In the center of the city of Boston lies the oldest public park in the history of the United States. The nearly 50-acre Boston Common was established in 1634, initially for common pasture land. It was also the site of public hangings and was used for military purposes. During the war for independence it was the site of the British troop encampment prior to their departure in April of 1775 to the renowned battle of Lexington and Concord.
Monuments to the War for Independence and dozens of other landmarks fill the downtown area and the park itself. The Visitor's Center in Boston Common is the departure point to see those sites along the Freedom Trail, which many a visitor and most Bostonians have embarked upon at least once.
In past decades this park has served as the site of a diversity of major public speakers including Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope John Paul II. It has also been the site for Boston activists to organize public demonstrations and protests throughout the last 100 years.
Since March of 2008, debate has begun around limiting the number of large events allowed to occur in the park in order to limit the impact on the ecosystem and the parks natural beauty.
It is the hills of the Boston Common where city children sled in the winter and skate on the frozen "frog pond.'' In hot months that same skating rink becomes a wading pool, with sprinkler jets that cool the kids, giving parents some quiet time in the midst of a family picnic. Like any major city park, the summer is a scene of concerts, rollerblading and biking as well as the best people watching that Boston can offer. Of course the gallows were removed and the grazing came to a halt in the first half of the 19th century, prior to the public park system being created as such.
Indeed it was in 1850 when the idea for a public park system first emerged. At that time the Boston Common was the only such public space. Finally in 1867 a law for Boston parks was approved by the Massachusetts State Legislature. Several years went by before, between 1878 and 1896, the Emerald necklace was created, based on the plan of the leading landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.
The necklace, which is anchored by Boston Common and the neighboring Public Garden is a seven-mile semi-circle of interconnected green spaces throughout Boston.
While many rural areas are only a short trip outside of the city, the Boston Common and surrounding parks take the edge off city-life and by providing an oasis in the heart of this urban center.