Boston Common is the oldest public urban park in the country–set aside in 1634. Though it was not set aside to be a “park,” but was a common grazing area and militia training ground. The Boston City Archaeologist has found one of the oldest artifacts ever discovered in North America here–an arrow point 1000 years old. This parcel has seen a lot of history! And it is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a Frog Pond for wading in the summer, skating in the winter, baseball fields and tennis courts, a bandstand, free Shakespeare on the Common in the summer, food trucks and the Earl of Sandwich.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is dedicated to the Bostonians who served in the Civil War. Martin Milmore’s sculpture was dedicated in 1877, just twelve years after the war ended, on the Common’s tallest point, Flagstaff Hill.
The Monument had extensive restoration work done in 2014, and now it shines, with the figures of a soldier and sailor, the figure of Peace, and Clio, the Muse of History facing North, South, East, and West.
And the Monument features 4 small reliefs, showing the soldiers marching off to war, the soldiers returning from war, and the US Sanitary Commission, led by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, and the action of sailors in the war.
The Central Burying Ground on the Common is where you will find the graves of portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, who painted Washington and other notables, and William Billings, the first real American composer–a Boston tanner and choirmaster who wrote “Chester” the anthem of the Continental army. Also buried here–Chow Manderein, a 19-year old sailor from China who fell from a ship mast and died in Boston Harbor. The ship master placed this stone on his grave.
And did you know that Football was played on Boston Common?
Make sure to see the Oneida Club monument, put up in the 1920s to Boston’s only undefeated team–not only did they never lose when they played here in the 1860s, no team ever scored against them! Gerritt Smith Miller was the team captain, and players included Robert Apthorp Boit, Winthrop Saltonstall Scudder, and Huntington Frothingham Walcott.
Pay a visit to Historic New England, at the Harrison Gray Otis House at 141 Cambridge Street, to see the original football!
Recently a new Oneida Club has been formed, playing rugby in homage to this earlier team.
The Parkman Plaza, in front of the Visitor Center, features three statues–of Learning, Religion, and Industry. Adio di Biccari, a sculptor, and his brother-in-law, woodcarver and architect Arcangelo Cascieri, made these sculptures in the early 1960s, to represent three crucial parts of Massachusetts’s culture.
What was the largest gathering on the Common? October 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass.
And in 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to Boston Common, and spoke from the Parkman Bandstand.
There is much more to see–and do–on Boston Common, but I should leave you somethings to find out on your own. But if you learn nothing else from this–it is Common. No “s” on the end!
By the way–did you know that the most famous writer born in Boston actually hated the city and mocked it because of the Frogpond? That’s right–Edgar Allan Poe was born just off the Common in 1809, and never forgave the city.