The Origins of the Boston Common

We take for granted the plot of land at the center of Boston, Massachusetts. It’s simply “the Common,” visited by Bostonians and tourists alike. But what is a “common,” how did Boston come to have one, and whose land is it, anyway? Click here for a one-hour presentation by the Partnership of Historic Bostons on October 6, 2021.

This recording is of an engaging, informative and original presentation about the Boston Common by Professor Robert Allison (above, left), Chair of the History Department at Suffolk University, president of the Colonial Society, and author of multiple books. Allison begins by describing the Common’s first resident, William Blackstone (Above, center, click to enlarge) who settled there in 1625 after the failure of the Wessagosset settlement in Weymouth. (Above, right) The great elm from Blackstone’s time remains well into the 18th century.

The Common is on a piece of land at the heart of Boston, colonial America’s oldest city, and was initially home to cows, sheep, militia practice, hanging trees – and, as the Shawmut peninsula of the Massachusetts Tribe, someone else’s land. (Above, left) An illustration shows the fish weir that the Massachusetts Tribe maintained in what is today the Charles River. (Above, center) A monument on the Common illustrates the Massachusetts Bay colonists purchasing the land from William Blackstone who had settled there prior to 1630.

Enjoy the fourth lecture in their 2021 fall series, The Common Good: Whose Common, Whose Good? that looks at how people of the 17th century addressed questions of the public good versus the individual and differing ideas of community. (Above, left) Quaker martyrs are led to their death by hanging at the Great Elm Tree on the Common in 1659, 1660 and 1661.