Boston Common – USA’s Oldest Park Founded in 1634


Boston Common 1634 Sign

The starting point of the Freedom Trail, Boston Common is the oldest park in the country founded in 1634. It also contains the Parkman Bandstand, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Memorial and the starting point of the Freedom Trail at Parkman Plaza (see below).

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Boston Common – Boston Pops July 4th Celebration Fireworks

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Boston Common Memorial Day 37,000 American Flags

Parkman Bandstand Boston Common Aerial

Boston Common Aerial over Parkman Bandstand

Boston Back Bay from Boston Common

Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to the Common’s 44 acres from the first settler of the area, Anglican minister William Blackstone. The price was 30 pounds, and each homeowner paid him six shillings. The pasture then became known as the “Common Land” and was used to graze local livestock until 1830. A town shepherd was paid “two shillings and sixpence per head of cowe” to tend townspeople’s livestock.

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Boston Common friends of the public garden fountain

Also referred to as a “trayning field,” over 1000 Redcoats made camp on the Common during the British occupation of Boston in 1775. It was from here that three brigades of Redcoats left to make the fateful trip to Lexington and Concord.

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Boston Common was a place for celebration as well; bonfires and fireworks celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act and the end of the Revolutionary War. Boston Common has, and continues to, serve a higher purpose as a place for public oratory and discourse. Here, during the 20th century, Charles Lindbergh promoted commercial aviation; Anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies were held, including one led by Martin Luther King, Jr.;  in 1979 Pope John Paul II gave Mass to a gathered crowd and in 2007 presidential primaries Obama spoke. Today, Boston Common is still open for all to enjoy.

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Paul Revere statue


Christmas Tree lighting

COMMON CRIMINALS The Common was a site for Puritanical punishments, home to a whipping post and stocks. Pirates, murderers, and witches were hanged from the tree known as “The Great Elm,” now gone. Mary Dyer and three other Quakers were also hanged on the Common for their beliefs. A statue of Mary Dyer now stands on the Massachusetts State House lawn.

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Swan boat rides, cherry blossoms and weeping willows at the pond.

HOSTESS HANCOCK As the Governor’s wife, Dorothy Quincy Hancock was obliged to entertain 300 naval officers during a visit from Admiral D’Estaing’s French fleet in 1778. Facing a shortage of milk, she improvised and sent servants to the Common to milk the community cows. If the Hancocks felt free to take from Boston Common, it was because they also added to it. Hancock provided a large cask of Madeira wine and a fireworks display for the celebration held on the Common in 1765 for the repeal of the Stamp Act, and built a bandstand on the Common in 1771.

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Freedom Trail Foundation tours that feature this site:
Walk Into History Tour
Historic Holiday Stroll
African-American Patriots Tour

Visitor Information Center
139 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02111
Hours:  Daily – 9:00 am  to 5:00 pm

Boston Common History & Map_tcm3-30691

Boston Common History Map & brochure produced by the City of Boston link:

Boston Common Aerial.jpg

The starting point of the Freedom Trail, Boston Common is the oldest park in the country. The park is almost 50 acres in size. Today, Boston Common is the anchor for the Emerald Necklace, a system of connected parks that winds through many of Boston’s neighborhoods. The “Common” has been used for many different purposes throughout its long history. Until 1830, cattle grazed the Common, and until 1817, public hangings took place here. British troops camped on Boston Common prior to the Revolution and left from here to face colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775. Celebrities, including Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II, and Gloria Steinem (advocate of the feminist revolution), have given speeches at the Common.


Boston Common – 1848

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Boston Common circa 1750 by Hannah Otis

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Boston Common History Map & brochure produced by the City of Boston link:

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2024 Olympics conceptual Boston Common

boston common horsemen statue

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.

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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.

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Boston Common 1969 Vietnam War Peace Rally

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.

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Boston Common History & Map_tcm3-30691

Boston Common History Map & brochure produced by the City of Boston link:


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. Click here for more information about things to do near Boston Common.

Boston Common

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Parkman Plaza marks the beginning of the Boston Freedom Trail on Tremont street at the Boston Common. The Boston Common was founded in 1634 and is America’s oldest park.  The Freedom Trail is two and a half miles long.

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Parkman Plaza was named after Dr. George Parker Jr. who, upon his death in 1908, donated $5 million for the preservation of Boston Common and other city parks. Located on Tremont street, Parkman Plaza marks the beginning of the Boston Freedom Trail. The plaza’s Visitor Center provides free maps for following the historic walking tour of Boston and a red line painted on the ground marks the trail. In 1961, three statues were dedicated to Parkman Plaza, meant to depict three traits of Bostonian life. The statues create a semi circle around the plaza. On the south side of the plaza, a statue of a young boy on his knees, hands lifted to heaven depict Boston’s religious roots. The west side has a statue of a man drilling for industry. The north side is labeled learning shows a young boy sitting on top of a globe, reading a book.

George Parkman JR bio




Parkman Plaza - Boston Common -Religion Statue

Parkman Plaza – Boston Common -Religion Statue



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Parkman Bandstand @ The Boston Common


The Parkman Bandstand is the second monument in Boston Common dedicated to Dr. George Parkman Jr., benefactor who donated $5 million to the preservation of Boston’s parks. Parkman Bandstand is located on the eastern side of Boston Common. It was erected in 1912 and restored as recently as 1996. Today, Parkman Bandstand is used as a gathering point, a social venue, and a spot for political rallies. In 2007, Barack Obama spoke from Parkman Bandstand during a presidential primary. Annually, the Boston Freedom Rally is held at Parkman Bandstand, the second largest rally calling for the reform of marijuana laws in the United States. The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on free plays from Parkman Bandstand, drawing as many as 100,000 theater-lovers into the park every summer.

George Parkman JR bio



Parkman House – 33 Beacon Street – Boston – Mayor’s Official Reception Hall

Parkman House - Boston - 33 Beacon Street

Parkman House – Boston – 33 Beacon Street



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parkman house 33 beacon st next to state capitol


Here lived and died George Francis Parkman 1823-1908 Remembered with enduring gratitude by the City of Boston for his bequest of a $5 million fund that secures for-ever the maintenance and improvement of the Boston Common and other public parks (Boston Common is America’s oldest Park founded in 1659). The Parkman House is next to the gold domed Boston State Capital Building (as seen at the far right center photo above & aerial photo of State Capitol the Parkman House is to the left see below).

George Parkman JR bio

boston state capitol parkman house 33 beacon st

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, together with Department of Neighborhood Development Director Sheila Dillon, Chief of Economic Development, John Barros, members of Boston Main Streets and community members, celebrate the Boston Main Streets volunteers and businesses of the year at the 20th Annual Boston Main Streets Award Ceremony, held at the Parkman House in Downtown Boston.        Published on Jun 29, 2016

Parkman house book 33 Beacon St Boston


Parkman House 10 interior photos:

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He was “Murdered at Harvard” and PBS made a documentary about it (link):



Parkman Bandstand – Boston Common – 1912

Parkman Bandstand - Boston Common

Parkman Bandstand – Boston Common





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The Parkman Bandstand was named for one of the Common’s greatest benefactors, George Francis Parkman Jr., who died in 1908 and left $5 million for the care of the Common and other city parks. The bandstand was originally dedicated in 1912 and was restored in 1996. It still hosts small events such as midday concerts, theatrical productions, weddings and speeches (Obama  in 2007).

George Parkman JR bio

George Parkman was Murdered at Harvard and PBS made a documentary about it (link):


Col. Robert Gould Shaw @ The Boston Common 1863 Civil War




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Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from the movie “Glory”


Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Storming Fort Wagner, SC
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw died during the Civil War. He was the first American to serve as Colonel of a regiment of 1,000 black soldiers during the Civil War. The penalty was death if caught by the Confederate Soldiers. Shaw’s story was made into a movie called “Glory” staring Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw’s Grandmother was a Parkman, Elizabeth Willard Parkman. Monument designed by Augustus St. Gaudens who designed USA Double Eagle $20 gold coin (see below) – see movie “Glory” (above). This monument is located directly across the street from the gold domed Boston Capital Building.

The second photo is @ the Biltmore, Asheville, NC that was owned by the Vanderbilt’s who were associates of JP Morgan, Carnegie & the Peabody families. Governor Chub Peabody was Gov of Mass in 1962. Chub’s Mother was Mary Parkman Peabody who was jailed during a sit-in @ a racially segregated restaurant in St. Augustine, FL. Later Martin Luther, King, Jr. recognized her efforts.

Agustus St. Gaudens Double Eagle $20 Gold Coin – World Record Holder for a single coin set @ $7.5 million dollars @ auction in 2002. (St. Gaudens was the sculpture and designer of “The Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Memorial @ The Boston Common – above)

Samuel Parkman (August 22, 1751 – June 11, 1824) and Sarah Rogers had five children: Elizabeth (1785), Francis (1788), George (1790), Samuel (1791), and Daniel (1794). Samuel Parkman had also had six children by his previous marriage to Sarah Shaw.[2] Samuel Parkman, George’s father and family patriarch, had bought up low-lying lands and income properties in Boston’s West End.[3] He also founded and was part owner of the towns of Parkman, Ohio and Parkman, Maine.[4][5] His sons from his first marriage oversaw theOhio properties, while his second set of boys were responsible for the Maineparcel. Samuel’s daughters inherited wealth as well. The most notable was George’s sister Elizabeth Willard Parkman, whose spouse Robert Gould Shaw (1776 – 1853), grandfather of Robert Gould Shaw (October 10, 1837 – July 18, 1863, Union Army colonel during the American Civil War), grew his wife’s share of the fortune to become the senior partner in the most powerful commercial house in a city glutted with the proceeds of the China Trade.[6]

The eleven Parkman scions united in marriage with the Beacon Hill families of Blake, Cabot, Mason, Sturgis, Tilden, and Tuckerman. Of his eleven offspring, Samuel chose George as the one to administer the Parkman estate.[7]>

Boston Common History Map & brochure produced by the City of Boston link:




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