America’s Oldest Park
Crisscrossed daily by busy Bostonians and countless visitors, America’s oldest park is more than a green oasis in a metropolitan city. It is a piece of ancient landscape which has belonged uninterrupted to the people of Boston since 1634. Purchased as land set aside for the common use of townspeople, it still serves this purpose and is one of the most popular Boston Attractions for relaxing and enjoying nature.
It was first a cattle grazing ground and, until 1817 in rigid Puritan Boston, an ancient elm on the land was used for public hangings. In 1756, a portion of the land became a public burying site, the Central Burying Ground. Throughout the 18th century, the Common was the center of public events surrounding the Revolution. It was here Colonial militia mustered, and where ordinary people gathered to celebrate victories over the restrictive policies of the crown, or to hang effigies in protest of those policies. In 1768, as tensions mounted between the colonies and Britain, the British Redcoats occupied the Common for eight years for use as an encampment.
During the Civil War, it was the place of anti-slavery protests, recruitment rallies and the mustering of departing regiments. In the turbulent 1960s, thousands gathered for anti-war protests and for civil rights rallies, one of which was addressed by Dr. Martin Luther King. In 1979, during the visit of Pope John Paul II, 400,000 stood in the rain for the first Papal Mass held in North America.
The Boston Common Today
Almost four hundred years later, families come to this treasured remnant of 17th century Boston for leisure – to stroll, jog, skate on the Frog Pond, and play in the ball fields. Visitors come to walk through the venerable historic grounds where memorials, monuments and plaques tell the story of the multitude of ways in its remarkable over 375 year history the Common has served the people.