Boston facts for kids
|City of Boston|
Nickname(s): See Boston nicknames
Motto: Sicut patribus sit Deus nobis (Latin)
|Historic countries|| Kingdom of England
Kingdom of Great Britain
|Historic colonies||Massachusetts Bay Colony in the Province of Massachusetts Bay|
September 7, 1630
(date of naming, Old Style)
|Incorporated (city)||March 4, 1822|
|Named for||Boston, Lincolnshire|
|• State capital||89.63 sq mi (232.14 km2)|
|• Land||48.42 sq mi (125.41 km2)|
|• Water||41.21 sq mi (106.73 km2)|
|• Urban||1,770 sq mi (4,600 km2)|
|• Metro||4,500 sq mi (11,700 km2)|
|• CSA||10,600 sq mi (27,600 km2)|
|Elevation||141 ft (43 m)|
|Population (2015 estimate)|
|• State capital||667,137|
|• Density||13,841/sq mi (5,344/km2)|
|• Urban||4,180,000 (US: 10th)|
|• Metro||4,628,910 (US: 10th)|
|• CSA||8,041,303 (US: 6th)|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|Area codes||617 and 857|
|GNIS feature ID||0617565|
Boston (pronounced i// BOSS-tən) is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. Boston is also the seat of Suffolk County, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 667,137 in 2015, making it the largest city in New England and the 23rd most populous city in the United States. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.7 million people in 2014 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. Alternately, as a Combined Statistical Area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.1 million people, making it the sixth-largest as such in the United States.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston was founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston. Upon U.S. independence from Great Britain, it continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub as well as a center for education and culture. Through land reclamation and municipal annexation, Boston has expanded beyond the original peninsula. Its rich history attracts many tourists, with Faneuil Hall alone drawing over 20 million visitors per year. Boston's many firsts include the United States' first public school, Boston Latin School (1635), first subway system, the Tremont Street Subway (1897), and first public park, Boston Common (1634).
The area's many colleges and universities make Boston an international center of higher education, including law, medicine, engineering, and business, and the city is considered to be a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship with nearly 2,000 startups. Boston's economic base also includes finance, professional and business services, biotechnology, information technology, and government activities. Households in the city claim the highest average rate of philanthropy in the United States; businesses and institutions rank among the top in the country for environmental sustainability and investment. The city has one of the highest costs of living in the United States as it has undergone gentrification, though it remains high on world livability rankings.
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Boston's early European settlers had first called the area Trimountaine (after its "three mountains," only traces of which remain today) but later renamed it Boston after Boston, Lincolnshire, England, the origin of several prominent colonists. The renaming on September 7, 1630 (Old Style) was by Puritan colonists from England who had moved over from Charlestown earlier that year in quest of fresh water. Their settlement was initially limited to the Shawmut Peninsula, at that time surrounded by the Massachusetts Bay and Charles River and connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The peninsula is thought to have been inhabited as early as 5000 BC.
In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor John Winthrop led the signing of the Cambridge Agreement, a key founding document of the city. Puritan ethics and their focus on education influenced its early history; America's first public school was founded in Boston in 1635. Over the next 130 years, the city participated in four French and Indian Wars, until the British defeated the French and their Indian allies in North America. Boston was the largest town in British North America until Philadelphia grew larger in the mid 18th century.
Revolution through War of 1812
Many of the crucial events of the American Revolution occurred in or near Boston, including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's midnight ride, the battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, the Siege of Boston, and many others. After the Revolution, Boston's long seafaring tradition helped make it one of the world's wealthiest international ports, with the slave trade, rum, fish, salt, and tobacco being particularly important.
Boston's harbor activity was significantly curtailed by the Embargo Act of 1807 (adopted during the Napoleonic Wars) and the War of 1812. Foreign trade returned after these hostilities, but Boston's merchants had found alternatives for their capital investments in the interim. Manufacturing became an important component of the city's economy, and the city's industrial manufacturing overtook international trade in economic importance by the mid-19th century. Boston remained one of the nation's largest manufacturing centers until the early 20th century, 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 facilitated shipment of goods and led to a proliferation of mills and factories. Later, a dense network of railroads furthered the region's industry and commerce.
During this period, Boston flourished culturally, as well, admired for its rarefied literary life and generous artistic patronage, with members of old Boston families—eventually dubbed Boston Brahmins—coming to be regarded as the nation's social and cultural elites.
Boston was an early port of the Atlantic triangular slave trade in the New England colonies, but was soon overtaken by Salem, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island. Boston eventually became a center of the abolitionist movement. The city reacted strongly to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, contributing to President Franklin Pierce's attempt to make an example of Boston after the Anthony Burns Fugitive Slave Case.
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 4.7 square miles (12 km2).
In the 1820s, Boston's population grew rapidly, 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, especially following the Irish Potato Famine; 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 settling 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 the Irish have played a major role in Boston politics since the early 20th century; prominent figures include the Kennedys, Tip O'Neill, and John F. Fitzgerald.
Between 1631 and 1890, the city tripled its area through land reclamation by filling in marshes, mud flats, and gaps between wharves along the waterfront. The largest reclamation efforts took place during the 19th century; 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 Boston Common with gravel brought by rail from the hills of Needham Heights. The city annexed the adjacent towns of South Boston (1804), East Boston (1836), Roxbury (1868), Dorchester (including present day Mattapan and a portion of South Boston) (1870), Brighton (including present day Allston) (1874), West Roxbury (including present day Jamaica Plain and Roslindale) (1874), Charlestown (1874), and Hyde Park (1912). Other proposals were unsuccessful for the annexation of Brookline, Cambridge, and Chelsea,
The city went into decline by the early to mid-20th century, 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) established in 1957. In 1958, BRA initiated a project to improve the historic West End neighborhood. Extensive demolition was met with strong public opposition.
The BRA subsequently re-evaluated its approach to urban renewal in its future projects, including the construction of Government Center. In 1965, the Columbia Point Health Center opened in the Dorchester neighborhood, the first Community Health Center in the United States. 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. The Columbia Point complex itself was redeveloped and revitalized from 1984 to 1990 into a mixed-income community called Harbor Point Apartments.
By the 1970s, the city's economy had recovered after 30 years of economic downturn. A large number of high rises were constructed in the Financial District and in Boston's Back Bay during this time period. This boom continued into the mid-1980s and resumed after a few pauses. Hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital lead the nation in medical innovation and patient care. Schools such as Boston College, Boston University, the Harvard Medical School, Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Berklee College of Music, and Boston Conservatory attract students to the 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.
Boston is an intellectual, technological, and political center but has lost some important regional institutions, including 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 Cincinnati–based Macy's. The 1993 acquisition of The Boston Globe by The New York Times was reversed in 2013 when it was re-sold to Boston businessman John W. Henry. In 2016, it was announced that General Electric would be moving its corporate headquarters from Connecticut to the Innovation District in South Boston, joining many other companies in this rapidly developing neighborhood.
Boston has experienced gentrification in the latter half of the 20th century, with housing prices increasing sharply since the 1990s. Living expenses have risen; Boston has one of the highest costs of living in the United States and was ranked the 129th most expensive major city in the world in a 2011 survey of 214 cities. Despite cost of living issues, Boston ranks high on livability ratings, ranking 36th worldwide in quality of living in 2011 in a survey of 221 major cities.
On April 15, 2013, two Chechen Islamist brothers detonated a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring roughly 264.
Boston has an area of 89.6 square miles (232.1 km2)—48.4 square miles (125.4 km2) (54.0%) of land and 41.2 square miles (106.7 km2) (46.0%) of water. The city's official elevation, as measured at Logan International Airport, is 19 ft (5.8 m) above sea level. The highest point in Boston is Bellevue Hill at 330 feet (100 m) above sea level, and the lowest point is at sea level. Situated onshore of the Atlantic Ocean, Boston is the only state capital in the contiguous United States with an oceanic coastline.
The geographical center of Boston is in Roxbury. Due north of the center we find the South End. This is not to be confused with South Boston which lies directly east from the South End. North of the South End is East Boston and southwest of East Boston is the North End.
– Author, Unknown – A common local colloquialism
Boston is surrounded by the "Greater Boston" region and is contiguously bordered by the cities and towns of Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Watertown, Newton, Brookline, Needham, Dedham, Canton, Milton, and Quincy. The Charles River separates Boston from Watertown and the majority of Cambridge, and the mass of Boston from its own Charlestown neighborhood. To the east lie Boston Harbor and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (which includes part of the city's territory, specifically Calf Island, Gallops Island, Great Brewster Island, Green Island, Little Brewster Island, Little Calf Island, Long Island, Lovells Island, Middle Brewster Island, Nixes Mate, Outer Brewster Island, Rainsford Island, Shag Rocks, Spectacle Island, The Graves, and Thompson Island). 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, and Chelsea Creek and Boston Harbor separate East Boston from Boston proper.
Boston is sometimes called a "city of neighborhoods" because of the profusion of diverse subsections; the city government's Office of Neighborhood Services has officially designated 23 neighborhoods. More than two-thirds of inner Boston's modern land area did not exist when the city was founded, but was created via the gradual filling in of the surrounding tidal areas over the centuries, notably with earth from leveling or lowering Boston's three original hills (the "Trimountain", after which Tremont Street is named) and with gravel brought by train from Needham to fill the Back Bay.
Downtown and its immediate surroundings consist largely of low-rise masonry buildings (often Federal style and Greek Revival) interspersed with modern highrises, notably in the Financial District, Government Center, and South Boston. Back Bay 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 illuminated beacon, the color of which forecasts the weather. Smaller commercial areas are interspersed among areas of single-family homes and wooden/brick multi-family row houses. The South End Historic District is the largest surviving contiguous Victorian-era neighborhood in the US. The geography of downtown and South Boston was particularly affected by the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (known unofficially as the "Big Dig") which removed the unsightly elevated Central Artery and incorporated new green spaces and open areas.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Boston has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa or Dfb) that borders a humid subtropical climate or a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen Cfa or Cfb) with some maritime influence. Despite its climate, the city lies at the transition between USDA plant hardiness zones 6b (most of the city) and 7a (Downtown, South Boston, and East Boston neighborhoods). Summers are typically warm to hot, rainy, and humid, while winters oscillate between periods of cold rain and snow, with cold temperatures. Spring and fall are usually mild, with varying conditions dependent on wind direction and jet stream positioning. Prevailing wind patterns that blow offshore minimize the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.
The hottest month is July, with a mean temperature of 73.4 °F (23.0 °C). The coldest month is January, with a mean of 29.0 °F (−1.7 °C). Periods exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) in summer and below freezing in winter are not uncommon but rarely extended, with about 13 and 25 days per year seeing each, respectively. The most recent sub-0 °F (−18 °C) reading occurred on February 14, 2016, when the temperature dipped down to −9 °F (−23 °C), the coldest reading since 1957. In addition, several decades may pass between 100 °F (38 °C) readings, with the most recent such occurrence on July 22, 2011, when the temperature reached 103 °F (39 °C). The city's average window for freezing temperatures is November 9 through April 5. Official temperature records have ranged from −18 °F (−28 °C) on February 9, 1934, up to 104 °F (40 °C) on July 4, 1911; the record cold daily maximum is 2 °F (−17 °C) on December 30, 1917, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 83 °F (28 °C) on August 2, 1975.
Boston's coastal location on the North Atlantic moderates its temperature, but makes the city very prone to Nor'easter weather systems that can produce much snow and rain. The city averages 43.8 inches (1,110 mm) of precipitation a year, with 43.8 inches (111 cm) of snowfall per season. Snowfall increases dramatically as one goes inland away from the city (especially north and west of the city)—away from the moderating influence of the ocean. Most snowfall occurs from December through March, as most years see no measurable snow in April and November, and snow is rare in May and October. There is also high year-to-year variability in snowfall; for instance, the winter of 2011–12 saw only 9.3 in (23.6 cm) of accumulating snow, but the previous winter, the corresponding figure was 81.0 in (2.06 m).
Fog is fairly common, particularly in spring and early summer, and the occasional tropical storm or hurricane can threaten the region, especially in late summer and early autumn. Due to its situation along the North Atlantic, the city often receives sea breezes, especially in the late spring, when water temperatures are still quite cold and temperatures at the coast can be more than 20 °F (11 °C) colder than a few miles inland, sometimes dropping by that amount near midday. Thunderstorms occur from May to September, that are occasionally severe with large hail, damaging winds and heavy downpours. Although downtown Boston has never been struck by a violent tornado, the city itself has experienced many tornado warnings. Damaging storms are more common to areas north, west, and northwest of the city. Boston has a relatively sunny climate for a coastal city at its latitude, averaging over 2,600 hours of sunshine per annum.
|Climate data for Boston (Logan Airport), 1981−2010 normals, extremes 1872−present|
|Record high °F (°C)||72
|Average high °F (°C)||35.8
|Average low °F (°C)||22.2
|Record low °F (°C)||−13
|Precipitation inches (mm)||3.36
|Snowfall inches (cm)||12.9
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||11.3||9.8||11.6||11.2||12.0||10.9||9.6||9.4||8.6||9.4||10.6||11.6||126.0|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||6.7||5.3||4.2||0.7||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0.8||4.6||22.4|
|Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961−1990)|
|* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
In 2016, Boston was estimated to have 667,137 residents (a density of 13,841 persons/sq mile, or 5,344/km2) living in 272,481 housing units— an 8% population increase over 2010. The city is the third most densely populated large U.S. city of over half a million residents. Some 1.2 million persons may be within Boston's boundaries during work hours, and as many as 2 million during special events. This fluctuation of people is caused by hundreds of thousands of suburban residents who travel to the city for work, education, health care, and special events.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.9% at age 19 and under, 14.3% from 20 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males. There were 252,699 households, of which 20.4% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 25.5% were married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% were non-families. 37.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 3.08.
The median household income in Boston was $51,739, while the median income for a family was $61,035. Full-time year-round male workers had a median income of $52,544 versus $46,540 for full-time year-round female workers. The per capita income for the city was $33,158. 21.4% of the population and 16.0% of families are below the poverty line. Of the total population, 28.8% of those under the age of 18 and 20.4% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
In 1950, Whites represented 94.7% of Boston's population. From the 1950s to the end of the 20th century, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites in the city declined; in 2000, non-Hispanic whites made up 49.5% of the city's population, making the city majority-minority for the first time. However, in the 21st century, the city has experienced significant gentrification, in which affluent whites have moved into formerly non-white areas. In 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated that non-Hispanic whites again formed a slight majority. But as of 2010[update], in part due to the housing crash, as well as increased efforts to make more affordable housing more available, the non-white population has rebounded. This may also have to do with increased Latin American and Asian populations and more clarity surrounding US Census statistics, which indicate a non-Hispanic white population of 47 percent (some reports give slightly lower figures).
|White (includes White Hispanics)||52.9%||62.8%||81.8%||96.7%|
|Two or more races||4.5%||–||–||–|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||19.5%||10.8%||2.8%||0.1%|
People of Irish descent form the largest single ethnic group in the city, making up 15.8% of the population, followed by Italians, accounting for 8.3% of the population. People of West Indian and Caribbean ancestry are another sizable group, at 6.0%, about half of whom are of Haitian ancestry. Over 27,000 Chinese Americans made their home in Boston city proper in 2013, and the city hosts a growing Chinatown accommodating heavily traveled Chinese-owned bus lines to and from Chinatown, Manhattan in New York City. Some neighborhoods, such as Dorchester, have received an influx of people of Vietnamese ancestry in recent decades. Neighborhoods such as Jamaica Plain and Roslindale have experienced a growing number of Dominican Americans. The city and greater area also has a growing immigrant population of South Asians, including the tenth-largest Indian community in the country.
The city, especially the East Boston neighborhood, has a significant Hispanic community. In 2010, Hispanics in Boston were mostly of Puerto Rican (30,506 or 4.9% of total city population), Dominican (25,648 or 4.2% of total city population), Salvadoran (10,850 or 1.8% of city population), Colombian (6,649 or 1.1% of total city population), Mexican (5,961 or 1.0% of total city population), and Guatemalan (4,451 or 0.7% of total city population) ethnic origin. Hispanics of all national origins totaled 107,917 in 2010. In Greater Boston, these numbers grew significantly, with Puerto Ricans numbering 175,000+, Dominicans 95,000+, Salvadorans 40,000+, Guatemalans 31,000+, Mexicans 25,000+, and Colombians numbering 22,000+.
Demographic breakdown by ZIP Code
Data is from the 2008–2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
|Rank||ZIP code (ZCTA)||Per capita
|1||02110 (Financial District)||$152,007||$123,795||$196,518||1,486||981|
|2||02199 (Prudential Center)||$151,060||$107,159||$146,786||1,290||823|
|3||02210 (Fort Point)||$93,078||$111,061||$223,411||1,905||1,088|
|4||02109 (North End)||$88,921||$128,022||$162,045||4,277||2,190|
|5||02116 (Back Bay/Bay Village)||$81,458||$87,630||$134,875||21,318||10,938|
|6||02108 (Beacon Hill/Financial District)||$78,569||$95,753||$153,618||4,155||2,337|
|7||02114 (Beacon Hill/West End)||$65,865||$79,734||$169,107||11,933||6,752|
|8||02111 (Chinatown/Financial District/Leather District)||$56,716||$44,758||$88,333||7,616||3,390|
|10||02467 (Chestnut Hill)||$53,382||$113,952||$148,396||22,796||6,351|
|11||02113 (North End)||$52,905||$64,413||$112,589||7,276||4,329|
|12||02132 (West Roxbury)||$44,306||$82,421||$110,219||27,163||11,013|
|13||02118 (South End)||$43,887||$50,000||$49,090||26,779||12,512|
|14||02130 (Jamaica Plain)||$42,916||$74,198||$95,426||36,866||15,306|
|15||02127 (South Boston)||$42,854||$67,012||$68,110||32,547||14,994|
|18||02136 (Hyde Park)||$28,009||$57,080||$74,734||29,219||10,650|
|20||02128 (East Boston)||$23,450||$49,549||$49,470||41,680||14,965|
|21||02122 (Dorchester-Fields Corner)||$23,432||$51,798||$50,246||25,437||8,216|
|22||02124 (Dorchester-Codman Square-Ashmont)||$23,115||$48,329||$55,031||49,867||17,275|
|23||02125 (Dorchester-Uphams Corner-Savin Hill)||$22,158||$42,298||$44,397||31,996||11,481|
|24||02163 (Allston-Harvard Business School)||$21,915||$43,889||$91,190||1,842||562|
|25||02115 (Back Bay/Fenway-Kenmore)||$21,654||$23,677||$50,303||29,178||9,958|
|29||02121 (Dorchester-Mount Bowdoin)||$18,226||$30,419||$35,439||26,801||9,739|
|30||02120 (Mission Hill)||$17,390||$32,367||$29,583||13,217||4,509|
According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of the population of the city identified themselves as Christians, with 25% professing attendance at a variety of churches that could be considered Protestant, and 29% professing Roman Catholic beliefs. while 33% claim no religious affiliation. The same study says that other religions (including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism) collectively make up about 10% of the population.
As of 2010[update] the Catholic Church had the highest number of adherents as a single denomination in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton Metro area, with more than two million members and 339 churches, followed by the Episcopal Church with 58,000 adherents in 160 churches. The United Church of Christ had 55,000 members and 213 churches. The UCC is the successor of the city's Puritan religious traditions. Old South Church in Boston is one of the oldest congregations in the United States. It was organized in 1669 by dissenters from the First Church in Boston (1630). Notable past members include Samuel Adams, William Dawes, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Sewall, and Phillis Wheatley. In 1773, Adams gave the signals from the Old South Meeting House that started the Boston Tea Party.
The city has a sizable Jewish population with an estimated 248,000 Jews within the Boston metro area. More than half of Jewish households in the Greater Boston area reside in the city itself, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, Somerville, or adjacent towns.
Boston shares many cultural roots with greater New England, including a dialect of the non-rhotic Eastern New England accent known as the Boston accent and a regional cuisine with a large emphasis on seafood, salt, and dairy products. Boston also has its own collection of neologisms known as Boston slang.
Boston has been called the "Athens of America" for its literary culture, earning a reputation as "the intellectual capital of the United States." In the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, James Russell Lowell, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in Boston. Some consider the Old Corner Bookstore to be the "cradle of American literature," the place where these writers met and where The Atlantic Monthly was first published. In 1852, the Boston Public Library was founded as the first free library in the United States. Boston's literary culture continues today thanks to the city's many universities and the Boston Book Festival.
Music is afforded a high degree of civic support in Boston. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the "Big Five," a group of the greatest American orchestras, and the classical music magazine Gramophone called it one of the "world's best" orchestras. Symphony Hall (located west of Back Bay) is home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the related Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, which is the largest youth orchestra in the nation, and to the Boston Pops Orchestra. The British newspaper The Guardian called Boston Symphony Hall "one of the top venues for classical music in the world," adding that "Symphony Hall in Boston was where science became an essential part of concert hall design." Other concerts are held at the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall. The Boston Ballet performs at the Boston Opera House. Other performing-arts organizations located in the city include the Boston Lyric Opera Company, Opera Boston, Boston Baroque (the first permanent Baroque orchestra in the US), and the Handel and Haydn Society (one of the oldest choral companies in the United States). The city is a center for contemporary classical music with a number of performing groups, several of which are associated with the city's conservatories and universities. These include the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Boston Musica Viva. Several theaters are located in or near the Theater District south of Boston Common, including the Cutler Majestic Theatre, Citi Performing Arts Center, the Colonial Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre.
There are several major annual events, such as First Night which occurs on New Year's Eve, the Boston Early Music Festival, the annual Boston Arts Festival at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, the annual Boston gay pride parade and festival held in June, and Italian summer feasts in the North End honoring Catholic saints. The city is the site of several events during the Fourth of July period. They include the week-long Harborfest festivities and a Boston Pops concert accompanied by fireworks on the banks of the Charles River.
Several historic sites relating to the American Revolution period are preserved as part of the Boston National Historical Park because of the city's prominent role. Many are found along the Freedom Trail, which is marked by a red line of bricks embedded in the ground.
The city is also home to several art museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Institute of Contemporary Art is housed in a contemporary building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in the Seaport District. Boston's South End Art and Design District (SoWa) and Newbury St. are both art gallery destinations. Columbia Point is the location of the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum. The Boston Athenæum (one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States), Boston Children's Museum, Bull & Finch Pub (whose building is known from the television show Cheers), Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium are within the city.
Boston has been a noted religious center from its earliest days. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston serves nearly 300 parishes and is based in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross (1875) in the South End, while the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts serves just under 200 congregations, with the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (1819) as its episcopal seat. Unitarian Universalism has its headquarters on Beacon Hill. The Christian Scientists are headquartered in Back Bay at the Mother Church (1894). The oldest church in Boston is First Church in Boston, founded in 1630. King's Chapel was the city's first Anglican church, founded in 1686 and converted to Unitarianism in 1785. Other churches include Christ Church (better known as Old North Church, 1723), the oldest church building in the city, Trinity Church (1733), Park Street Church (1809), Old South Church (1874), Jubilee Christian Church, and Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Mission Hill (1878).
Parks and recreation
Boston Common, located near the Financial District and Beacon Hill, is the oldest public park in the United States. 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. The Emerald Necklace includes Jamaica Pond, Boston's largest body of freshwater, and Franklin Park, the city's largest park and home of the Franklin Park Zoo. Another major park is the Esplanade, located along the banks of the Charles River. The Hatch Shell, an outdoor concert venue, is located adjacent to the Charles River Esplanade. 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.
Boston's park system is well-reputed nationally. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land reported that Boston was tied with Sacramento and San Francisco for having the third-best park system among the 50 most populous US cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes the city's median park size, park acres as percent of city area, the percent of residents within a half-mile of a park, spending of park services per resident, and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents.
Logan Airport, located in East Boston and operated by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), is Boston's principal airport. Nearby general aviation airports are Beverly Municipal Airport to the north, Hanscom Field to the west, and Norwood Memorial Airport to the south. Massport also operates several major facilities within the Port of Boston, including a cruise ship terminal and facilities to handle bulk and container cargo in South Boston, and other facilities in Charlestown and East Boston.
Downtown Boston's streets grew organically, so they do not form a planned grid, unlike those in later-developed Back Bay, East Boston, the South End, and South Boston. Boston is the eastern terminus of I-90, which in Massachusetts runs along the Massachusetts Turnpike. The elevated portion of the Central Artery, which carried most of the through traffic in downtown Boston, was replaced with the O'Neill Tunnel during the Big Dig, substantially completed in early 2006.
With nearly a third of Bostonians using public transit for their commute to work, Boston has the fifth-highest rate of public transit usage in the country. Boston's subway system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA—known as the "T") operates the oldest underground rapid transit system in the Americas, and is the fourth-busiest rapid transit system in the country, with 65.5 miles (105 km) of track on four lines. The MBTA also operates busy bus and commuter rail networks, and water shuttles.
Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Chicago lines originate at South Station, which serves as a major intermodal transportation hub, and stop at Back Bay. Fast Northeast Corridor trains, which serve New York City, Washington, D.C., and points in between, also stop at Route 128 Station in the southwestern suburbs of Boston. Meanwhile, Amtrak's Downeaster service to Maine originates at North Station, despite the current lack of a dedicated passenger rail link between the two railhubs, other than the "T" subway lines.
Nicknamed "The Walking City", Boston hosts more pedestrian commuters than do other comparably populated cities. Owing to factors such as the compactness of the city and large student population, 13 percent of the population commutes by foot, making it the highest percentage of pedestrian commuters in the country out of the major American cities. In 2011, Walk Score ranked Boston the third most walkable city in the United States. As of 2015[update], Walk Score still ranks Boston as the third most walkable US city, with a Walk Score of 80, a Transit Score of 75, and a Bike Score of 70.
Between 1999 and 2006, Bicycling magazine named Boston three times as one of the worst cities in the US for cycling; regardless, it has one of the highest rates of bicycle commuting. In 2008, as a consequence of improvements made to bicycling conditions within the city, the same magazine put Boston on its "Five for the Future" list as a "Future Best City" for biking, and Boston's bicycle commuting percentage increased from 1% in 2000 to 2.1% in 2009. The bikeshare program called Hubway launched in late July 2011, logging more than 140,000 rides before the close of its first season. The neighboring municipalities of Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline joined the Hubway program in the summer of 2012. In 2016, there are 1,461 bikes and 158 docking stations across the city. PBSC Urban Solutions provides bicycles and technology for this bike-sharing system.
Institute of Contemporary Art in the revitalized Seaport District of South Boston.
Twin towns and Sister cities
Boston has nine official sister cities as recognized by Sister Cities International.
Boston has less formal friendship or partnership relationships with three additional cities.
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