Most of America’s large cities have an iconic park, often a century old and sometimes much older. Belle Isle, in the middle of the Detroit River, opened in 1845. Central Park in Manhattan dates from 1858. Buena Vista Park, which offers a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, has been welcoming visitors since 1867. But the oldest city park in America is Boston Common, established in 1634. (Age isn’t everything. They may not be the oldest, but these are America’s largest city parks.)
About two million acres of public parkland flourish in the country’s 100 largest cities alone, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 2021 City Park Facts, the latest edition of the nonprofit’s annual parks data compilation. That’s roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park and larger than several states. An estimated 75% of residents in those 100 metros live within a 10-minute walk of a public park, up from 67.5% in 2012, the TPL notes.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the TPL report to identify the oldest city parks in the country. Nearly all of them commemorate or are reciassociated with historical events.
According to the Freedom Trail Foundation, America’s oldest park, Boston Common, was founded in 1634 when Puritan colonists bought the 44-acre site for 30 pounds from its owner, an Anglican minister named William Blackstone.
Local livestock grazed the pasture, or “common land,” until 1830. But Puritans being Puritans, Boston Common had also been the site of public punishments for witches, murderers, and other criminals, real or imagined. In 1775, Boston Common played a pivotal role in the American Revolution. It was there that British troops trained before clashing with colonists at the first battles of the war at Lexington and Concord. (Boston is one of the many American towns founded before the American Revolution.)
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