Boston Common in Massachusetts is America’s oldest park and is pentagon shaped comprising 50 acres in downtown Boston. The Common is home to sporting and music events, protests, community events, a frog pond, and decorated with cultural landscaping and sculpture.
The Boston Common was founded in 1634 and been at the forefront of American history since Colonial times. The original common was bought by citizens of Boston from European settler, William Blackstone. The scrubland stretched from Beacon Hill to the Back Bay and had some woodland areas with four hills and three ponds. Today, only Flagstaff Hill and Frog Pond are still there. The primary purpose of the area was for pasture for herds of cows from the village. The Common was also the site of town executions where murderers, witches, Indians, Quakers, pirates and criminals were hung.
By 1775, the Common was occupied by British troops during the Revolutionary War. The entrenched camp was where soldiers were stationed before heading off to the Battle at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. Boston reclaimed The Common in 1776. By 1830, the pasture had become more park with the help of citizens who understood the importance of preserving The Common as a place of history. Cows were banned from the park and ponds were filled with paths added to the park for strolling. An iron fence was installed to surround the park in 1836 and the park became a center for events, ballooning and early football.
The Civil War lead to protests, recruitment rallies, and celebrations being held on The Common. The first subway was installed in 1897 and an underground parking garage in the 1940’s. The Common has been the site of many political and historical events in Boston including speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and the first North American Papal Mass in 1979.
By the 1970’s the park had suffered from neglect with many of the trees dying and the ponds emptying. Recent decades have restored a new fervor by volunteers to restore the park and improve the landscaping. The playground and bandstand have been restored along with the Frog Pond being rejuvenated and an Ice Rink added for skating. Future restoration plans are underway.
The Boston Common is home to sculptures and memorials, the Frog Pond, and cultural landscaping. There is also a spray park that operates during the summer, Ice Rink, reflecting pool, playgrounds, and a Visitor’s Center at the park.
The Frog Pond- This pond is a year round recreation tool with swimming allowed in the summer and ice skating in the winter. There is a tennis court, baseball fields, an a change house with ice making technology to prolong the skating season.
Brewer Fountain- Installed in 1868, the fountain has recently been restored and is a bronze copy of a fountain that was featured in the World’s fair in Paris in 1855. The fountain is surrounded by sculptures of mythological creatures.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument- Sitting atop Flagstaff Hill, this monument honors the Civil War.
Boston Massacre Memorial- This bas-relief sculpture was created in 1888 and is a bas-relief cast from bronze.
Shaw/54 Regiment Memorial- Designed by Augustus Saint-Gauden, this sculpture is the most popular and took 14 years to complete being installed in 1899. The sculpture tells the story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the 54th regiment as part of the union army. This regiment was the first all black union volunteer regiments in the Civil War.
Parkman Bandstand- The bandstand is inspired by Greek temples and was dedicated in 1912 honoring George Francis Parkman, a benefactor of The Common. This bandstand is where most of the concerts and public speaking events are held in The Common. It was restored recently in 1996 and is home to the Massachusetts Shakespeare Festival.
Founders Memorial- Designed for Boston’s 300th anniversary in 1930, this memorial is a bronze bas-relief found along Beacon Mall. The sculpture depicts Willian Blackstone and John Winthrop.
Parkman Plaza- The Plaza is a paved area in front of the visitor’s center. There are 3 status features in the plaza that represent Industry, Religion, and Learning.
There are many events that take place on The Boston Common throughout the year. Many of these events are prescheduled while other’s such as protests, are more spontaneous. The park has been the home to many concerts and music festivals, community cultural programming, political events, and carnivals.
Parkman Bandstand Performing Art Festival- This annual festival began in the 1990’s and continues to bring free cultural entertainment to the community through performance. Puppet shows, concerts, magic shows, and film screenings have all been a part of the festival.
Outside the Box- The free cultural festival began in 2013 and lasts for 9 days. The festival is spread over half of the park and includes performances from cultures around the world, food vendors, and more.
139 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02111, Phone: 617-635-4505