What Exactly is The Boston Common?
Boston Common, often shortened to just “The Common” (don’t add an “s”, that would be incorrect) is a sprawling 50-acre park in the city of Boston that has changed significantly over the decades. The Common has been witness to many, many historic events and the changing landscape of Boston, and was not always an idyllic and peaceful park. Check out all the features it has today and the list of things it was used for in the past.
Location: The Boston Common is boarded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street, and Boylston Street.
The Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States
The Common was designated as a Boston Landmark in 1977 and declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is part of the Emerald Necklace of parks and parkways that extend throughout the Boston area.
The Common’s Current Attractions
- Visitor Center. Located on the Tremont Street side of the park.
- Frog Pond. A public ice-skating rink in winter and a spray pool for children in the summer. The pond is located in the northern part of The Common.
- Ball Fields. People gather to play all sorts of sports included baseball, cricket, softball, rugby, soccer, and special events.
- Tadpole Playground. A Children’s play area next to Frog Pond.
- Sculptures & Memorials. Several can be found throughout the park included the most famous one which depicts Colonel Robert Gould Shaw on a horse leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army.
The Boston Common’s Checkered Past
Before it became something as peaceful as a public park it was used for many types of things, some of them not so pleasant.
- It was once owned by the the first European settler of Boston, William Blaxton.
- Blaxton sold it to Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- During the 1630s it was used to graze cows until they were formally banned by Mayor Harrison Gray Otis.
- The Common was used as a camp by the British before the American Revolutionary War.
- American leaders George Washington, John Adams and General Lafayette celebrate the nation’s independence here.
- The Great Elm stood in center of The Common and was used for public hangings until it was replaced with a gallows in 1769. It then became a symbol of the park and progress until it was destroyed in a storm in 1876. A plaque commemorates the location of the elm.
- On May 19, 1713, two hundred citizens rioted on The Common in reaction to a food shortage in the city.
- In the early days (1830s or so) the Charles Street side were used as an unofficial dumping ground which drove potential visitors away with the smell. Eventually, in the summer of 1895, this area was filled in with soil dug to create the Tremont Street Subway.
- In the The 1860s it hosted Civil War recruitment and anti-slavery meetings.
- The Oneida Football Monument memorializes the Common as the site of the first organized football games in the United States in 1862.
- More recently, the Common was the site of two protests against the Vietnam War. One in 1965, attended by 100 people, and the 2nd in 1969 with 100,000 protestors.
- Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II have given speeches in the park.
Sometimes you can walk right by a tree or a pond or a building and have no idea what it has seen and what it could tell you if it could talk.
Staying in Boston
If you are planning a trip to enjoy the Boston Common and all the rich history that Boston has to offer, consider staying in a short-term apartment rental rather than a hotel. You can experience one of Boston’s historic neighborhoods like a local and have all the conveniences of home in one of our gorgeous apartments. We have several locations spread out throughout the city to choose from. Give us a call today and start planning your next trip to historic Boston.