City Document — No. 20,
Committo m i\ liiWic Common.
PRINTED FOR THE CITY COUNCIL.
(fTttti of Hoitbui'a
In Board of Aldermen, Dec. 17, 1855.
Read and laid upon the table and ordered to be printed.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, Cily Cleric.
The Committee on Public Property, to which was referred the
subject of the purchase for the use of the City of a PubHc
Square or Common, respectfully
REPORT, IN PART.
It requires no argument to prove that every dense population
should have in its midst some public ground, some spacious field,
open to all the citizens for all the purposes to which such grounds
are usually applied.
Even in the old world, in days when the general good was
less considered than it now is, and when the laws of health
for communities were less regarded than they now are, these
reservations were made, and now they form some of the most
interesting and pleasing scenes and healthful promenades and
drives in the famous cities of Europe. Our forefathers, too,
even when an unoccupied continent was open before them, did, in
many instances, provide for this want of civilization ; and when-
ever the citizen or traveller admires, from the Battery of New
York, the magnificent prospect of ocean and landscape and com-
4 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 20.
merce there spread out, or when, upon Boston Common, he in-
hales the healthful breeze, or enjoys the beauties of nature and
art there combined in one brilliant panorama, he blesses the be-
nevolent forecast of our ancestors, which in days of penury, toil
and danger through which the colonies struggled into life, antici-
pated the wants and provided for the happiness of races then
It is now for us to determine whether in this matter we shall,
as did our fathers, provide for the coming generations. It is not
always true, although a frequent saying, that posterity may pro-
vide for itself. Many things may be better done for the future
than in or hy the future. Prospective legislation may be a duty
as imperative as that whose objects are present and instant.
It would hardly be asserted that a Pubhc Square or Common
is a necessity in a country village, whose dwellings and population
are sparsely distributed, and where few, if any, changes are made
in the scenery and features of nature.
But where a dense population is gathered, the case is widely
different. The laws of health, as it is dependent on pure venti-
lation, taste, an artificial, yet legitimate refinement, all these
would be regarded by the reservation of pubhc ornamental grounds.
That the City of Roxbury, even before the present actors in life's
drama have left the busy stage, will be so densely settled as to
make a Public Common a public good, a brief reference to statis-
tics and well-known facts will make manifest.
In May, 1850, the population of Roxbury was 15,012, in June,
1855, within the same limits were 18,700.
With the increased facihty of communication with the metropo-
lis, caused by the Metropolitan railroad, shortly to be in opera-
tion, and the rapid growth of Boston, (doubling its population in
twelve years,) it cannot be doubted that in twenty years we shall
REPORT ON A PUBLIC COMMON. 6
have 40,000 people within our borders ; for the growth of our
prosperous neighbor hastens our own settlement ; the two cities
have a common lot ; already the line of division between them is
but an ideal line, a legal distinction. The citizens of each do
business in and reside in the other ; the veins and arteries of
each are intermixed, and the healthy circulation of a common
blood makes the whole one vigorous existence.
It is then no spirit of prophecy, it is no vision of the imagina-
tion, it is simply a calculation founded on well-known data, which
assures us that in a very brief space of time a crowded popula-
tion will occupy our grounds, covering our pleasant hills and val-
leys with the dwellings of a prosperous and refined community.
To such a community a Pubhc Common or Square will be a pub-
As a matter of immediate policy, too, your Committee consider
that something may well be done by us in this behalf. For,
in the competition for the surplus population of our growing neigh-
bor, it is our interest to offer every attraction which may make
this desirable as a place of residence. That money is well laid
out which increases the demand for our real estate, and which
thus increases the number of tax-payers, and swells the assessable
value of the city.
It follows from these views, that, now or never, early or
not at all, this idea of a Public Common must be entertained and
be expressed in action. For as lands are taken up, a purchase
becomes more difficult both in selection of locality and in price,
and thus what might now be obtained on moderate terms, be-
comes too costly to be procured at all.
Your. Committee are therefore unanimously of the opinion,
that early measures should be taken by the City Council for
the purchase of a tract of land to be laid out as public
6 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 20.
ground for the use of the citizens : and they submit the follow-
ing order : —
Ordered, in concurrence, That the Committee on Public Prop-
erty be authorized to ascertain what tracts of land can be pur-
chased suitable for a Public Common, and on what terms, and
By order of and for the Committee,
December 17, 1855.