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Lewis Cohen's John Singleton Copley, with Copley Square, Trinity Church, and the John Hancock Tower behind him
The Boston Public Library's McKim Building, seen across Dartmouth St. from the Square
Copley Square fountain, with Old South Church tower in distance

Copley Square, named for painter John Singleton Copley, is a public square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, bounded by Boylston Street, Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue, and Dartmouth Street. It was previously known as Art Square until 1883, due to the number of cultural institutions located there at the time, some of which remain today. It is a pending Boston Landmark.[needs update]


The Square has a number and variety of important architectural works that have been built there, many of them now designated as official landmarks. Prominent structures still standing include:

Among buildings no longer standing are:

  • Chauncy Hall School (c. 1874, demolished 1908), a tall-gabled High Victorian brick school building on Boylston St. near Dartmouth St.
  • Museum of Fine Arts (1876, demolished 1910) by John Hubbard Sturgis and Charles Brigham in the Gothic Revival style, was the first purpose-built public art museum in the world.
  • S.S. Pierce Building, (1887, demolished 1958) by S. Edwin Tobey, "no masterpiece of architecture, [but] great urban design. A heap of dark Romanesque masonry..."[2]
  • Hotel Westminster, Trinity Place, by Henry E. Cregier of Chicago in 1897.[3][4] Now replaced by the northeast corner of the new John Hancock Tower.


Detail of 1888 map, showing Art Square and vicinity

A remarkable number of important Boston educational and cultural institutions were originally located adjacent to (or very near) Copley Square, reflecting 19th-century Boston's aspirations for it as a center of culture and progress.[5] These included the Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, the New England Museum of Natural History (today's Museum of Science), Trinity Church, the New Old South Church, the Boston Public Library, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Normal Art School (today's Massachusetts College of Art and Design), the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, Boston University, Emerson College, and Northeastern University.

Known as Art Square until 1883,[6] Copley Square was originally cut diagonally by Huntington Avenue; it took its present form in 1961 when Huntington Avenue was truncated at the corner of Dartmouth Street, the Square partially paved, and a pyramidal fountain sculpture added.[7] In 1991, after further changes including a new fountain, the new Copley Square Park[further explanation needed] was dedicated. The nonprofit Friends of Copley Square raises funds for care of the square's plantings, fountain, and monuments.

The Boston Marathon foot race has finished at Copley Square since 1986.[8] A memorial celebrating the race's 100th running (in 1996) is located in the park, near the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets.[9]

2013 Boston Marathon bombings[edit]

On April 15, 2013, around 2:50 pm (about three hours after the first runners crossed the line) two bombs exploded‍—‌one near the finish line near the Boston Public Library, the other some seconds later and one block west. Three people were killed and at least 183 injured, at least 14 of whom lost limbs.


Copley is served by several forms of public transportation:

And major roads:


  1. ^ Mary Melvin Petronella, ed., Victorian Boston Today: Twelve Walking Tours (Northeastern University Press, 2004), 69, available onlime, access September 9, 2012
  2. ^ Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker. Coming into Copley. Boston Globe. Mar 26, 2006. p. BGM 16.
  3. ^ "Chicago Man's Reputation". Boston Evening Transcript. Feb 3, 1900. p. 7. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Shand Tucci, Douglass (1978). Built in Boston (First ed.). New York: New York Graphic Society. p. 102. ISBN 0821207415. 
  5. ^ Douglass Shand-Tucci, The Gods of Copley Square, lecture series, 2009, sponsored by Back Bay Historical/Boston-centric Global Studies and the New England Historical Genealogical Society
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-15. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  7. ^ Jim Botticelli (2014). Dirty Old Boston: Four Decades of a City in Transition. Boston: Union Park Press. p. 115. ISBN 9781934598122. 
  8. ^ Powers, John (April 16, 2010). "Evolution of the Boston Marathon finish line". Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Boston Marathon Memorial, Boston Art Commission, 100 Public Artworks, p. 3

Further reading[edit]

  • Aldrich, Megan. Gothic Revival. Phaidon Press Ltd: 1994. ISBN 0-7148-2886-6.
  • Bunting, Bainbridge. Houses of Boston's Back Bay: An Architectural History, 1840-1917. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: 1967. ISBN 0-674-40901-9.
  • Forbes, Esther, and Arthur Griffin. The Boston Book. Houghton Mifflin Company: 1947.
  • Holtz Kay, Jane. Lost Boston. Houghton Mifflin: 1999. ISBN 0-395-96610-8.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "The Gods of Copley Square: Dawn of the Modern American Experience, 1865-1915",, 2009.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "Built in Boston, City and Suburb, 1800-2000". Little, Brown. (Third edition) 1999.
  • Shand-Tucci, Douglass. "Renaissance Rome and Emersonian Boston: Michelangelo and Sargent, between Triumph and Doubt", Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2002, 995-1008.
  • "Greetings from Copley Square: A Chronology in Postcards", Exhibitions, Boston Public Library, 2010 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′00″N 71°04′34″W / 42.350°N 71.076°W / 42.350; -71.076 (Copley Square, Boston)


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