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Lewis Cohen's John Singleton Copley, with Copley Square, Trinity Church, and the John Hancock Tower behind
The Boston Public Library's McKim Building, seen across Dartmouth St. from the Square
Copley Square Fountain
Copley Square fountain, with Old South Church tower in distance

Copley Square named for painter John Singleton Copley, is a public square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, bounded by Boylston Street, Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue, and Dartmouth Street. Prior to 1883 it was known as Art Square due to its many cultural institutions, some of which remain today. It was proposed as a Boston Landmark.


Within the Square are several architectural landmarks:

Notable buildings later demolished:

  • Chapel Hill – Chauncy Hall School (c. 1874, demolished 1908), a tall-gabled High Victorian brick school building on Boylston St. near Dartmouth Street
  • Museum of Fine Arts (1876, demolished 1910) by John Hubbard Sturgis and Charles Brigham in the Gothic Revival style, was the first purpose-built public art museum in the world.
  • S.S. Pierce Building, (1887, demolished 1958) by S. Edwin Tobey, "no masterpiece of architecture, [but] great urban design. A heap of dark Romanesque masonry..."
  • Hotel Westminster, Trinity Place, by Henry E. Cregier of Chicago in 1897; now replaced by the northeast corner of the new John Hancock Tower.


Boston 1888 Sampson ArtSquare
Detail of 1888 map, showing Art Square and vicinity. The map shows West End Street Railway trolley lines entering the square from Huntington Avenue (southwest), Clarendon Street (north), and Boylston Street (east).

A significant number of important Boston educational and cultural institutions were originally located adjacent to (or very near) Copley Square, reflecting 19th-century Boston's aspirations for the location as a center of culture and progress. These included the Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, the New England Museum of Natural History (today's Museum of Science), Trinity Church, the New Old South Church, the Boston Public Library, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Normal Art School (today's Massachusetts College of Art and Design), the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, Boston University, Emerson College, and Northeastern University.

Known as Art Square until 1883, Copley Square was originally cut diagonally by Huntington Avenue; it took its present form in 1961 when Huntington Avenue was truncated at the corner of Dartmouth Street, the Square partially paved, and a pyramidal fountain sculpture added. In 1991, after further changes including a new fountain, the new Copley Square Park was dedicated. The nonprofit Friends of Copley Square raises funds for care of the square's plantings, fountain, and monuments.

The Boston Marathon foot race has finished at Copley Square since 1986. A memorial celebrating the race's 100th running (in 1996) is located in the park, near the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets.

Boston Marathon bombing

On April 15, 2013, around 2:50 pm (about three hours after the first runners crossed the line) two bombs exploded—​one near the finish line near the Boston Public Library, the other some seconds later and one block west. Three people were killed and at least 183 injured, at least 14 of whom lost limbs.


Copley is served by several forms of public transportation:

  • Copley Station on the MBTA Green Line
  • Several MBTA bus routes; the square is a major transfer point and terminal for several local and express routes
  • Logan Express to Logan International Airport
  • Nearby Back Bay station for MBTA Orange Line, MBTA Commuter Rail, and Amtrak

Major roads:

  • Massachusetts Turnpike
  • Boylston Street

  • Aldrich, Megan. Gothic Revival. Phaidon Press Ltd: 1994. ISBN: 0-7148-2886-6.
  • Bunting, Bainbridge. Houses of Boston's Back Bay: An Architectural History, 1840-1917. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: 1967. ISBN: 0-674-40901-9.
  • Forbes, Esther, and Arthur Griffin. The Boston Book. Houghton Mifflin Company: 1947.
  • Holtz Kay, Jane. Lost Boston. Houghton Mifflin: 1999. ISBN: 0-395-96610-8.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "The Gods of Copley Square: Dawn of the Modern American Experience, 1865-1915",, 2009.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "Built in Boston, City and Suburb, 1800-2000". Little, Brown. (Third edition) 1999.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "Renaissance Rome and Emersonian Boston: Michelangelo and Sargent, between Triumph and Doubt", Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2002, 995-1008.

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