Boston n : state capital and largest city of Massachusetts; a major center for banking and financial services [syn: Hub of the Universe, Bean Town, Beantown, capital of Massachusetts]
- Rhymes: -ɒstən
- (Massachusetts city): Beantown
Boston (pronounced ) is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The city is located in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, in the northeastern United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is considered the economic and cultural center of the entire region. The city, which had an estimated population of 590,763 in 2006, lies at the center of the metropolitan area—the 10th-largest metropolitan area (5th largest CSA) in the U.S., with a population of 4.5 million.
In 1630, Puritan colonists from England founded the city on the Shawmut Peninsula. During the late eighteenth century Boston was the location of several major events during the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. Several early battles of the American Revolution, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston, occurred within the city and surrounding areas. After American independence was attained Boston became a major shipping port and manufacturing center, and its rich history now attracts 16.3 million visitors annually. and first college, Harvard College (1636), in neighboring Cambridge. Boston was also home to the first subway system in the United States.
Through land reclamation and municipal annexation, Boston has expanded beyond the peninsula. With many colleges and universities within the city and surrounding area, Boston is a center of higher education and a center for medicine. The city's economy is also based on research, finance, and technology – principally biotechnology. Boston has been experiencing gentrification and has one of the highest costs of living in the United States.
HistoryBoston was founded on September 17 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. Boston's early European settlers first called the area Trimountaine, but later renamed the town after Boston, Lincolnshire, England, from which several prominent colonists had emigrated. Massachusetts Bay Colony's original governor, John Winthrop, gave a famous sermon entitled "A Model of Christian Charity," popularly known as the "City on a Hill" sermon, which captured the idea that Boston had a special covenant with God. (Winthrop also led the signing of the Cambridge Agreement, which is regarded as a key founding document of the city.) Puritan ethics molded a stable and well-structured society in Boston. For example, shortly after Boston's settlement, Puritans founded America's first public school, Boston Latin School (1635),
In the 1770s, British attempts to exert more stringent control on the thirteen colonies, primarily via taxation, prompted Bostonians to initiate the American Revolution.
The Embargo Act of 1807, adopted during the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 significantly curtailed Boston's harbor activity. Although foreign trade returned after these hostilities, Boston's merchants had found alternatives for their capital investments in the interim. Manufacturing became an important component of the city's economy and by the mid-1800s, the city's industrial manufacturing overtook international trade in economic importance. Until the early 1900s, Boston remained one of the nation's largest manufacturing centers, and was notable for its garment production and leather goods industries. The city reacted strongly to the Fugitive Slave Law, which contributed to President Franklin Pierce's attempt to make an example of Boston after the Burns Fugitive Slave Case.
In the 1820s, Boston's population began to swell and the city's ethnic composition changed dramatically with the first wave of European immigrants. Irish immigrants dominated the first wave of newcomers during this period. By 1850, about 35,000 Irish lived in Boston. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the city saw increasing numbers of Irish, Germans, Lebanese, French Canadians, and Russian and Polish Jews settle in the city. By the end of the nineteenth century, Boston's core neighborhoods had become enclaves of ethnically distinct immigrants – Italians inhabited the North End, the Irish dominated South Boston, and Russian Jews lived in the West End.
Irish and Italian immigrants brought with them Roman Catholicism. Currently, Catholics make up Boston's largest religious community and since the early twentieth century the Irish have played a major role in Boston politics—prominent figures include the Kennedys, Tip O'Neill, and John F. Fitzgerald.
Between 1630 and 1890, the city tripled its physical size by land reclamation, by filling in marshes, mud flats, and gaps between wharves along the waterfront, a process Walter Muir Whitehill called "cutting down the hills to fill the coves." The largest reclamation efforts took place during the 1800s. Beginning in 1807, the crown of Beacon Hill was used to fill in a 50-acre (20 ha) mill pond that later became Haymarket Square. The present-day State House sits atop this shortened Beacon Hill. Reclamation projects in the middle of the century created significant parts of the South End, West End, the Financial District, and Chinatown. After The Great Boston Fire of 1872, workers used building rubble as landfill along the downtown waterfront. During the mid-to-late nineteenth century, workers filled almost 600 acres (2.4 km²) of brackish Charles River marshlands west of the Boston Common with gravel brought by rail from the hills of Needham Heights. In addition, the city annexed the adjacent towns of Roxbury (1868), Dorchester (1870), Brighton, West Roxbury (including present day Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and West Roxbury), and Charlestown. The last three towns were annexed in 1874.
The first community health center in the United States was the Columbia Point Health Center in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. It was opened in December 1965 and served mostly the massive Columbia Point public housing complex adjoining it. It was founded by two medical doctors, Jack Geiger of Harvard University and Count Gibson of Tufts University. It is still in operation and was re-dedicated in 1990 as the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center.
Owing to its early founding, Boston is very compact. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 89.6 square miles (232.1 km²)—48.4 square miles (125.4 km²) of it is land and 41.2 square miles (106.7 km²) (46.0%) of it is water. This compares with cities of comparable population such as Denver at 154.9 square miles (401 km²) and Charlotte, North Carolina at 280.5 square miles (726 km²). Of United States cities over 500,000 in population, only San Francisco is smaller in land area. Boston's official elevation, as measured at Logan International Airport, is 19 feet (5.8 m) above sea level. The highest point in Boston is Bellevue Hill at 330 feet (101 m) above sea level, while the lowest point is at sea level.
Boston is surrounded by the "Greater Boston" region, and bordered by the cities and towns of Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Watertown, Newton, Brookline, Needham, Dedham, Canton, Milton, and Quincy.
Much of the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods are built on reclaimed land—all of the earth from two of Boston's three original hills, the "trimount", was used as landfill material. Only Beacon Hill, the smallest of the three original hills, remains partially intact; just half of its height was cut down for landfill. The downtown area and immediate surroundings consist mostly of low-rise brick or stone buildings, with many older buildings in the Federal style. Several of these buildings mix in with modern high-rises, notably in the Financial District, Government Center, the South Boston waterfront, and Back Bay, which includes many prominent landmarks such as the Boston Public Library, Christian Science Center, Copley Square, Newbury Street, and New England's two tallest buildings: the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Center. Near the John Hancock Tower is the old John Hancock Building with its prominent weather forecast beacon—whatever light illuminates gives an indication of weather to come: "steady blue. clear view; flashing blue, clouds are due; steady red, rain ahead; flashing red, snow instead." (In the summer, flashing red indicates instead that a Red Sox game has been rained out.) Smaller commercial areas are interspersed among single-family homes and wooden/brick multi-family row houses. Currently, the South End Historic District remains the largest surviving contiguous Victorian-era neighborhood in the U.S.
Along with downtown, the geography of South Boston was particularly impacted by the Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project (or the "Big Dig"). The unstable reclaimed land in South Boston posed special problems for the project's tunnels. In the downtown area, the CA/T Project allowed for the removal of the unsightly elevated Central Artery and the incorporation of new green spaces and open areas.
Boston Common, located near the Financial District and Beacon Hill, is the oldest public park in the U.S. Along with the adjacent Boston Public Garden, it is part of the Emerald Necklace, a string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to encircle the city. Franklin Park, which is also part of the Emerald Necklace, is the city's largest park and houses a zoo. Another major park is the Esplanade located along the banks of the Charles River. Other parks are scattered throughout the city, with the major parks and beaches located near Castle Island, in Charlestown and along the Dorchester, South Boston, and East Boston shorelines.
The Charles River separates Boston proper from Cambridge, Watertown, and the neighborhood of Charlestown. To the east lies Boston Harbor and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The Neponset River forms the boundary between Boston's southern neighborhoods and the city of Quincy and the town of Milton. The Mystic River separates Charlestown from Chelsea and Everett, while Chelsea Creek and Boston Harbor separate East Boston from Boston proper.
ClimateBoston has what may basically be described as a continental climate, such as is very common in New England. Summers are typically hot and humid, while winters are cold, windy and snowy. Prevailing wind patterns that blow offshore affect Boston, minimizing the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.
February in Boston has seen 70 °F (21 °C) only once in recorded history, on February 24, 1985. The maximum temperature recorded in March was 90 °F (32 °C), on March 31, 1998. Spring in Boston can be warm, with temperatures as high as the 90s when winds are offshore, though it is just as possible for a day in late May to remain in the lower 40s due to cool ocean waters. The hottest month is July, with an average high of 82 °F (28 °C) and average low of 66 °F (18 °C), with conditions usually humid. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 36 °F (2 °C) and an average low of 22 °F (-6 °C). Periods exceeding in summer and below in winter are not uncommon, but rarely prolonged. The record high temperature is 104 °F (40 °C), recorded July 4 1911. The record low temperature is -18 °F (-28 °C), recorded on February 9 1934.
The city averages about 42 in (108 cm) of precipitation a year, with 40.9 in (104 cm) of snowfall a year. Snowfall increases dramatically as one goes inland away from the city and the warming influence of the ocean. Most snowfall occurs December through March, usually with little or no snow in April and November and rare snow events in May and October.
Boston's coastal location on the North Atlantic, though it moderates temperatures, also makes the city very prone to Nor'easter weather systems that can produce much snow and rain. Fog is prevalent, particularly in spring and early summer, and the occasional tropical storm or hurricane can threaten the region, especially in early autumn.