City Square has been the town center of Charlestown since 1629. It was in this year that an Englishman named Thomas Graves settled in the area and began development of the square (originally known as Market Square) and laying out a pattern of streets from its center. Within a year, approximately one-thousand additional settlers moved into the area including the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop. A home for the governor was constructed within the center of Market Square and appropriately titled the Great House. Unfortunately Governor Winthrop would only maintain his residency here for a few months before he (along with many other residents) decided to resettle in the fall of 1630 into the Shawmut Peninsula, which today is better recognized as Boston. As to the former Governor’s home, it was transformed into a tavern named the Three Cranes in 1635. The building remained within the square until 1775 when it was destroyed via cannon fire as part of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Today, an outline of the foundation of where the Great House resided is outlined via a series of stones within the center of the square.
The Great House wasn’t the only casualty during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. The entire area surrounding Charlestown Square (as it was later redubbed) was destroyed and had to be reconstructed after the war. Unfortunately in 1835, about sixty years after it had been decimated once, the city center again faced a devastating fate when it was destroyed by fire. Resiliently the town once again rebuilt and in 1848 Charlestown Square was officially renamed City Square.
City Square received a major facelift in 1901 when the elevated rail was constructed right through the heart of the park. Once a vibrant park space had now been transformed to an eyesore that was covered in shadows and noise. The elevated rail would fortunately be removed in 1975 but it would take another twenty years before the neighboring elevated highways would also be removed to allow for a full retransformation.
City Square Park was officially re-established in 1996 and once again provides a vibrant space for residents and visitors to Charlestown. Today the park contains more than seventy varieties of plant life and also a large fountain by David Phillips. The fountain contains two basins. Atop the fountain’s slender centerpiece is a weathervane with a crane, symbolic of the Three Carnes Tavern which once resided nearby.
Just outside of the park, along the wall facing Chelsea Street is a plaque commemorating Paul Revere. On April 18, 1775, Paul began his infamous Midnight Ride here within City Square. After having crossed over to Charlestown from Boston, he acquired a horse at this site from Deacon John Larkin to begin his journey to Lexington and Concord. The plaque was donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Address: City Square, Boston, MA
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Boston’s Freedom Trail. (Coming Summer 2013.)