It's sometimes erroneously referred to as Boston Commons. Additionally, the Public Garden is not actually part of the Common. It's home to the Make Way For Ducklings statue, seasonal plant displays, monuments, memorials and boat rides on the lagoon.
The Central Burying Ground contains the burial sites of the artist Gilbert Stuart and the composer William Billings, the first American choral composer. Also buried there are Samuel Sprague and his son, Charles Sprague, one of America's earliest poets. Samuel Sprague was a participant in the Boston Tea Party and fought in the Revolutionary War. The Common was designated by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1977. What is now called the Granary Burying Ground was established on this land in 1660 as part of the Common. In 1662, that land was separated from the Common.
(View of the Water Celebration on Boston Common, October 25th 1848; lithograph by P. Hyman and David Bigelow)
The Common's purpose has changed over the years. Once owned by William Blackstone, the first European settler of Boston, it was bought from him in 1634 by the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the 1630's, it was used by numerous families to pasture cows. This only lasted a few years once affluent families began bringing in too many cows which led to overgrazing. In 1646, grazing was limited to 70 cows at a time. Cows were formally banned in 1830.
The Common was used as a camp by the British before the American Revolutionary War. It was from there they left for the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It was used for public hangings until 1817. Most of those were from a large oak that was later replaced by a gallows in 1769. On June 1, 1660, Quaker Mary Dyer was hanged by the Puritans for repeatedly defying a law that banned Quakers from the Colony. Dyer was one of four Quakers known as the Boston martyrs who were executed on the Common.
(18th century painting of the hanging of Mary Dyer by Howard Pyle)
Park status was in place by 1830 when grazing cows was ended and it was proposed to rename the Common as Washington Park. By 1836, an ornamental iron fence fully enclosed the Common and its five perimeter malls or recreational promenades. The first of these, Tremont Mall, is a replica of St. James's Park in London, and has been in place since 1728. Given the date of these improvements, Boston Common could be considered the world's first public urban park since these developments precede the establishment of the earliest public urban parks in England.
Originally, the Charles Street side of Boston Common along with the adjacent portions of the Public Garden were used as an unofficial dumping ground because they were the lowest-lying portions of the two parks. This, along with the Garden's having been a salt marsh, resulted in portions of the two parks becoming "a moist stew that reeked and that was a mess to walk over". Visitors were driven away from these areas by the stench. Although plans had long been in place to regrade the Charles Street portions of Boston Common and the Public Garden, the cost of moving the necessary amount of soil prevented the work from being done. This changed in the summer of 1895 when the required quantity of soil was made available as a result of the excavation of the Tremont Street Subway. It was used to regrade the Charles Street sides of both Boston Common and the Public Garden.
Boston Garden was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987. The public park is managed by the Boston Parks Department and cared for by Friends of the Public Garden, a private advocacy group which also provides additional funding for maintenance and special events.
The Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile red-line path past the city's most historic sites, starts on Boston Common where William Blackstone built his log cabin and drew water from a nearby spring in 1625. Marked primarily by brick, it winds between Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Stops along the trail include simple ground markers, graveyards, notable churches and buildings, and a historic naval frigate.
(red line along the Freedom Trail)
After the Puritans arrived in 1630 and bought the land from Blackstone, they used it as a common pasture for grazing their cows for almost two more centuries. It did double-duty as the place where they also publicly executed heretics, witches, Quakers, criminals, pirates, and other undesirables throughout the 18th century.
After British troops occupied the city in 1768 in order to quell the troublesome Colonials, they set up camps across the Common. On April 18, 1775, the day before the American Revolution officially began, about 700 Redcoats started their journey to Concord to seize weapons hidden by the Patriots. This triggered Paul Revere's famous ride across the countryside.
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