The Boston Common

The Boston Common is an oasis for people in the city to relax, picnic and get away from the city for awhile, which is odd considering it’s right in the middle of the city.

This lovely green space adjoins the Boston Public Garden and should not be considered as one entity.

The Boston Common signboard

Boston's most famous park is the Boston Common, a fifty-acre chunk of green, which is neither meticulously manicured nor especially attractive. It effectively separates down town from the posher Beacon Hill and Back Bay districts.

Boston Common is the anchor for the Emerald Necklace, a system of connected parks that winds through many of Boston's neighborhoods. The Common is still primarily utilitarian, used by both pedestrian commuters on their way to downtown's office towers and tourists seeking the Boston Visitor Information Pavilion, just down Tremont Street from the T, which is the official starting-point of the Freedom Trail.

This is the place where Bostonians hang out when the weather is nice. Situated across the street from the State House directly adjacent to the southern boundary of Beacon Hill. This large open park area is great to lay out a blanket and have a picnic, throw a Frisbee, or discuss the politics of the day. There is almost always something going on-even in the dead of winter when the frog pond becomes an ice skating rink.

There is a playground for the kids, and mounted policemen which does give a feeling of safety. Food vendors, occasional concerts, artists, and lots of people that just set around on the ground and benches and watch the day go by. You'll often find preachers and political activists trying to attract an audience to sway their opinions on various issues.

The Commons also has a long-standing tradition as a place where demonstrators can exercise their right to freedom of speech without the hassle of getting a permit.

With Beacon Hill to one side, the Public Garden to another, and Chinatown and Government Crossing close by, it is as central as it could possibly be. The shabbiness of the southern side of the Common is offset by the lovely Beacon Street Promenade, which runs the length of the northern side, from the gold-domed State House to Charles Street, opposite the Public Garden.

Boston Common History:

Boston Common history is a varied and interesting one. The Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States and undoubtedly the largest and most famous of the town commons around which New England settlements were traditionally arranged. Even before John Winthrop and his fellow Puritan colonists earmarked Boston Common for public use, it served as pasture land for the Reverend William Blackstone, Boston's first white settler.

It was set aside originally in 1634 as a 50 acre training ground for militia and where the freemen of Boston could graze their cattle. Each household was charged 6 schillings to purchase the land. British troops camped on Boston Common prior to the Revolution and left from here to face colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775. Removed in 1817 the gallows were the point at which law-breakers were hung for their crimes. The British evacuated after the Revolution and the cows were kicked out later in 1830 leaving the common to what it is now.

Many monuments pay tribute to Boston Common history such as the Soldiers Monument for Civil War veterans, the Monument to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw's colored 54th Infantry Regiment, as well as statues of George Washington, Irish Civil War Colonel Cass, and Senator Charles Sumner (after whom the Sumner tunnel was also named).

The Central Burying Grounds, one of Boston’s oldest graveyards is occupied by British and American soldiers from the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

Artist Gilbert Stuart and composer William Billings are buried in the Central Burying Ground on the Boylston Street side of the Boston Common. Some famous people to appear here include Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II and Judy Garland (her largest concert ever was her in 1967).

Today, the Common features well-maintained greenery and flower beds and historic statues. When the last yellow leaves fall to the ground, the Frog Pond in Boston Common turns into a giant outdoor ice rink. It's best experienced on a crisp Sunday afternoon when the slanting rays of the sun warm your cheeks and the back of your neck. It's a scene right out of a story book.

A pool that in the summer cooled thousands of hot Boston children transforms into a skating pond. Go skating at night when the snow falls. Dress in your warmest clothing, don't forget a fluffy scarf. Everyone wears them in Boston. (even indoors) - and skate around the pond. If you don't own skates you can rent them there. And there is a burger stand where you can get something to eat and a drink to warm up.

Many visitors here take a detour from their shopping spree in nearby Downtown Crossing, from a gastronomic excursion to Chinatown, or from an afternoon in the Theater District. Of course, many come here just for the skating. Granted, the ice isn't the best, but few things are more pleasurable than gliding in the open air surrounded by a winter wonderland. After a large snow storm, the Common turns into a giant snow park. Sledders, young and old and all young at heart, line up at the top of the hill for a exhilarating ride down.

There is a handy visitor's center on the Tremont Street side near West Street where you can get more information (of course) and inquire about free tours offered by the Boston Park Rangers.

Be sure to remember where you parked and where you emerged from coming up on the Common - very easy to get disorientated as all the exits look the same!

Its a great way to start the Freedom Trail, have a picnic or just sit back and people watch. Best of all, its free. Be sure to check out The Boston Common when you have had a hard day touring through Boston.

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