Local city information for Boston, MA
(pronounced ) is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is considered the economic and cultural center of the region, and is sometimes regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England". Boston city proper had a 2007 estimated population of 608,352, making it the twenty-first largest in the country. Boston is also the anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area called Greater Boston, home to 4.5 million people and the tenth-largest metropolitan area in the country. Greater Boston as a commuting region includes parts of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine; it includes 7.5 million people, making it the fifth-largest Combined Statistical Area in the United States.
In 1630, Puritan colonists from England founded the city on the Shawmut Peninsula. During the late 18th 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. Through land reclamation and municipal annexation, Boston has expanded beyond the peninsula. 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. The city was the site of several firsts, including America's first public school, Boston Latin School (1635), and first college, Harvard College (1636), in neighboring Cambridge. Boston was also home to the first subway system in the United States.
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, electronics, engineering, finance, and technology—principally biotechnology. Boston ranks first in the country in jobs per square mile ahead of New York City and Washington, D.C. The city has been experiencing gentrification and has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, though it remains high on world livability rankings.
Boston was founded on September 17, 1630, by Puritan colonists from England. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony are sometimes confused with the Pilgrims, who founded Plymouth Colony ten years earlier in what is today Bristol County, Plymouth County, and Barnstable County, Massachusetts. The two groups, which differed in religious practice, are historically distinct. The separate colonies were not united until the formation of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691.
The Shawmut Peninsula was connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus and was surrounded by the waters of Massachusetts Bay and the Back Bay, an estuary of the Charles River. Several prehistoric Native American archaeological sites that were excavated in the city have shown that the peninsula was inhabited as early as 5,000 BC.
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),
and America's first college, Harvard College (1636). Boston was the largest town in British North America until Philadelphia grew larger in the mid-18th century.
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 Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and several early battles—including the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston—occurred in or near the city. During this period, Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride. After the Revolution, Boston had become one of the world's wealthiest international trading ports because of the city's consolidated seafaring tradition—exports included rum, fish, salt, and tobacco. During this era, descendants of old Boston families were regarded as the nation's social and cultural elites; they were later dubbed the Boston Brahmins
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.
A network of small rivers bordering the city and connecting it to the surrounding region made for easy shipment of goods and led to a proliferation of mills and factories. Later, a dense network of railroads facilitated the region's industry and commerce. From the mid-19th to late 19th century, Boston flourished culturally; it became renowned for its rarefied literary culture and lavish artistic patronage. It also became a center of the abolitionist movement.
The city reacted strongly to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which contributed to President Franklin Pierce's attempt to make an example of Boston after the Burns Fugitive Slave Case.
thumb in the 1880s]]
In 1822, the citizens of Boston voted to change the official name from "the Town of Boston" to "the City of Boston", and on March 4, 1822, the people of Boston accepted the charter incorporating the City.
At the time Boston was chartered as a city, the population was about 46,226, while the area of the city was only .
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 19th century, the city saw increasing numbers of Irish, Germans, Lebanese, Syrians,
French Canadians, and Russian and Polish Jews settle in the city. By the end of the 19th century, Boston's core neighborhoods had become enclaves of ethnically distinct immigrants—Italians inhabited the North End, Irish dominated South Boston and Charlestown, 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 20th century, the Irish have played a major role in Boston politics—prominent figures include the Kennedys, Tip O'Neill, and John F. Fitzgerald.
Between 1631 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 that 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 the Haymarket Square area. The present-day State House sits atop this lowered Beacon Hill. Reclamation projects in the middle of the century created significant parts of the South End, the 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 19th 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. Also, 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. Other towns include Hyde Park, Mattapan, and East Boston.
By the early 20th and mid-20th century, the city was in decline as factories became old and obsolete, and businesses moved out of the region for cheaper labor elsewhere.
Boston responded by initiating various urban renewal projects under the direction of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which was established in 1957. In 1958, BRA initiated a project to improve the historic West End neighborhood. Extensive demolition was met with vociferous public opposition to the new agency.
BRA subsequently reevaluated its approach to urban renewal in its future projects, including the construction of Government Center. In 1965, the first Community Health Center in the United States opened, the Columbia Point Health Center, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. It mostly served the massive Columbia Point public housing complex adjoining it, which was built in 1953. The health center is still in operation and was rededicated in 1990 as the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center.
thumb, located on the Columbia Point peninsula, 2007]]
By the 1970s, the city's economy boomed after 30 years of economic downturn. Hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital led the nation in medical innovation and patient care. Schools such as Harvard University, MIT, Tufts University, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University attracted students to the Boston area. Nevertheless, the city experienced conflict starting in 1974 over desegregation busing, which resulted in unrest and violence around public schools throughout the mid-1970s. In 1984, the City of Boston gave control of the Columbia Point public housing complex to a private developer, who redeveloped and revitalized the property from its rundown and dangerous state into an attractive residential mixed-income community called Harbor Point Apartments, which was opened in 1988 and completed by 1990. It was the first federal housing project to be converted to private, mixed-income housing in the United States, and was used as a model for the federal HUD HOPE VI public housing revitalization program that began in 1992.
thumb has been experiencing gentrification since the completion of the Big Dig in the early 2000s, which moved the elevated Central Artery freeway mostly into tunnels. This has also been changing the traditional Italian American culture of the area.]]
In the early 21st century, the city has become an intellectual, technological, and political center. It has, however, experienced a loss of regional institutions,
which included the acquisition of The Boston Globe
by The New York Times
, and the loss to mergers and acquisitions of local financial institutions such as FleetBoston Financial, which was acquired by Charlotte-based Bank of America in 2004. Boston-based department stores Jordan Marsh and Filene's have both been merged into the New York-based Macy's. Boston has also experienced gentrification in the latter half of the 20th century, with housing prices increasing sharply since the 1990s. Living expenses have risen, and Boston has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, and was ranked the 99th most expensive major city in the world in a 2008 survey of 143 cities. Despite cost, Boston ranks high on livability ratings, ranking 35th worldwide in quality of living in 2009 in a survey of 215 major cities.
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