Boston Common History and Facts

Boston Common History and Facts

As the country’s oldest existing public park, Boston Common has been delighting visitors and residents since 1634.  Often referred to as “the Common”, Boston Common encompasses almost 50 acres and was once used as pasture land by Puritan settlers.  Today the park is a popular spot for jogging, ice skating, public events and recreational sports.

Boston Common is part of the Emerald Necklace group of parks and parkways, which begins at the Common and extends to Franklin Park in Roxbury.  Visitors who would like more information about the Common and about the greater Boston area can stop in at the visitors’ center located on the Tremont Street side of the park.  The park itself is bounded by Tremont Street, Beacon Street, Park Street, Boylston Street and Charles Street.

Central Burying Ground

The Common is home to the Central Burying Ground, located on the Bolyston Street side of the park.  Here visitors can see the burial sites of some of history’s most interesting figures including the artist Gilbert Stuart as well as the composer William Billings.  Father and son Samuel Sprague and Charles Sprague are also buried here.  Samuel Sprague is known for having fought in the Revolutionary War and for participating in the Boston Tea Party.  His son, Charles, was one of our country’s first poets.

History of the Common

The early history of the Common includes its use as a cow pasture by Puritan farmers in the 1630s. The land continued to host cows for many years to come until they were banned in 1830.  It was also used as a military camp by the British in the days leading up to the Revolutionary War.  The Common has also historically been a place for citizens to hold protests.  In 1713, over 200 people protested in the Common because of a citywide food shortage, which ended with the shooting of the lieutenant governor at the time.

The Common began to emerge as a true city park in the 1830s when an ornamental iron fence was placed around the park.  Today the park is used for both formal and informal gatherings, public concerts, protests, ice skating and even softball games.  The park has hosted Judy Garland in concert, which drew more than 100,000 people, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II who both made speeches there.

Features of Boston Common

Boston Common has many wonderful features and events for visitors to enjoy, which include:

  • Southern end of Boston’s Freedom Trail
  • Softball fields
  • Grassy lawns
  • Tennis courts
  • Botanical gardens
  • Swan boat rides
  • Frog pond
  • Plaque to the Great Elm Tree, destroyed in a storm in 1876
  • Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, dedicated to Robert Gould Shaw and the Afro-American 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
  • Soldiers and Sailors Monument
  • Boston Massacre Memorial
  • Oneida Football Monument
  • Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare on the Common
  • Boston Lyric Opera’s Outdoor Opera Series
  • Fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve

More Information

Boston Common is open daily from sunrise to sunset.  To learn more about Boston Common please call 617-426-3115 or visit


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