Getting to Know Boston: The Unusual History of Copley Square

history of copley square

Being one of the nation’s oldest cities, Boston has a lengthy history and is ripe with historical buildings, parks, and landmarks. Simply strolling about the city provides a glimpse into the many chapters of our nation’s history.

Of all the historical areas of Boston, one of our favorites is Copley Square. Nicely situated in the heart of the city near the charming Back Bay, Copley Square is a fascinating blend of history, quirks, and necessity.

The History of Copley Square

Without further ado, here’s some of the unusual history behind Copley Square:

The Square Began as an Afterthought

Described as an “awkward spot,” the very place that Copley Square sits became Copley Square because of the awkward 45-degree angle formed by the intersection of Huntington and Boylston Street.

history of copley square

Copley Square from the roof of the Boston Public Library, ca. 1910 (Boston Public Library, via Park & Tremont)

Triangular Traffic Island

Copley Square was deemed awkward, in part, due to its odd triangular shape. For quite some time, the public area served as no more than a triangular traffic island. It may be hard to imagine now since the triangular shape has since been re-worked into a square.

Art Square Was its First Name

Due to the incredible number of artistic and cultural institutions surrounding the square, it was first named Art Square, and it was not until 1883 that it was re-named Copley Square, after the American artist John Singleton Copley.

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Two International Design Competitions Were Held

Copley Square has only been a true square for less than fifty years, and within that time frame has gone through two redesigns. The Boston Redevelopment Authority has managed two international design competitions for the redesign of Copley Square, the first in 1969 and the second in 1984.

history of copley square

Highlights of Copley Square

Now that you know a little of it’s odd and fascinating history, it’s time to visit! If you intend to visit Boston, Copley Square is a must-see! Stroll through the square itself, take a seat on one of the benches and soak in the history and aesthetics of the square. Allow your eyes to devour the incredible architecture of Trinity Church, one of Boston’s oldest and most famous churches. Aside from just being in the square, we recommend checking out some of these nearby attractions:

Boston Public Library

-John Hancock Tower

-Old South Church                    

Additionally, each of the four streets that run along the square are lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, in which you can spend the rest of your time enjoying!

Explore Downtown Boston Hotel Deals >>

To fully enjoy all that Copley Square and Boston’s Back Bay has to offer, we recommend staying in a hotel nearby. Copley Square Hotel, named after the iconic square, is in the heart of the area and within easy walking distance to all attractions. Reserve your stay and start planning your Boston trip today!

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