Which US City Is Home To America's Oldest Public City Park?

The Boston Common, a public park in downtown Boston. Editorial credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com
The Boston Common, a public park in downtown Boston. Editorial credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

Public city parks are some of the most important recreational areas in the world. In the US, they have a long history as they were initially constructed during the 17th century. The first public city park in the United States, the Boston Common, was established in 1634, in Boston, Massachusetts. In the 21st century, the park is one of the most important features in the city of Boston.

The Park's History

During the early years of the 17th century, William Blaxton owned much of the land that would later make up the Boston Common. In 1634, he sold the property to a group of Puritans who then went on to form the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans who bought the land used it as a grazing field for cows which led to the degradation of the park due to overgrazing. In 1646, a law was passed limiting the number of cows that could graze in the park at any one time to 70. In 1830, Mayor Harrison Gray passed a law that banned cows from grazing in the Boston Common. The Boston Common was also used as a campground by the British before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The park also has a dark history as it was the sight of several hanging with the most famous one being the hanging of the Boston Martyrs.

The Central Burying Ground

One of the most well-known features of the Boston Common is the Central Burying Ground which was built in 1756. Some of the people who were buried at the Central Burying Ground include a group of British soldiers who died during the occupation of the city. Some of the soldiers died as a result of diseases while others were killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Other famous individuals buried in the area include Gilbert Stuart, an artist famous for painting portraits of the first American president George Washington, songwriter William Billings, and Charles Sprague, one of the most well-known poets from Boston.

Other Features of the Boston Common

The Boston common has other well-known features such as the Frog Pond which is mainly used for ice skating during the winter. The park also has a softball field that is often used by teams in Boston to play or practice. One of the park's most popular features is a granite slab that was put in place to commemorate the day when Pope John Paul II visited the park in 1979. During his visit, he presided over a mass that was attended by more than 400,000 people. Another famous feature of the park is the Blackstone Memorial Tablet which was put in place to commemorate the day that the land was purchased. The park is also home to a memorial commemorating the Boston Massacre.

Significance of the Boston Common

The Boston Common has played a significant role in the history of Boston as it has been the site of several major events such as protests against food shortages and the Vietnam War. In the modern era, the park is also important since it hosts several important functions. In 1987, because of its significance to the people of Boston, the US government declared the Boston Common a National Historic Landmark.


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