Boston is the capital of Massachusetts, the central city of New England, the place where the American Revolution originated, and one of the most influential cities in the history and culture of the United States. One of the smallest and most densely populated of the major American cities, the population of Beantown was estimated at around 600,000 in 2007; the entire metropolitan area, sometimes called Greater Boston, has a population of nearly 4.5 million.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The area bounded by Boston Harbor and the Charles River comprises the city of Boston, founded in 1630 by British Puritans as the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here are found some highly distinctive urban neighborhoods, reflecting the diversity and socioeconomic divisions that characterize the region.
- Downtown Boston houses the city's financial and government centers as well as its Chinatown district. Faneuil Hall, a stone's throw from the harbor, was an important gathering place in the days of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. More recently, it was one of the first successful "festival marketplaces" operated by the Rouse Company.
- Back Bay, across the Boston Common from downtown, is literally the back entrance to the harbor. One of the ritziest residential and shopping districts in America, Back Bay is where you'll find a great many of Boston's luxury hotels. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Public Library, and the Prudential Center are located on Copley Square. The Back Bay Fens, a tiny wilderness in the urban thicket, overlooks Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have played since the team was founded in 1912.
- Beacon Hill, where the State House is located, is the most exclusive province of wealthy Boston Brahmins. Senator John Kerry is the latest in a long line of politicians to live at Louisburg Square.
- Roxbury, located just across the Fens from Back Bay, is socially a world apart from these privileged zones. An immigrant neighborhood for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Roxbury is now the center of the city's African-American population, and was until very recently plagued by violent crime.
The Boston metropolitan area includes a great many neighborhoods, communities, and towns, including:
A little farther outside of town are Lexington and Concord, the first battlefields of the Revolutionary War.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Boston's economy is strong and diversified. Major industries represented in the area include:
- Finance and insurance: Fidelity Investments and Liberty Mutual lead the city's financial sector, which also includes several important management consultant firms.
- High technology: many technology firms are located on or around Route 128, a beltway outside the perimeter of the city.
- Publishing: several major publishers are Boston-based, such as Houghton Mifflin, Bedford-St. Martin's Press, and Little, Brown.
- Higher education: the area's many colleges and universities are major players in the both the economy and the culture of the city.
- Shipping: the Port of Boston has been in continuous use longer than any industrial port in the Western Hemisphere.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Boston has had an enormous impact on the formation of American culture. Many of the area's civic and cultural institutions have long, illustrious histories.
- The Boston Athenaeum is an independent library in operation since 1807, in the same Beacon Hill location since 1849.
- The Museum of Fine Arts, founded in 1870, is one of the nation's largest art museums.
- Symphony Hall is considered one of the world's most exquisite concert halls. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops play concerts here.
- Jordan Hall, located a block from Symphony Hall, is another space renowned for its acoustics. It is the concert hall of the New England Conservatory of Music.
- Harvard University's art museums contain one of the nation's most valuable collections of artworks from around the globe.
- The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, designed by world-famous architect I. M. Pei, is located in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood.
Boston's rich history is a major part of its attraction as a tourist destination. The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile pedestrian trail in downtown Boston, links more than a dozen of the most important historic sites from the colonial and revolutionary periods, including:
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Granary Burying Ground (burial site of Sam Adams, John Hancock, and other top-drawer patriots)
- Boston Massacre Site
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Bunker Hill Monument
Institutions of higher learning, and the youthful populations that attend them, play a major role in the character of Boston life. The city is an intellectual powerhouse, with some of the world's most prestigious academic centers:
- Harvard University, in Cambridge
- Boston University, in Boston
- Emerson College, in Boston
- Boston College, in Chestnut Hill
- Brandeis University, in Waltham
- Northeastern University, in Boston
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge
- Tufts University, in Medford/Somerville (home to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy)
- Wellesley College, in Wellesley
- University of Massachusetts, Boston
Boston is a great town for professional sports, with consistently powerful teams in all four of America's major sports.
- The Boston Red Sox, 2007 World Series champions, have played baseball for more than 80 years in one of America's most charming sports arenas, Fenway Park.
- The Boston Celtics have won more National Basketball Association championships than any other team.
- The Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League share an arena with the Celtics at the TD Banknorth Garden (formerly called the Fleet Center), which replaced the Boston Garden in 1995.
- The New England Patriots, who play in Foxboro, have been (arguably) the dominant National Football League team of the decade, winning Super Bowl championships in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
- College football and basketball are also a major Boston preoccupation - not surprising, given how many colleges are in the area.
- The Boston Marathon takes place every year on Patriots' Day, the third Monday in April, and is one of the best-known and most prestigious sporting events in the world.
Boston and its metropolitan area comprise one of the top ten media markets in the United States. Its radio spectrum is full, with two NPR affiliates (WBUR and WGBH) and many campus-based stations competing with the commercial powerhouses. Every American television network is represented on the local dial.
- WGBH Channel 2 (PBS)
- WBZ Channel 4 (CBS)
- WCVB Channel 5 (ABC)
- WHDH Channel 7 (NBC)
- WFXT Channel 25 (Fox)
- WUNI Channel 27 (Univision)
- WLVI Channel 56 (CW)
The city is served by two daily newspapers, the Boston Globe (acquired by the New York Times Company in 1993 after a prestigious century-long history as an independent outlet) and the Boston Herald.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Park Street Station, opened in 1897, was the first subway station in North America.
- Boston got the nickname "Beantown" after Boston baked beans, which were invented during a period when its key ingredient, molasses, was a key import.
- St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated in North America in 1737 in Boston. The city's annual parade and celebration now attracts 600,000 revelers each year.
- The Harvard University library is the second-largest in the country. It contains more than 15 million volumes.
- Boston Latin was the first public school in the United States. It opened in 1635.
- Boston Harbor was the site of the first lighthouse built in the United States. It was constructed in 1716.
- The sewing machine was invented in Boston in 1845.
- Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated the telephone in Boston in 1876.
- The first computer was built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge, in 1928.
- Harvard University, in Cambridge, was the first college in the United States. It was founded in 1636.
- Boston is home to the Irish Famine Memorial, dedicated in 1998 at the corner of Washington and School streets, on the Freedom Trail.
- The U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned warship, USS Constitution, or "Old Ironsides," is berthed in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
- Boston Common was the first public park in the United States. It opened in 1634.
- The Boston University Bridge is the only place in the world where a boat could sail under a train that is running under a car that is driving under an airplane.
- A full-costume reenactment of the Boston Tea Party is staged in Boston Harbor every Dec. 16.
- The state of Massachusetts' official dessert is Boston cream pie.
- Boston is home to about 250,000 college students during any given semester.
- The majority of the land under Boston's Logan International Airport used to be part of Boston Harbor.
- The Boston Celtics are the only team in the NBA to wear warm-up jackets with the players' names on the back.
- The Boston Red Sox is one of the founding teams of the American League of Major League Baseball, established in 1901.