Early American urban planning at the Boston Common

Several weeks ago we visited the Boston Common which has this plaque located at its eastern corner:

BostonCommonPlaque

Established in 1634, the Boston Common provided common space for grazing and later served as a military camp, site for public hangings, place for public assemblies and speeches, and a major urban park. But, it is hard to imagine central Boston without this large open space. What would it be otherwise – more space for office buildings and residences? To have it set aside at an early date and originally toward the edge of the city just like Central Park looks quite prescient today. Having the city grow up “organically” around it also helped compared to new cities and major developments where parks may be planned but have a difficult time developing a welcoming atmosphere. (Perhaps this is where Jane Jacobs’ ideas about parks needing more than just existence to be successful could be useful.)

Although this area isn’t really nature (too much ongoing human interference), it still is a welcome respite from the activity all around it. Indeed, urban parks like these really do help make cities all that they are even if they might be “negative space” in their lack of buildings.

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