The nation's oldest and most venerated public park, Boston Common has belonged to the people of Boston since 1634. Throughout its history, it has been a centerpiece of civic life; the scene of executions, sermons, protests, and celebrations; and in each century, host to famous visitors from Generals Washington and Lafayette to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II. In Colonial times, it served as a meeting place, pasture, and military training field. Bostonians in the 19th century added treelined malls and paths and, following the Civil War, monuments and fountains. However, for all its adaptation to modern life, Boston Common remains a green retreat remindful of its storied past.
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