The largest city in New England, Boston is an educational, governmental, and financial center and a leading fishing and commercial port. Its industries include publishing, food processing, and varied manufactures. High-technology research and development and computer and electronic manufacturing industries have flourished in the area, especially in the corridor along Boston's older peripheral highway (Routes 128 and 95). Tourism, much of it attracted by historic sites and cultural assets, has become increasingly important. Redevelopment in "the Hub" since the 1960s has focused on the Back Bay, where the John Hancock and Prudential buildings are New England's tallest, and on the city's compact downtown on the Shawmut Peninsula, where financial and other offices have been developed since the 1970s. Less than one fifth of the metropolitan area's residents, however, live in the city.
Boston cherishes the landmarks of the past, especially in the narrow streets of the colonial city: the 17th-century house in which Paul Revere lived; Old North Church, famous for its part in Revere's "midnight ride"; Old South Meetinghouse, a rallying place for patriots during the Revolution; the old statehouse (1713), now a museum; the Boston Common, one of the oldest public parks in the country; Faneuil Hall; the gold-domed statehouse, designed by Charles Bulfinch; and the red-brick houses of Louisburg Square, among others. Famed Boston churches include King's Chapel, the birthplace of American Unitarianism (1785); the Mother Church of Christian Science; and Trinity Church (1872-77) in Copley Square, designed by H. H. Richardson. Boston Light (1716), at the entrance to Boston Harbor, is the oldest lighthouse in the United States.
Boston is one of the great cultural centers of the nation. In the city are the Massachusetts Historical Society (founded 1791); the Boston Athenæum (1807); the Boston Public Library; the New England Conservatory of Music; Symphony Hall (home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra); the Museum of Fine Arts; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; the Institute of Contemporary Art; the offices of the Christian Science Monitor; Harvard Medical School; the New England Medical Center; Massachusetts General Hospital; and Brigham and Women's hospitals. Educational institutions in the city include Boston, Suffolk, and Northeastern universities; the Univ. of Massachusetts at Boston, with the John F. Kennedy Library; Simmons, Emerson, and Emmanuel colleges; and the Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. Together with such neighboring institutions as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge), Tufts Univ. (Medford), and Boston College (Chestnut Hill), they make up the nation's leading educational complex, a reminder of Boston's old nickname, "the Athens of America."
The Boston Naval Shipyard (in operation 1800-1973) in Charlestown is the berth of the restored U.S.S. Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), launched (1797) a short distance away. The city is served by Logan International Airport, in the East Boston section. The American League's Red Sox play baseball in Fenway Park; the National Hockey League's Bruins and the National Basketball Association's Celtics also play in the city. The National Football League's Patriots play in suburban Foxboro.
Established by the elder John Winthrop in 1630 as the main settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Boston was an early center of American Puritanism, with a vigorous, if theocratic, intellectual life. The nation's oldest public school, Boston Latin, was opened in 1635; Harvard, the nation's oldest college, was founded at Cambridge in 1636; a public library was started in 1653; and the first newspaper in the colonies, the Newsletter, appeared in 1704. With its excellent port, Boston held commercial ascendancy in colonial Massachusetts. As the American Revolution approached, it became a center of opposition to the British. The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought in Charlestown on June 17, 1775, was one of the first battles of the Revolution, and Boston was occupied until the British withdrew in Mar., 1776. After a short postwar depression, Boston entered a period of prosperity that lasted until the mid-19th cent. Its ships made Boston known around the world. Prominent families built substantial houses on Beacon Hill, later in the reclaimed Back Bay section, and patronized the arts and letters. Despite the generally conservative tone of their culture, they backed reformers, notably the abolitionists. The growth of industry in the mid 19th cent. brought many immigrants, and Boston changed from a commercial city of primarily British stock to a manufacturing center with an Irish majority, evolving gradually into the diverse, institutionally based city of today.
See W. M. Whitehill, Boston: A Topographical History (1959, rev. ed 1968); G. B. Warden, Boston, 1689-1776 (1970); G. Lewis and M. Conzen, Boston (1976); H. C. Binford, The First Suburbs (1988); C. F. Durang, Boston: A Brief History (1989); L. W. Kennedy, Planning the City upon a Hill (1992); R. Campbell and P. Vanderwarker, Cityscapes of Boston (1992).