The Common dates back to the creation of the New Towne. The Common has shrunk over time, but remains in the same place it was when the town was laid out in 1630. During this period, it was a close space for stables, cowsheds, and pigpens, as neighbors were close enough to not want pig stink in their wind-stream.
The Common was a gathering point, and remains one today, with fields and monuments surrounded by shade-providing trees. Thousands of soldiers whom George Washington describes as “dirty and nasty” camped here for several months (not necessarily an Occupy Cambridge joke) in 1775. This would become the Continental Army, the first army of the United States.
William Dawes rode through the Common on his fateful midnight ride. Though credited for being Paul Revere’s “sidekick” in most popular lore, Dawes rode 17 miles before falling off his horse. Revere only rode 13 before his arrest.
The many memorials in the Cambridge Common reflect a commitment to the memory of great historical figures and moments. The monuments to the Civil War and Prince Hall deserve as much attention as those to the Polish heroes and victims of hunger in the Irish Potato Famine. There are reminders everywhere of what we’ve been through. But it’s also a nice place to just whip a Frisbee.