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Boston Common in the Snow
Image by HuTDoG83
Boston – Photo 6 of 16
The Common’s purpose has changed over the years. It was once owned by William Blaxton (often given the modernized spelling "Blackstone"), the first European settler of Boston, until it was bought from him by the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the 1630s, it was used by many families as a cow pasture. However, this only lasted for a few years, as affluent families bought additional cows, which led to overgrazing, a real-life example of the Tragedy of the commons.
The Common was used as a camp by the British before the Revolutionary War, from which they left for the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It was used for public hangings up until 1817, most of which were from a large oak which was replaced with gallows in 1769. Mary Dyer was hanged there in 1660.
On May 19, 1713, two hundred citizens rioted on the Common in reaction to a food shortage in the city. They later attacked the ships and warehouses of wealthy merchant Andrew Belcher, who was exporting grain to the Caribbean for higher profits. The lieutenant governor was shot during the riot.
Plaque to the Great Elm tree, which had been destroyed in a storm in 1876
True park status seems to have emerged no later than 1830, when the grazing of cows was ended and renaming the Common as Washington Park was proposed (renaming the bordering Sentry Street to Park Street in 1808 already acknowledged the reality). By 1836 an ornamental iron fence fully enclosed the Common and its five perimeter malls or recreational promenades, the first of which, Tremont Mall, had been in place since 1728, in imitation of St. James’s Park in London. Given these improvements dating back to 1728, a case could be made that the Boston Common is in fact the world’s first public urban park, since these developments precede the establishment of the earliest public urban parks in England—Derby Arboretum (1840), Peel Park, Salford (1846), and Birkenhead Park (1847)—which are often considered the first.
A hundred people gathered on the Common in early 1965 to protest the Vietnam War. A second protest happened on October 15, 1969, this time with 100,000 people protesting.
Today the Common serves as a public park for all to use for formal or informal gatherings. Events such as concerts, protests, softball games, and ice skating (on Frog Pond) often take place in the park. Famous individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have made speeches there. Judy Garland gave her largest concert ever (100,000+) on the Common, on August 31, 1967.
It was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987. The Boston Common is a public park managed by the Boston Park Department. A private advocacy group, the Friends of the Public Garden, provides additional funding for maintenance and special events.
“Life is a highway”
Image by Geff Rossi
(taken at Quincy Market, Boston)
Image by TrickyToro
Gay marriage opponent Leonard Gendron, a local pastor, holds a sign reading Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons; outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston March 11, 2004 where the Massachusetts Legislature is debating an amendment to the state’s constitution banning gay marriage. On November 11, 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state must issue marriage licenses to gay couples.