Boston Common & Public Garden

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Dating back to 1634, the Boston Common and adjacent Public Garden are among the first open space projects commissioned in the United States. Serving the public first and only since that time, these two, connected yet vastly different spaces offer visitors a great “getaway” from the city without the burden of travel.

About the Space

The Boston Common was established during the colonial period when the tract of land it sits upon was acquired by the city of Boston for use as a livestock grazing area in 1634. This was a practice common at the time and similar to that of Central Park in New York. Unlike Central Park, however, the Common, as it is known, was always dually used a public green space, even in the 17th century. Many official functions from hangings to military drills took place in the Commons throughout colonial times and into the beginning stages of the new Republic. The Common was officially named a park, thus prohibiting the use of the area by livestock, in 1830.

The Boston Public Garden was then established just a few years later, in 1837, as a result of the filling project that would create the Back Bay neighborhood. In concert with the city’s expansion mission, landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead proposed the official creation of what he labeled an “Emerald Necklace” of parks. Because of this suggestion, the hopes of city council members to sell the land across Charles Street from the Common were dashed by philanthropist Horace Gray. Gray was able to use Olmstead’s plan to commission the construction of a botanical garden in the area instead, the first of its kind in the United States.

Today, the two spaces consist of over 75 acres of open land in the middle of one of the busiest cities on the east coast. Though physically near one another and connected in spirit, the Common and Public Garden are two distinct areas, each with their own particular charm and feel.

The Boston Common is perhaps the better known of the two areas because of its reference in popular culture, there was even a short-lived 1990s television show called Boston Common starring Anthony Clark. The Common is known for its pastoral quality, including a variety of multi-purpose recreational fields and large open space along with the famous frog pond and fountains that are popular with children.

The Public Garden, on the other hand, is far more ornamental, based on beauty and serenity over open space. It features swan boats, bridges, and decorated pathways that make for lovely photographic opportunities. There are flowers which are planted throughout the year as well as over 40 different species of trees and shrubs throughout the park. There are also statues throughout the 24 acres of the Public Garden dedicated to famous Bostonians or meant to honor lost souls such as the 206 Massachusetts natives who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Main Attraction

Representing the northern-most part of Olmstead’s “Emerald Necklace,” both Boston Common and the Public Gardens have a lot to offer visitors. As public parks, they are open 365 days a year free of charge. In addition, throughout the year, there are often special events, concerts, and other entertainment options available at both locations.

Located in the heart of the City, beginning at Beacon Hill and travelling all the way to downtown, visits the Common or Public Gardens as part of a day in Boston is easy to accomplish. The Common offers fantastic views of some of the city’s most popular sites, including the State House, making it another great location for photographs. It is also the first stop on the Freedom Trail.

Why It’s a Must-See

Amazing city views, lovely greenery, and interesting people-watching opportunities abound when one visits the Boston Common and Public Gardens. Whether looking for a nice walk, a place to eat lunch, or a break from the rush of the city, these public spaces, which were some of the first of their kind in this country, certainly provide that option and are a must-see when visiting Boston.