Boston Garden

This article is about the original Boston Garden. For the current arena, see TD Garden. For the Park, see Boston Public Garden.
Boston Garden
The Garden

Boston Garden viewed from Causeway Street 1994
Former names Boston Madison Square Garden
Location 150 Causeway Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114, USA
Coordinates 42°21′56.51″N 71°3′42.18″W / 42.3656972°N 71.0617167°W / 42.3656972; -71.0617167Coordinates: 42°21′56.51″N 71°3′42.18″W / 42.3656972°N 71.0617167°W / 42.3656972; -71.0617167
Owner Boston and Maine Corporation (1928–65)[1]
Linnell & Cox (1965[1]–1973[2])
Storer Broadcasting (1973–75)[2]
Delaware North (1975–97)[2]
Operator Madison Square Garden Corporation (1928–34)
Boston Garden-Arena Corporation (1934–1973)[3]
Storer Broadcasting (1973–75)
Delaware North (1975–97)
Capacity Ice hockey: 14,448[4]
Basketball: 14,890[4]
Concerts: 15,909[4]
Surface Ice / Parquet floor
Broke ground December 1927
Opened November 17, 1928
Closed September 28, 1995
Demolished March 1998
Construction cost $4 million[5]
($55.2 million in 2016 dollars[6])
Architect Tex Rickard
Funk & Wilcox Company[7]
General contractor Dwight P. Robinson Company, Inc.
Boston Bruins (NHL) (1928–95)
Boston Celtics (BAA/NBA) (1946–95)
Boston Braves (AHL) (1971–74)
New England Whalers (WHA) (1973–74)
Boston Blazers (NLL) (1992–95)

Boston Garden was an arena located in Boston, United States. Designed by boxing promoter Tex Rickard, who also built the third iteration of New York's Madison Square Garden, it opened on November 17, 1928 as "Boston Madison Square Garden" (later shortened to just "Boston Garden") and outlived its original namesake by 30 years. It was located above North Station, a train station which was originally a hub for the Boston and Maine Railroad and is now a hub for MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains. The Garden hosted home games for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as rock concerts, amateur sports, boxing and professional wrestling matches, circuses, and ice shows. It was also used as an exposition hall for political rallies such as the speech by John F. Kennedy in November 1960. Boston Garden was demolished in 1998, three years after the completion of its new successor arena, the FleetCenter, now known as the TD Garden.



Tex Rickard, the noted entrepreneur and boxing promoter who built and operated the third Madison Square Garden, sought to expand his empire by building a series of seven "Madison Square Gardens" around the country.[8] Built at a cost of $10 million – over double the price for New York's arena three years earlier – Boston Garden turned out to be the last of the series, a decision fueled by high costs and Rickard's death in 1929. The Garden's first event was on November 17, 1928, a boxing card headlined by Boston Native "Honey Boy" Dick Finnegan's defeat of Andre Routis. The first team sporting event was held three days later, an ice hockey game between the Bruins and the archrival Montreal Canadiens, won by the Canadiens 1–0. The game was attended by 17,000 fans, 2,000 over capacity, as fans without tickets stormed their way in. The game started 25 minutes late. Windows and doors were broken by the fans in the action.[9][10] The first non-sporting event, a conclave featuring evangelist Rodney "Gipsy" Smith, was held on March 24, 1929.[11]

Early years

During the Boston Garden's early years, the arena was owned by the Boston and Maine Corporation and controlled by Rickard and the Madison Square Garden. In 1934, the Madison Square Garden Corporation sold its interest in the Boston Garden to the Boston Arena Corporation, led by Henry G. Lapham. This resulted in the creation of the Boston Garden-Arena Corporation.[11][12] George V. Brown served as general manager of the Garden under the Boston Garden-Arena Corporation until his death in 1937, when he was succeeded by his son, Walter A. Brown.[11]

During the early years of the Boston Garden, boxing, wresting, and Bruins hockey were the building's main draw. Johnny Indrisano, Lou Brouillard, Ernie Schaaf, Al Mello, and Jack Sharkey were among the boxers who fought at the Boston Garden. Wrestling became big due to the popularity of Gus Sonnenberg. Sonnenberg defeated Ed "Strangler" Lewis at the Garden in 1929 in a fight that set an attendance record for a wrestling match (19,500) and drew a record gate ($77,000). Paul Bowser promoted wrestling in Boston at this time and when the sport began to lose popularity, he brought Danno O'Mahony from Ireland to Boston. O'Mahony became a popular draw at the Garden.[11]

The Garden suffered economically during the Great Depression. Boxing was at a low point in Boston, as fighters chose to work in other cities, wrestling attendance was down, and hockey attendance waned after Ace Bailey suffered a severe head injury at the hands of Bruin Eddie Shore in 1933. During this period Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue and the Ice Follies were successful draws and kept the Garden afloat. In 1939, due to a financial dispute between Henie and her managers, Walter Brown and eight other arena managers founded the Ice Capades.[11]

Seating capacity

Seating capacity for basketball games:

Seating capacity for hockey games:

  • 13,909 (1928–1968)[18]
  • 14,659 (1968–1969)[19]
  • 14,835 (1969–1970)[20]
  • 14,994 (1970–1971)[21]
  • 14,995 (1971–1972)[22]
  • 15,003 (1972–1975)[23]
  • 14,567 (1975–1976)[24]
  • 14,697 (1976–1977)[25]
  • 14,602 (1977–1978)[26]
  • 14,654 (1978–1979)[27]
  • 14,673 (1979–1982)[28]
  • 14,685 (1982–1983)[29]
  • 14,451 (1983–1988)[30]
  • 14,448 (1988–1995)[4]

Attached hotel (1930–1976)

North Station area in early 1960s, Hotel Madison (with Boston Garden immediately behind it) at upper right

By August 1930, a 500-room hotel facility, directly connected to the Boston Garden through an elevated skyway – between the Garden's western end and the new hotel, opened as the Hotel Manger. It was famous as the main hotel for people attending Garden events, and by 1958 had been purchased by the Boston and Maine Railroad, and renamed the Hotel Madison. It was the hotel where The Beatles stayed in mid-September 1964 for their appearance in the Garden while touring North America, but the facility fell on hard times by the 1970s, closing in 1976 and brought down by implosion in mid-May 1983.[31] The permanently closed black-painted skyway doors on the Garden's west-facing exterior after the hotel's closure and the skyway's subsequent removal, remained there until the Garden's own demolition in 1998. The Tip O'Neill Federal Building now stands on the site of the former hotel.


Rickard built the arena specifically with boxing in mind, believing that every seat should be close enough to see the "sweat on the boxers' brows". Because of this design theme, fans were much closer to the players during Bruins and Celtics games than in most arenas, leading to a distinct hometown advantage. This physical proximity also created spectacular acoustic effects, much like the Chicago Stadium. When teams made playoff appearances, and a sold-out crowd was chanting or screaming, the impact was enormous.

Due to the success of the Celtics in the 1980s, the Boston Garden was one of the most difficult buildings for visiting NBA teams to play in. During the 1985–86 season, the Celtics were 40–1 at home, setting the NBA record for home court mastery (before the San Antonio Spurs tied the record 30 years later in the 2015-16 season). They also finished the post-season undefeated at home. Combined with the following regular season, the Celtics' Garden record was an amazing 79-3 between the 1985–86 and 1986–87 regular seasons.

The parquet floor was an important part of the history of the Celtics;[32] however, it was not originally part of the Garden. The parquet floor was built and installed in the aforementioned Boston Arena first home of the Bruins hockey team, but was moved to the Garden in 1952. It is said that the Celtics knew which way the basketball would bounce off any particular section of the floor; this was one contributing factor to the Celtics' many NBA championships. The floor became as much a part of Boston sports lore as the Green Monster of Fenway Park. The parquet floor was used at the FleetCenter until December 22, 1999. Portions of the original floor are integrated with new parquet. The floor was cut into small pieces and sold as souvenirs of the original Boston Garden. Seats and bricks from the Boston Garden were also sold. The Naden/Day Industries overhead scoreboard (which was electro-mechanical, not electronic, as more recent arenas used) of the Boston Garden can be seen hanging in the Boston Garden-themed food court of the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, Massachusetts. The Celtics' old championship banners and retired numbers now hang at the team practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts; a new set of banners were made in time for the move to the FleetCenter (now TD Garden). Likewise, the Bruins made a new set of banners when they moved to the FleetCenter, which were again replaced after the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals with six new banners, each using the contemporary logo of the Bruins when each Cup victory occurred.[33]

Shot of the New York Rangers practicing in Boston Garden


The Garden's hockey rink was undersized at 191 by 83 feet (58.2 m × 25.3 m), some nine feet shorter and two feet narrower than standard (200 ft × 85 ft or 61 m × 26 m), due to the rink being built at a time when the NHL did not have a standard size for rinks. This size was even smaller than the original Boston Arena's standard-length 200-by-80-foot (61 m × 24 m) rink, still in use in the 21st century for college hockey with a new, widened 90-foot (27 m) upgrade in 1995, as the Boston Arena was the first rink to host the Bruins in 1924–25. The differing setup of the players' benches being on opposing sides of the ice in the Garden — a layout shared by its Matthews Arena antecedent to this day — and the Garden's non-standard penalty bench locations, threw visiting players off their games. The smaller ice surface allowed the Bruins the opportunity to dump the puck in the offensive zone and then crush their opponents with checks along the boards. Its visitors' dressing room was notoriously small, hot, and underserved by plumbing.

The Garden's earlier Bulova-crafted "Sports Timer" game clock system[34] using the typical analog dial-type game clock design of that era, said to have been installed at the Garden sometime very early in the 1940s, and essentially identical in appearance and function to the one used in the Chicago Stadium until 1976, was removed and replaced by an all-digital-display unit created by the Day Sign Company of Toronto in time for the 1970 Stanley Cup playoffs, and remained in use until the Garden's closure. Today the clock is preserved as a public display in the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, Massachusetts.

The Garden had no air conditioning, resulting in fog forming over the ice during some Bruins' playoff games. During Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals, the 97 °F (36 °C) heat in the facility was so intense that oxygen tanks were provided to exhausted players.

The Bruins' Stanley Cup finals appearances in 1988 and 1990 were both disrupted by power outages. On May 24, 1988, a power transformer in the North End blew up during Game 4 of the Finals between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers: the contest was ruled a 3–3 tie. Two years later, on May 15, 1990, the lights went out during an overtime finals game between the same two teams. However, the lights were on an automatic timer and could be turned back on this time with the game ending with a 3–2 triple overtime win for the visiting Oilers.

Notable events


Rudy Vallée and his orchestra performed at the Garden on April 21, 1932. Vallee returned to the Garden on October 23–24, 1938 for a "battle of the bands" with Benny Goodman that drew 25,000.[11][35]

The first rock concert held at the Garden was on November 30, 1956, when the building hosted Alan Freed's "Biggest Show of 1956".[35]

The Beatles played a show at the Garden during their first US/Canada tour on September 12, 1964, staying at the aforementioned Hotel Madison.[36]

James Brown played a notable show at the Garden on April 5, 1968, the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Only 2,000 attended the sold-out show, because the mayor, Kevin White, and community leaders had actively encouraged people obtain refunds on their tickets, not attend the concert, and instead to watch the hastily arranged television broadcast of the concert on the local public station WGBH-TV. Mayor White appeared on stage, asking the Garden audience and the city to peacefully remember King, and James Brown's words and presence was credited with helping to keep the peace in Boston. WGBH immediately rebroadcast the concert twice more that night, successfully keeping people off of the street, while other major cities were erupting in riots.[37] The performance was released on DVD as Live at the Boston Garden: April 5, 1968.

Elvis Presley performed in Boston only once, at the Garden on November 10, 1971 pulling a full crowd of about 16,500 and receiving high praise from Rolling Stone journalist Jon Landau for his performance.

In 1972, The Rolling Stones were scheduled to perform at the Garden when two members were detained by Rhode Island police. Fearful that angry Stones fans (already in the Garden awaiting the show) would riot, then-mayor Kevin H. White intervened with the Rhode Island authorities and secured the musicians' release so that they could play their set in Boston.[38] The band had also played at the venue in 1965 and 1969 and would again in 1975.

In 1973, The Who were scheduled to perform at the Garden and nearly didn't perform due to the band being detained by police after destroying a hotel room in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where they'd appeared the previous evening. The band was eventually released from jail and managed to arrive at the Garden in time for their show and took out their frustrations for being arrested the night before by delivering a blistering set and taunting the Montreal police, dedicating their performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again" to them. Who drummer Keith Moon (for the rest of the Quadrophenia tour) changed one of the lyrics to the song "Bell Boy" from "remember the gaff where the doors we smashed" to "remember Montreal at the hotel we trashed" or variations of the band being arrested. Almost three years later in March 1976, Moon collapsed at his drum kit during the second song "Substitute" after downing muscle relaxers and brandy before the show. The band had to reschedule the performance for early April and the rescheduled performance turned out to be one of The Who's best performances. The Who's last performance at the Garden was in December 1979 on their first tour following Moon's death. That performance was almost canceled as a result of the death of a number of fans at a Who show in Cincinnati the week before as a result of the crush of fans trying to get in early for a general admission show. The Boston City Council held a televised hearing on the issue of whether to allow the show to go forward and ultimately decided to permit it because there was no general admission seating in Boston. The show was marred by a fan throwing a firecracker on stage, causing Pete Townshend to scream obscenities in the general direction of the source before getting on with the tension-filled show.

In 1975, Led Zeppelin were banned from performing at the Boston Garden after concert fans were allowed in the lobby due to sub-freezing temperatures while waiting for tickets to go on sale for the band's show. Turning on the generosity of their hosts, some of the fans rioted, broke into the Garden and trashed the seating area, the ice, and most of the refreshment stands, leading then-mayor White to cancel the upcoming show and ban the group for five years.

In 1976, KISS was banned from performing at the Garden because the band refused to comply with the venue's no pyrotechnic policy after fire marshals had watched their flamethrowers hit the ceiling at the Orpheum.

Pink Floyd were the first band to perform at the Boston Garden with a stage set that cost over $1 million on their 1977 Animals tour (they first played there in 1975 on the band's Wish You Were Here tour). According to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd almost got banned from the Boston Garden after their 1977 performances because the band, unknown to the venue's owners, used pyrotechnics during their performance (the exploding pig for "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" and firework displays on "Sheep" and "Money"). However, the band's road crew outsmarted the fire marshals by removing the pyro props quickly after they used them in the shows to prevent the band from being banned and also according to Mason's book since their manager had an Irish name (Steve O'Rourke), the band escaped being arrested. The band would not play the venue again opting for the Providence Civic Center and Foxboro Stadium on their 1987/1988 and 1994 tours respectively.

The Grateful Dead performed at the Boston Garden more times than any other band, with 24 performances from 1973 to 1994 (as an opener or middle of bill or headliner), and were intended to be the last band to play the Garden, with six shows scheduled for September 1995, which were canceled due to the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9, 1995. The Dead did not play at the Garden for a number of years following an incident in which they were caught grilling lobsters on a fire escape before a performance.[39] The Grateful Dead have released Dick's Picks Volume 12 and 17 culled from performances at the Garden on 28 June 1974 and 25 September 1991.

Detroit rocker Bob Seger recorded a bulk of his 1981 double live album Nine Tonight at The Boston Garden in October, 1980. Five years before, The J. Geils Band recorded most of their November, 1975 show at The Boston Garden for their 1976 double live album Blow Your Face Out. The Geils band returned again, and had the historical distinction of being the first band in history to sell out a three night stand in 1982 at the Garden featuring hometown favorites Jon Butcher Axis as opening act.

Hometown band Aerosmith performed at the Boston Garden ten times from 1975 to 1995 and twice played New Year's shows there, ringing in the 1990 and 1994 New Years.

Other acts that performed at the Garden include Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Slick with Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan with The Band, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Jackson 5, and George Burns and Gracie Allen.[35]

The opening of the Worcester Centrum and the Great Woods Amphitheater caused a massive drop in concerts at the Garden from the early 80's until the early 90's. The age of glam metal practically passed the Garden by completely, as most bands from that era played the Centrum in the winter and Great Woods in the summer. Poor acoustics, a busy sports schedule, expensive booking fees, and difficulty with local unions all contributed to the migration to more modern venues outside of Boston. Under new Garden President Larry Moulter, bands started returning to the Garden in the very late 80's and early 90's, highlighted by Pearl Jam's multi-night stand in 1994, and the Dead's lengthy residences there before the Garden finally closed. The final New Year's Eve show at the garden was performed by Phish on December 31, 1994. On this night, the band rode a giant hot dog above the audience; the hot dog is currently located in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.


The facility has hosted games in the 1929, 1930, 1932, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1988, and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, the 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 NBA Finals, the NBA All-Star Game in 1951, 1952, 1957, and 1964, and the NHL All-Star Game in 1971. The NCAA Frozen Four was contested there from 1972 to 1974.

Boston Garden was the first arena to host the Stanley Cup Final and NBA Finals at the same time in 1957. It occurred again in 1958 and 1974.

The Boston Garden was a frequent host of Vince McMahon's WWF for many years throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in the form of wrestling "house shows", and superstars like Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Tito Santana, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and many others would regularly appear there. But despite this relationship, the Boston Garden was host to only one pro wrestling pay-per-view in its history: the 1993 Survivor Series. The WWF held their final house show in the Boston Garden on May 13, 1995.[40]

Rallies and speeches

The Boston Garden hosted many religious conclaves. Evangelists who appeared at the Garden include Aimee McPherson (1931), Billy Graham (1950) Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (1953), and Jimmy Swaggart (July 29–31, 1983).[35]

The Garden was also the site of a number of political rallies. 20,000 people attended a 55th birthday celebration for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 29, 1937. FDR also drew another 20,000 for a political rally 1940. On May 2, 1943, the night after the Hollywood Victory Caravan came through town, a Jewish anti-Nazi rally was held at the Garden. The United War Fund hosted a rally headlined by Jimmy Durante, Greer Garson, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The day before the 1960 presidential election, a rally for John F. Kennedy drew 20,000 while police estimated that there were another 100,000 people in the streets outside the Garden. Other politicians to hold rallies at the Garden include presidential candidates Thomas Dewey and Dwight D. Eisenhower and former Boston mayor and Massachusetts governor James Michael Curley.[35]

Former Irish Prime Minister and President Eamon De Valera spoke at the Garden On March 24, 1948 (Easter Sunday). British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke there March 31, 1949 as part of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Convocation.[35]

Final years

By the early 1970s, Boston Garden was deteriorating. The building had no air conditioning and seats were obstructed by structural pillars. The seats themselves were decades old and terribly cramped. With a capacity of less than 15,000, it was one of the smallest major league sports arenas in the country. The Garden also lacked luxury suites, which had become a major source of revenue for teams in all professional sports and a veritable necessity. In 1972, Boston Mayor Kevin White announced plans for a new 18,000-seat arena to be built near South Station.[41] Plans for the arena fell through when Storer Broadcasting, owner of the Boston Garden, announced that they would not be able to pay the $24 to $28 million required for the new arena to be built.[42] In 1977 the Boston Celtics negotiated with the city of Quincy to have a $30 million, 21,000-seat arena built there.[43]

In 1979, Boston Celtics owner Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. threatened to build a new arena unless the Boston Bruins, who owned the Garden, agreed to lower the rent.[44] The team met with Ogden Corp., owners of Suffolk Downs, who proposed a $20 million, 18,000-seat arena to be built near the racetrack.[45] They also met with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who proposed $40 million, 15,000-seat arena that would be built behind the existing Garden and paid for with state bonds.[46] The Bruins meanwhile announced plans to move to a proposed $50 million sports complex located on the former site of Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire.[47] The plans for the Salem site were eventually killed by the New Hampshire General Court.[48]

In response to the Bruins plans to leave the state, U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas established a committee to put forward a plan for a new Boston arena. The committee, chaired by Tsongas, proposed a $56.8 million, 16,000 seat arena that would be paid for by tax-exempt bonds floated by an Arena Authority and by raising the commonwealth's hotel tax from 5.7% to 8%.[48] The naming rights to the proposed arena were sold to Sheraton for $2 million.[49] Tsongas' proposal died in the state legislature.[50]

In 1985, Garden-owner Delaware North and developer Rosalind Gorin each submitted proposals for a new arena, hotel, and office development. Both proposals were rejected by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Mayor Raymond Flynn.[51] The two groups later resubmitted plans, with Delaware North's calling for a renovation of the Garden instead of having it demolished.[52] Gorin's plan called for the city to claim the Garden by eminent domain, as Delaware North refused to sell the Bruins and the Garden to a group led by Gorin, Paul Tsongas, and former Bruins Wayne Cashman and Bobby Orr.[52][53] Delaware North was awarded the rights to construct the new arena, but poor economic conditions delayed the project.[54][55]

On May 8, 1992 Delaware North announced that they had secured funding for a new arena in the form of $120 million worth of loans evenly split among Bank of Boston, Fleet Bank of Massachusetts, and Shawmut National Corporation.[56] That December a bill approving construction of the new arena was killed in the Massachusetts Senate by Senate President William M. Bulger. Legislative leaders and Delaware North attempted to reach an agreement on plans for the new arena, but in February 1993 Delaware North owner Jeremy Jacobs announced that he was backing out of the project as a result of the legislature's demand that his company pay $3.5 million in "linkage payments".[57] Two weeks later, after a new series of negotiations, the two sides finally came to an agreement and on February 26 the Legislature passed a bill that allowed for construction of a new sports arena.[58] Construction began on April 29, 1993. Shawmut Bank purchased the naming rights for the new building with the intent of calling it the "Shawmut Center", but it was purchased by FleetBank before the new arena opened, and thus the "FleetCenter" opened on September 30, 1995. In 2005, the FleetCenter was renamed the "TD Banknorth Garden", as Bank of America had acquired Fleet Bank and relinquished its predecessor's naming rights, selling them to TD Banknorth. As of 2013, it is known as TD Garden.

The last official game played at the Garden took place on Sunday, May 14, 1995. It was game five of an NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. The Devils edged the Bruins, 3–2, winning the series four games to one. The last event ever to be held at the Boston Garden was a preseason game between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens on September 26, 1995.[59] In a special post-game ceremony, which included many former Bruins greats, the banners and retired numbers were removed. The Garden sat vacant for three years before it was demolished in 1998. The site where the building once stood is now a parking lot immediately adjacent to the TD Garden.

When the Bruins finally won the Stanley Cup in the 2011 NHL playoffs, the rally started at the site of the Garden.


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