Public Garden (Boston)

Boston Public Garden

The Public Garden looking east from the Arlington Street entrance, with the skyline of Boston's financial district, 2007
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Area 24 acres (97,000 m2)[1]
Built 1837
NRHP Reference # 72000144 (original)
87000761 (new)
Significant dates
Added to NRHP

July 12, 1972 (original, in NRHP also including Boston Common)

February 27, 1987 (new, as NHL of Boston Public Garden alone)[2]
Designated NHLD February 27, 1987[3]

The Public Garden, also known as Boston Public Garden, is a large park located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston Common.


The Public Garden was established in 1837, when philanthropist Horace Gray[4] petitioned for the use of land as the first public botanical garden in the United States. Gray helped marshal political resistance to a number of Boston City Council attempts to sell the land in question, finally settling the issue of devoting it to the Public Garden in 1856.[5] The Act establishing use of the land was submitted to the voters on 26 April 1856 where it passed with only 99 dissents.

Rustic Arbor, Boston Public Garden, 19th century

In October 1859, Alderman Crane submitted the detailed plan for the Garden to the Committee on the Common and Public Squares and received approval.[6] Construction began quickly on the property, with the lake being finished that year and the wrought iron fence surrounding the perimeter erected in 1862. Today the north side of the lake has a small island, but it originally was a peninsula, connected to the land. The site became so popular with lovers that John Galvin, the city forester, decided to sever the connection with the land.[7]

The 24 acres (97,000 m2) landscape, which was once a salt marsh, was designed by George F. Meacham. The paths and flower beds were laid out by the city engineer, James Slade and the forester, John Galvin. The plan for the garden included a number of fountains and statues. The first statue erected was that of Edward Everett by William Wetmore Story in November 1867 on the north part of the Garden near Beacon Street. The bronze statue of George Washington by Thomas Ball which dominates the west side of the park was dedicated on 3 July 1869. The signature suspension bridge over the middle of the lake was erected in 1867.

Originally, the Charles Street side of the Public Garden (along with the adjacent portions of Boston Common) was used as an unofficial dumping ground, due to being the lowest-lying portion of the Garden; this, along with the Garden's originally being a salt marsh, resulted in this edge of the Public Garden being "a moist stew that reeked and that was a mess to walk over, steering people to other parts of the park". Although plans had long been in place to regrade this portion of the Garden, the cost of moving the amount of soil necessary (approximately 9,000 cu yd (6,900 m3), weighing 14,000 short tons (13,000,000 kg)) prevented the work from being undertaken. This finally changed in the summer of 1895, when the required quantity of soil was made available as a result of the excavation of the Tremont Street Subway, and was used to regrade the Charles Street sides of both the Garden and the Common.[8]

The Public Garden is managed jointly between the Mayor's Office, The Parks Department of the City of Boston, and the non-profit Friends of the Public Garden.

It was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1977 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.[1][3]

Literature, art, and film


"Maid of the Mist" statue of Venus and behind it of George Washington in a stereoscopic image by John P. Soule

Together with the Boston Common, the parks form the northern terminus of the Emerald Necklace, a long string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While the Common is primarily unstructured open space, the Public Garden contains a lake and a large series of formal plantings that are maintained by the city and others and vary from season to season.

During the warmer seasons, the 4 acres (16,000 m2) pond is usually the home of one or more swans and is always the site of the Swan Boats, a famous Boston tourist attraction, which began operating in 1877.[9] For a small fee, tourists can sit on a boat ornamented with a white swan at the rear. The boat is then pedaled around the lake by a tour guide sitting within the swan.

The current pair of swans are mute swans named Romeo and Juliet after the Shakespearian couple, however, it was found that both are female.[10]

The Public Garden is rectangular in shape and is bounded on the south by Boylston Street, on the west by Arlington Street, and on the north by Beacon Street where it faces Beacon Hill. On its east side, Charles Street divides the Public Garden from the Common. The greenway connecting the Public Garden with the rest of the Emerald Necklace is the strip of park that runs west down the center of Commonwealth Avenue towards the Back Bay Fens and the Muddy River.


Permanent flower plantings in the garden include numerous varieties of roses, bulbs, and flowering shrubs. The beds flanking the central pathway are replanted on a rotating schedule throughout the year, with different flowers for each season from mid-spring through early autumn. Plantings are supplied from 14 greenhouses the city operates at Franklin Park for the purpose.[9]

The Public Garden is planted with a wide assortment of native and introduced trees; prominent among these are the weeping willows around the shore of the lagoon and the European and American elms that line the garden's pathways, along with horse chestnuts, dawn redwoods, European beeches, ginkgo trees, and one California redwood. Other notable trees include:[11]

  • Beech trees
    • European beech
    • Purple beech
    • Weeping European beech
  • River birch
  • Castor aurelia
  • Western catalpa
  • Kwanzan cherry
  • Kentucky coffee tree
  • Tea crab
  • Bald Cypress

  • Elm trees
    • American elm
    • Belgian elm
    • Camperdown elm
    • English elm
    • Rock elm
    • Scotch elm
  • Horsechestnut
  • Japanese larch
  • Linden trees
    • Common linden
    • Littleleaf linden
  • Star magnolia

  • Maidenhair tree
  • Maple trees
    • Norway maple
    • Red maple
    • Silver maple
  • Oak trees
    • Burr oak
    • English oak
    • Pin oak
  • Pagoda trees
    • Pagoda tree
    • Weeping pagoda

  • Redwood trees
    • Dawn redwood
    • Giant redwood
  • Silk tree
  • Silverbell
  • Japanese stewartia
  • Japanese tree lilac
  • Tulip tree
  • Tupelo
  • Yellowwood
  • Weeping willow

Statues and structures

Several statues are located throughout the Public Garden.

Statue of George Washington

Care and upkeep

The park is maintained by the City of Boston, which in 2005 spent $1.2m to keep up its three parks.[17] The city's efforts are supplemented by a charitable organization known as the Friends of the Public Garden, also known as the Rose Brigade. The charity helped finance the repair of the Ether Monument in 2006, and hires specialists to help care for the trees and bushes.[17] Volunteers meet regularly to prune and maintain bushes. Financial support also comes from private sources such as the Beacon Hill Garden Club.[18]

See also


  1. 1 2 James H. Charleton (November 1985), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Boston Public Garden (pdf), National Park Service and Accompanying five photos, from 1985 and undated (32 KB)
  2. National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. 1 2 "Boston Public Gardens". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  4. Horace Gray: Father of the Boston Public Garden
  5. Stevens p 345
  6. The New England magazine, Volume 24. p.346. New England Magazine Co., 1901
  7. Stevens p 347
  8. Most, Doug (2014). The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America's First Subway. St. Martin's Press. pp. 233–234. ISBN 978-1-250-06135-5.
  9. 1 2 Davenport, Arthur (27 September 1964). "Boston's Uncommon Park". New York: New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  10. Slack, Donovan (2005-08-12). "Thou art no Romeo". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  11. City of Boston. Public Garden. Notable trees. Retrieved 2011-10-16
  12. Boston Art Commission: Small Child Fountain
  13. Boston Public Garden | Boston Sights
  14. Boston Art Commission: Triton Babies Fountain
  15. Boston Art Commission: Boy and Bird Fountain
  16. Boston Art Commission: Bagheera Fountain
  17. 1 2 Mohl, Bruce (13 August 2006). "Can a park have too much money?". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  18. Friends of the Public Garden. Beacon Hill Garden Club to Donate $55,000 to the Friends. Nov. 17, 2010

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boston Public Garden.

Coordinates: 42°21′15″N 71°4′12″W / 42.35417°N 71.07000°W / 42.35417; -71.07000

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