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Commonwealth Avenue (Boston)

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Commonwealth Avenue
Commonwealth Avenue in 2006
Commonwealth Avenue in 2006
Length11.0 mi (17.7 km)[1]
West end Route 30 in Auburndale
Route 16 in West Newton
US 20 in Allston
ToArlington Street in Back Bay
NorthMarlborough Street (Back Bay)
SouthNewbury Street (Back Bay)
Construction in Back Bay (1870) with the two sides of Commonwealth Avenue flanking the tree-lined Mall.

Commonwealth Avenue (colloquially referred to as Comm Ave) is a major street in the cities of Boston and Newton, Massachusetts. It begins at the western edge of the Boston Public Garden, and continues west through the neighborhoods of the Back Bay, Kenmore Square, Boston University, Allston, Brighton and Chestnut Hill. It continues as part of Route 30 through Newton until it crosses the Charles River at the border of the town of Weston.


Often compared to Georges-Eugène Haussmann's Paris boulevards, Commonwealth Avenue in Back Bay is a parkway divided at center by a wide grassy mall. This greenway, called Commonwealth Avenue Mall, is punctuated with statuary and memorials, and forms the narrowest "link" in the Emerald Necklace. It connects the Public Garden to the Fens.

Where Commonwealth Avenue reaches Kenmore Square, the MBTA Green Line B branch rises above ground and dominates the center of the roadway through the campus of Boston University and the neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton. After leaving Boston and entering Chestnut Hill, the avenue passes by Boston College and the terminus of the MBTA Green Line B Branch. The trolley in the median is replaced by grass as the scenery becomes noticeably more suburban and residential, and the Commonwealth Avenue Historic District begins. As the road continues into Newton, Comm Ave is still made up of two roadways separated by a grassy median lined with trees. The south side of the roadway contains the main, two-lane east-west roadway, with a one-way, westbound "carriage road" providing local access on the north side of the median. The section of Comm Ave from Cleveland Circle in Brighton to Route 16 in Newton is along the Boston Marathon route, and is known to be especially hilly, containing the three “Newton hills”. The carriage road continues into West Newton, and the road passes over the Massachusetts Turnpike in the Auburndale section of Newton. The avenue ends as it leaves Newton, crosses the Charles River and interchanges with Route 128.

The linear 1.5 miles (2.4 km) stretch of Commonwealth Avenue between Kenmore Square and Packard's Corner (where Brighton Avenue maintains a straight continuum and Commonwealth Avenue splits off) contains much of Boston University's campus. BU owns much of the property along and around this part of Commonwealth Avenue.[citation needed] This 1.5-mile stretch is the most central route to commuting around Boston University's main campus, also known as the Charles River Campus, and is frequented by pedestrians, bicycles, and other means of transportation. Walking from one end (Kenmore Square) to the other end (Packard's Corner) or vice versa takes about 25–35 minutes.[citation needed]


The Commonwealth Avenue Mall was designed by Arthur Delevan Gilman.[2] Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Newton portion of Commonwealth Avenue and included the parkway as part of the Emerald Necklace park system. The first statue on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall was erected in 1865 at Arlington Street.[3]

The Newton end of the roadway was constructed in 1895 with a line of the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway in the median. In 1923, the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue between Warren Street and Sutherland Road became the first street paved with concrete in Boston.[4] Streetcar service was cut back to its present terminus at the Boston border in 1930 and buses last ran on Commonwealth Avenue in 1976. An amusement park and ballroom known as Norumbega Park was built at the end of the line on the Charles River in 1897 to increase streetcar patronage.[5] The eastern half of the Newton section of the road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Commonwealth Avenue Historic District. The mall that includes the landscape features, monuments, street furniture and fences that are bounded by Kenmore Street, Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue was designated as a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1978.

The addition of protected bike lanes between the BU Bridge and Packards Corner in 2020 resulted in a tripling of bikeshare usage along that segment.[6]


Starting at the Public Garden and going westward, the following statues can be seen on the mall:



  1. ^ Google (May 24, 2019). "Commonwealth Avenue" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  2. ^ "Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay - Commonwealth Mall". Archived from the original on March 11, 2007.
  3. ^ "NABB - Comm Ave. Mall Statues: What's In A Name?". Archived from the original on July 16, 2006.
  4. ^ "First Concrete Street Contract Completed in Boston". Contractors and Engineers. July 1923. p. 68. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Auburndale Community Association page on Norumbega Park". Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  6. ^ Karpinski, Elizabeth (July 3, 2021). "Estimating the Effect of Protected Bike Lanes on Bike-Share Ridership in Boston: a Case Study on Commonwealth Avenue". Case Studies on Transport Policy. 9 (3): 1313–1323. doi:10.1016/j.cstp.2021.06.015. ISSN 2213-624X.
  7. ^ Lowery, Wesley (June 17, 2012). "A father's sacrifice, a son's calling". – via The Boston Globe.
  8. ^ "Leif Erikson statue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin". (Dry Plate Glass Negative). The shores of Lake Michigan. c. 1899. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Whitney, Anne" . The Encyclopedia Americana (1920) – via Wikisource.

Further reading

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Commonwealth Avenue (Boston)
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