Boston in the 18th Century:
Boston continued to grow, despite small-pox outbreaks in 1690, 1702 and 1721. The city had over 13,000 residents by 1730.
Many of Boston’s most famous buildings were built during this time period, such as the Old State House in 1713, Old North Church in 1723, Old South Meetinghouse in 1729 and Faneuil Hall in 1742.
By 1750, Boston’s population had risen to 15,000 people.
By the mid-18th century, Massachusetts Bay Colony had grown into a successful colony with a large trade industry that exported fish, lumber and farm products to Europe.
Tensions quickly began to brew between the colony and Britain when the British government started to meddle more deeply into the colony’s business matters, activities and daily affairs. This tension slowly began to sow the seeds for the American Revolution in Boston.
The first protests of the American Revolution began after the passage of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was a tax on all printed materials in the colonies in 1765. The colonists resented the tax because they saw it as a greedy attempt to make money off the colony.
To protest the Stamp Act, a group named the Sons of Liberty formed and began planning ways to thwart the British government’s plan to make money with the Stamp Act.
As a result, a number of protests and riots took place across the colonies, including a number of destructive riots in Boston.
During these riots, which took place in August of 1765, angry mobs tarred and feathered tax collectors, hung an effigy of tax commissioner Andrew Oliver from the Liberty Tree on Boston Common and looted and damaged the homes of many customs officials, including the Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson.
Due to the threats and violence, when the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1st, all of the tax collectors had quit and there was no one to collect the tax.
The Stamp Act was then repealed in March of 1766. To celebrate the repeal, Boston citizens decorated ships and houses with streamers, held a fireworks display and rang bells all over the city.
The Boston Massacre took place on March 5, 1770, and began as another protest, this time over the large presence of British soldiers sent to the city to protect customs officials after the passage of the unpopular Townshend Acts.
The massacre took place after a number of citizens had gathered outside the Old State House on what was then King Street and began insulting and harassing the soldiers on guard.
More soldiers appeared to provide back up. When one of the soldiers left his post to strike a protester, this prompted the mob to begin throwing rocks, sticks and snowballs at the soldiers. Chaos ensued and the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five civilians.
A trial was held in November of that year, during which John Adams defended the soldiers. Six of the soldiers were found not guilty and two were convicted of manslaughter and were punished by being branded with the letter M, for manslaughter, on the thumb.
The Boston Tea Party was a protest that took place in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. The protest was over the passage of the Tea Act, which placed a tax on all tea sold in the colonies.
After government officials refused to send away three newly arrived cargo ships containing British tea, the colonists rowed out to the ships in the harbor, climbed on board and dumped 90,000 pounds of tea, about $1 million dollars worth, into Boston Harbor.
The British government responded by closing Boston harbor and placing the city under military rule.
A few years later, in April of 1775, General Thomas Gage tried to get the upper hand in the rebellion by sending British troops to Concord in search of the colonist’s secret stash of gunpowder and supplies.
Around 10 p.m. on the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was sent by Patriot leader Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Concord to warn the colonists, as well as Samuel Adams and John Hancock who were in hiding in Lexington, of the approaching British army.
Revere warned many colonists along the way and arrived in Lexington around midnight. He warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock of the approaching army and set off for Concord with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott but was later caught by the British in Lexington and never made it to Concord. Nonetheless, Revere’s deed was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860 in his famous poem, titled Paul Revere’s Ride.
The Siege of Boston began after the British army was defeated at the Battle of Concord on April 19, 1775. The British army retreated back to Boston and the colonists surrounded the city’s gates and blockaded them in.
This blockade resulted in a year long occupation of Boston by the British army, known as the Siege of Boston, during which the British and colonists engaged in numerous skirmishes and battles, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill in June of 1775.
The siege ended in March of 1776, after the colonial army fortified nearby Dorchester Heights with cannons seized at Fort Ticonderoga and forced the British to flee the city via their fleet of ships.
Boston in the 19th & 20th Century:
The potato famine in Ireland led to a surge in Irish immigrants in the 1840s, which helped push the population of Boston close to 100,000 people.
Boston during the Civil War was a tense and sometimes violent place where abolitionists, Irish laborers and freed slaves clashed over political and social issues.
In 1872, Boston suffered a devastating fire that destroyed 65 acres of the city, killed 30 people, caused $73 million dollars in damage and left 1,000 people homeless. The fire broke out on November 9, 1872 in the basement of a Tebbetts, Baldwin & Davis dry goods warehouse on the corner of Kingston and Summer Street and raged on for 12 hours until it was contained.
Although the city had developed rapidly during the Civil War, the water mains had not been upgraded, which hampered efforts to control the fire.
In addition, there had recently been an outbreak of an equine flu that made the horses pulling the fire apparatus weak.
Many of the large granite and brick buildings in Boston at the time were thought to be fireproof but had highly flammable wood mansford roofs which helped spread the fire.
Even though the fire destroyed a large section of the city, it spared many historic buildings such as the Old South Meeting House, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church and Faneuil Hall.
Boston underwent a large land making project in the 19th century when its five hills, Mt. Vernon, Beacon hill, Pemberton hill, Copp’s Hill and Fort Hill, were cut down to fill in the bays around the city in an effort to create more land. Rubble from the fire of 1872 was also used to fill in the bays. The project began in the early 1800s and by the time it ended in the late 1880s, it had more than doubled the landmass of the city.
An influx of Italian immigrants escaping famine, unemployment and a series of natural disasters in Italy between 1880 and 1920 contributed to the rapidly expanding population of Boston, which rose from 362,000 residents in 1880 to over 748,000 by 1920.
In 1895, construction began on the Boston subway, which was needed to help curb traffic congestion caused by trolleys and horse carriages in the narrow city streets.
During its construction workers uncovered many surprises and obstacles, such as 900 fragments of human remains near Park Street and a sulfurous-smelling salt marsh in Boston’s public garden.
The construction also caused a major gas leak on the corner of Tremont and Boylston on March 4, 1897, which resulted in a deadly explosion when sparks from a trolley on the street above ignited the gas, causing the trolley to explode and burst into flames. The explosion killed 10 people and damaged many nearby buildings.
Despite the setbacks, the subway project was completed in 1897, with a price tag of only $4.2 million instead of the predicted $5 million, and the subway official opened for business on September 1, 1897.
In 1991, construction began on the Big Dig, which is Boston’s largest and most expensive public works project in the U.S. to date. The Big Dig widened Interstate 93 and rerouted it into underground tunnels to reduce traffic congestion in the city streets.
A large hybrid steel and concrete cable bridge, named the Zakim bridge, was built to carry cars across the Charles River before funneling them underground. The elevated platform that originally carried Interstate 93 over the city was demolished and replaced with parks and open space.
The project took over 10 years to complete, finally coming to an end in December of 2007 and ran millions of dollars over budget to the price of $24 billion dollars.