The Boston Common, along with the Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue, served as a preamble to the Boston Park System. As in many New England towns, Boston’s common land, used for pasturing cows, also accommodated pedestrian foot traffic. Until 1830, cattle grazed freely on the treeless grounds, then known as Blaxton’s farm. In 1836 an ornamental fence was constructed around its perimeter and the park’s circulation network was articulated to include pedestrian malls and promenades. The transformation to a wooded park, lined with double and single rows of canopy trees, happened in the late 19th century.
The 50-acre park, located at the foot of the State House, has no single designer. The Olmsted Brothers oversaw considerable renovation between 1910 and 1913 while Arthur Shurcliff prepared a general plan in the 1920s. In 1990 the Boston Common Management Plan was completed, and updated in 1996. Significant landscape features include the Brewster Fountain by Paul Lienard; the Soldiers and Sailors Monument by Martin Milmore; and the Parkman Bandstand. The Central Burying Ground is one of the city’s oldest cemeteries. The nation’s first subway system opened here in 1897.
The Common was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and was included in a National Historic Landmark Historic District in 1987.