Boston Common

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Since its establishment in the 17th century, the Common has served as a meeting ground and public park.

In 1634, only four years after John Winthrop and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settled the Shawmut Peninsula and created the town of Boston, these colonists bought a 48-acre tract of land on the lower slopes of Beacon Hill. Purchased from Reverend William Blackstone, an Anglican hermit who had been the area's sole inhabitant for nearly a decade, the land was immediately set aside as an English-style "commonage," or common area for the use of all Boston's townfolk. The Common: An Historic Overview

Although today we think of Boston Common as a tree-lined public park, its uses were far different during its first two centuries of existence. During this early era, the Common was a scene of public rallies and celebrations, a favorite place for recreations such as promenading, ball playing and sledding, but it also served as a military training field, cow and sheep pasture, public punishment site, and burial ground. For eight years, the British redcoats camped and drilled on the Common, and many were buried here in the years of occupation leading into the American Revolution. The Common: An Historic Overview

By the mid-19th century, the American parks movement had taken root in Boston and the face of the Common began to look substantially more modern. New tree-lined walks, commemorative statues and plaques, fountains, and iron fences and gates were gradually added, while activities continued to include public rallies and demonstrations, ball games, festive celebrations, msuic concerts, in addition to sylvan strolls. The ancient Frog Pond, now paved, became a site for wading and ice skating.The Common: An Historic Overview

  • Blackstone Memorial Tablet

  • Lafayette Monument

  • Brewer Fountain

  • Commodore John Barry Monument

  • Visitor Information Center and Park Ranger Station

  • Boston Massacre Memorial

  • Central Burying Ground

  • Parkman Bandstand

  • The Flagstaff

  • Papal Mass Plaque

  • Fox Hill Plaque

  • Carty Parade Ground

  • Charles Street Gate

  • Beacon Street Mall

  • Founders Memorial

  • Frog Pond

  • Soldiers and Sailors Monument

  • Great Elm Site

  • Shaw Memorial

Blackstone Memorial Tablet

Blakstone Memorial Tablet
by R Clipston Sturgis, 1913

Recalls the founding of the Common in 1634 and is testimony that the lawful owners of the Common are the people of Boston

Lafayette Monument

Lafayette Monument
by John F Paramino, 1924

Commemorates the centenary of Lafayette's 1824 fête down Tremont Street Mall which henceforth bore his name.

Brewer Fountain

Brewer Fountain
by Paul Lienard
Statues by Mathurin Moreau

This work (one of several copies) was purchased by Boston merchant Gardner Brewer at the Paris Exposition of 1867 and given to the city the next year. The reclining figures at the base are Poseidon and Amphitrite, Acis and Galatea.

Commodore John Barry Monument

Commodore John Barry Monument
by John F. Paramino, 1949

Honors John Barry, the Father of the American Navy.

Visitor Information Center and Park Ranger Station

Open 9a to 5p every day. The beginning of the Freedom Trail.

Boston Massacre Memorial

Boston Massacre Memorial
by Robert Kraus, 1888

Represents in bronze the Revolution breaking tyranny's chains by depicting the events before the Old State House on March 5, 1770.

Central Burying Ground

Central Burying Ground, est 1756
added to the Common in 1839

Composer William Billings and artist Gilbert Stuart are buried here.

Parkman Bandstand

Parkman Bandstand
by Derby, Robinson and Shepard, 1912

Commemorates George F. Parkman (1823 - 1908) who established a trust fund for the Common and other city parks.

The Flagstaff
est 1837, 1866

Stood initially on Flagstaff Hill and since 1866 at its present location. Also this spot was the site of the Smokers Circle, so called because tobacco was prohibited elsewhere on the Common.

Papal Mass Plaque

Papal Mass Plaque
by F P Davis Monumental Works

Commemorates the 1979 visit and papal mass of Pope John Paul II, when 400,000 attended the Parade Ground and Flagstaff Hill.

Fox Hill Plaque

Fox Hill Plaque, 1925

Marks where a prominent gravelly bluff projected westward, and was almost an island at high tide. The British fortified the hill durig their 1775 - 1776 occupation of Boston.

Carty Parade Ground

Site of military displays and public celebrations. Named in 1963 for Thomas J Carty, Captain, Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.

Charles Street Gate
est 1836

Sole survivor of the five gates that once marked the main entrances to the Common.

Beacon Street Mall
est 1815

Best preserved of the original five malls, with its original fence and flanking rows of trees.

Founders Memorial

Founders Memorial, 1930
bas relief by John F Paramino
frame by Charles A Coolidge

Commemorates the 300th anniversary of the founding of Boston. Shows William Blackstone welcoming John Winthrop's party to Shawmut Peninsula, watched by allegorical figures.

Frog Pond
curbed 1826

Boston Common Frog Pond

Sole survivor of the Common's three ponds. In 1848, Frog Pond was the scene of an extravagant "Water Celebration" inaugurating the city's public water system.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Soldiers and Sailors Monument
by Martin Milmore, 1877

Located on Flagstaff (formerly Powder House) Hill, site of a British redoubt during the Revolution. Has portraits of Bostonians prominent in the Civil War.

Great Elm Site

Though the first tree-lined pedestrian mall appeared in 1728, the Common's most conspicuous foliage was the ancient Great Elm. Ironically it doubled as a protective shelter and meeting place, and in the 17th century as the colony's dreaded hanging tree. The Common: An Historic Overview

Already sizable in the 17th century, the Great Elm's destruction in 1876 by a storm elicited widespread mourning.

Shaw Memorial

Shaw Memorial, 1897
bronze relief by August St Gaudens
granite frame and terrace by Charles F McKim

Boston Common Shaw Memorial
Shaw Memorial reverse, © 2013-07-30

Boston Common Shaw Memorial
Shaw Memorial obverse, © 2013-07-30

The sculpture memorializes Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the volunteers of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, the first free black regiment in the Union Army. Shaw and 32 of his men were killed leading the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 19, 1863.