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About Boston

In 1630, colonists settled a hilly peninsula, or land surrounded by water. The local natives called it Shawmut, but the colonists renamed it Boston, after a town in England. By the time this map was drawn in 1722, Boston had become a town.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

About this Map

A colonist named John Bonner drew this map in 1722. Then printers made copies to sell. The map was about the size of a newspaper. This particular copy was printed in 1723.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill was named for the beacon pole planted at the top of the hill. In the early days of the colony, a guard could climb the pole to light a fire and sound the alarm in case of danger.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

The Old Corner Bookstore (1712)

Most of the buildings were made of wood with straw roofs, but this building was made of brick. First it was a pharmacy, then a bookstore. Today it holds a restaurant!

Bridewell Prison (1712)

This is where people were held before trial. Those found guilty often had to pay a fine and suffer a physical punishment. Sometimes they were sold as servants for a period of time.

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The Church of England (1688)

This small wooden church, also called King’s Chapel, was built on the order of the king of England. Many colonists did not like it because they had left England to avoid the King’s religion.

The Common

The Common was a grassy field where the colonists’ cows grazed. It was also used for military practice and as a meeting place. Today, the Common, though smaller, is a large public park.

The New York Public Library

The Compass

Maps are usually drawn with a compass pointing north toward the top of the page. However, this map was positioned so that the harbor faces east, toward England.

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The Copper Works

Mills were used to make sheets and wire out of copper metal. Workers then used saws and hammers to change the copper into useful objects, like bowls and spoons.

Cornhill Street

Unlike most streets in Boston, Cornhill Street had a sidewalk. Many streets were covered at their center with smooth stones, and people and carts shared the street. At night, there were no street lamps, so townspeople walked mostly in the dark.

The Ferry

As early as 1635, colonists and their cattle could take the ferryboat to towns across the Charles River. A day’s journey over land took only one hour by boat. The ferry could not operate when the river froze in the winter. Today there are many bridges over the river.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

The Fortifications

The fortifications were a protective wall with a gate. Early on, men guarded the gate to keep out unwanted people, like criminals, and dangerous animals, like wolves. The gate was shut at night.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Fort Hill

This was one of three big hills in Boston. A company of British soldiers stayed in a fort at the top of the hill. In the nineteenth century, the hill was flattened, so that it is a totally flat area today!

Boston Public Library, Print Department

The Boston Gazette Printing House

In 1719, colonist Samuel Kneeland started a newspaper called the Boston Gazette. He used a printing press to make many copies of the paper. The paper became an important source of news during the Revolutionary War.

Folger Shakespeare Library

The Governor’s House (1679)

The governor of the Massachusetts colony lived in this elegant house. It had a grass lawn, a driveway for carriages, a gate, and a building for horses in the back.

Long Wharf (1709)

This platform built over the water was about the length of five football fields. It was used to unload large trading ships. The wharf was so wide that there was room for shops!

Boston Public Library, Print Department

The Conduit Marketplace

At first, this was the site of a big water tank, but it became one of the main marketplaces. Many other markets around town sold just one type of food, like fish, meat, milk, or eggs.

Mill Creek

Farmers and workers used water from this natural stream. Over the years, the stream got wider. It eventually became a man-made canal with stone walls and deep enough for boats.

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Mill Pond

At first, Mill Pond was a swamp. The colonists raised an edge of the swamp into a dam, forming the pond. Later, the area was totally filled with land taken from the area’s three hills. The dam became a street.

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The Old North Meeting House (1650)

Meetinghouses were used as churches. Some of the leaders of this church believed in witches and were involved in the Salem witch trials in 1692. In this image, the church is on the left, and another church stands taller on the right.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Boston Neck

The Boston Neck was a narrow stretch of land with many farms. Farmers traveled down Orange Street to sell their fruits and vegetables at the market.

The Powder House (1706)

The powder house looked like the building in this photograph. It held the town’s gunpowder at a safe distance from other buildings. Two men guarded it at night and on holidays.

Paul Revere’s House (1680)

Paul Revere is famous for his 1775 midnight ride to Lexington. He was born 10 years after this map was printed. However, his house already existed when the map was drawn. Many houses in Boston looked like it.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Ropewalks

The ships built by Boston’s many shipyards required a great deal of rope. Rope factories had ropewalks, or straight paths, where many strings were laid out. The workers twisted them into a thicker rope.

Gerald Foster / National Park Service

The South Grammar School (1634)

If you lived in colonial times, you would go to school to learn to read and write. This school was called the Latin School because students were taught Latin.

Ships at Sea

Many types of boats appear on the map. Some are sailing and some are tied down. The flags show where each ship is from. In colonial times, the British flag had a large red cross in the middle, and the colony's flag had a smaller cross in the corner.

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Clark’s Shipyard

The boat-like symbols on land show ships under construction. Boston was a center for shipbuilding. Some shipyards built up to 12 boats a year.

The South Battery (1668)

Early on, strong walls and canons were built at the southern tip of Fort Hill to protect the colony.

Wikimedia, from the collection of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum

Spring Lane

The colonists did not have water at home, but luckily the Boston area had lots of freshwater springs. In this lane, there was a pump to draw water from the ground. The townspeople then carried the water home.

The Stocks

The rules were very strict in colonial times. Those who did not behave could get locked in a wooden frame called the stocks for a few hours. The townspeople might throw things at them, like rotten tomatoes.

FCIT

The Town House (1713)

The colony was ruled by England. This brick building was the state house, or where the government worked. Official announcements to the townspeople were made from the balcony. Today the building is a museum.

The Old Watering Place

Cows and horses were brought from far across town to drink from this small pond. The pond no longer exists today.

© amlet, 2013 - Shutterstock.com

Watermills

A watermill has a large wheel that turns as water pushes against it. The turning motion is used to crush grain into flour, or to cut wood into boards.

© Vesna Longton, 2012 - Shutterstock.com

Windmills

A windmill has long boards called blades that attach to a center pole. The wind causes the blades to turn. The turning motion is used to crush grain, like corn, into flour.

Copper Works About Boston Rope Walks Ferry Wind Mills About this Map Beacon Hill Mill Pond The Powder House (1706) Water Mills Bridewell Prison (1712) The Common The Church of England (1688) The Boston Gazette Printing House The Conduit Market Place The South Grammar School (1634) Mill Creek Paul Revere’s House (1680) The Old North Meetinghouse (1650) Clark’s ShipYard The Town House (1713) The Governor’s House (1679) The Old Corner Bookstore (1712) Cornhill Street Spring Lane The Old Watering Place The Stocks Boston Neck The Fortifications The Compass Long Wharf (1709) Fort Hill The South Battery (1668) Ships at Sea