A second protest happened on October 15, 1969, this time with 100,000 people protesting. [Zinn, Howard. p.486]

Today the Common serves as a public park for all to use for formal or informal gatherings. Events such as concerts, protests, softball games, and ice skating (on Frog Pond) often take place in the park. Famous individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have made speeches there. Judy Garland gave her largest concert ever (100,000+) on the Common, on August 31, 1967.

It was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987.citation|title=PDFlink| [ National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Boston Common] |32 KB|date=November, 1985 |author=James H. Charleton |publisher=National Park Service and PDFlink| [ "Accompanying photos: one aerial from 1972 and three from 1985"] |32 KB]

On October 21, 2006, the Common became the site of a new world record, when 30,128 Jack-o'-lanterns were lit simultaneously around the park at the Life is good Pumpkin Festival. [ [ "Life is good" site] ] The previous record, held by Keene, New Hampshire since 2003, was 28,952. [ [ A love in Common for pumpkins - The Boston Globe ] ]

On August 27, 2007 two teenagers were shot on the Common. One of the bullets fired during the shooting struck the Massachusetts State House. [ [ Shots on Common strike teens, State House - The Boston Globe ] ] A strict curfew has since been enforced, which has been protested by the homeless population of Boston. [ [ Curfew targets crime on Common - The Boston Globe ] ] cite web|url=
title=Homeless Protest Boston Common Curfew: Park Closed After 11 P.M. |date=2007-08-30|accessdate=2008-04-16|work= |publisher=TheBostonChannel.Com

Notable features of the Common

* The Massachusetts State House stands across Beacon Street from the northern edge of the Common.
* The Unitarian Universalist Association, headquarters of the international, liberal religious denomination, sits next door to the Massachusetts State House facing the Common.
* The Common forms the southern foot of Beacon Hill.
* Plaque to the Great Elm tree, which had been adorned with lanterns to represent liberty, used as a point of fortification and been used for hangings. [ [ The Great Elm Of Boston Common, Destroyed In 1876 ] ]
* The monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry stands at Beacon and Park Streets, the northeast corner of the Common, opposite the State House.
* The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is a victory column on Flag Staff Hill in the Common
* The Boston Public Garden lies to the west of the Common, across Charles Street, and was originally considered an extension of the Common.
* Frog Pond, a public ice-skating rink in winter months, is situated in the northern portion.
* Park Street Station, the first subway station in America, stands at the eastern corner of the park.
* Likewise, Boylston Station at the southern corner is America's "second" subway station.
* Boston Common is the southern end of Boston's Freedom Trail.
* Parkman Bandstand, in the eastern part of the park, is commonly used in musical and theatrical productions.
* The softball fields lie in the southwest corner of the Common.
* A grassy area forms the west part of the park, and is most commonly used for the park's largest events. A parking garage underlies this part of the Common. A granite slab there commemorates Pope John Paul II's October 1979 visit to Boston.
* The Province of Nova Scotia has donated the annual Christmas tree to the City of Boston as an enduring thank-you for the relief efforts of the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee following the Halifax Explosion of 1917. In recent years the tree has been located on the Common.
* The Masonic Grand Lodge of Massachusetts headquarters sits across from the southern corner of the Common, at the intersection of Boylston and Tremont Streets.
* Also across from the southern corner of the Common, along Boylston and Tremont Streets, lies the campus of Emerson College.
* In 1986, two prehistoric sites were discovered on the Common indicating Native American presence in the area as far back as 8,500 years ago.
* A monumental inscription at the corner of Park Street and Tremont Street reads:

"In or about
the year of our Lord
One Thousand Six Hundred
thirty and four
the then present inhabitants
of the Town of Boston of whom
the Hon John Winthrop Esq
Gov of the Colony was Chiefe
did treat and agree with
Mr William Blackstone
for the purchase of his
Estate and any
Lands living within said
neck of Land called
after which purchase the
Town laid out a plan for
a trayning field for which ever
since and now is used for
that purpose and for
the feeding of cattell"

Notable recurring events on the Common

* Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare on the Common.
* Boston Lyric Opera's Outdoor Opera Series.
* Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition's Freedom Rally.
* [ Boston Pride] .

See also

* Granary Burying Ground
* King's Chapel burying ground
* Boston Public Garden


External links

* [ "A View on Cities" article on Boston Common]
* [ Boston National Historical Park Official Website]

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