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Boston's 350th: a birthday party to last all year

Boston began the new decade with a bang -- the midnight fireworks of First Night, the city's New Year's Eve celebration. It was an appropriate beginning to 1980, for Boston has reached 350 years of age, and a binge of birthday events befitting the occasion has been planned.

The year-long celebration has been christened Jubilee 350. A cross section of the city's citizens and its public and private institutions will take part in many multifaceted commemorative and cultural events, forums, and public outings. Most will take place from May 1 through Sept. 30. Boston tea parties of a 20th century sort, indoor exhibits, and outdoor performances will take place at and around City Hall, which is next to such old Boston Freedom Trail treasures as Faneuil Hall and the Old State House. Other major events will be within easy walking distance of one another in Boston's compact and charming downtown.

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Boston, first capital city of Colonial America to reach the distinguished 350 th anniversary, was founded in 1630 by English Puritans who had met at Cambridge University and formed a chartered company. Before they left England, they elected a 40-year-old lawyer, John Winthrop, as the first Governor. During the first six months of 1630, more than 1,000 English citizens, in some 15 ships, set sail for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Boston has always welcomed opportunities to recall its founding and to celebrate its colorful history and cultural heritage. The city's first celebration, the centennial in 1730, was attended by many of its 16,000 residents, who listened to "great orations" by prominent personages at Old South Meeting House. By its bicentennial Boston had grown to 60,000 and boasted gas mains throughout the city. Mayor Josiah Quincy delivered a special address at Funeuil Hall.

By 1880, anniversary events had assumed a spectacular scale. Electric light was then in use, but a torchlight parade with 1,000 uniformed torchbearers and 16 floats represented important events in the city's history lighted up that night. A Jubilee Chorus entertained crowds from a specially built structure near Copley Square.

For the 300th birthday, Boston's Jubilee was broadened to a summer-long celebration, during which historic houses were opened and national and international dignitaries paid visits. Boston Week, held in September, was highlighted by an eight-hour parade of 40,000 marchers, 200 floats, and a million spectators. At Faneuil Hall, Mayor James Michael Curley sealed a time capsule to be opened by the mayor of Boston in 1980.

This year there will again be a Boston Week in September, the month in which Governor Winthrop actually arrived and named the city. The mayor will open the 1930 time capsule and bury another for 50 years hence. The most outstanding day of celebration for Jubilee 350 will be Sept. 21. After what promises to be an impressive parade, public picnicking on Boston Common will be encouraged. There , everyone will receive a piece of a giant Jubilee confectionary concoction. A free concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the Charles River Esplanade will be followed by fireworks.

A month of special activities related to Boston Harbor will begin on May 30, with a five day visit by the "tall ships." There will be flotillas, led by the Boston-berthed frigate, USS Constitution, and opportunities to board the vessels.

July has been designated as New England month and will feature daily events on Boston Common, once a rural public expanse at the edge of town. Outdoor historic museums and sites in the six-state region, including Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation, will be represented. A 17th-century frame house will be constructed using the tools and materials of the times.

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August is International Month. Each day, an ethnic group that is represented by Boston residents will share its culture with the public at City Hall Plaza.

Physically, the city has changed substantially in 3 1/2 centuries. Of the three main hills that originally covered Boston Common, only one, a much-reduced Beacon Hill, remains. In the 17th, 18th, and much of the 19th centuries, there was much less land and considerably more harbor than there is today. Boston expanded when landfill formed Back Bay. The harbor shrank when water areas were filled between islands, five of which were used to form the land that is now Logan Airport.

More than physical change in the city will be conveyed through the many Jubilee 350 exhibits. "The Boston Tradition" will reveal how Boston and Bostonians have influenced the nation and the world in a dozen areas of endeavor. "GAteway to the Sea" will trace Boston's historic ties to the sea and recall the era when it was the nation's hub of thriving shipbuilding, trade, and fishing. "Boston: A City in Transit," already open at the Museum of Transportation, explores the social, economic and political ramifications of new methods of transportation as they evolved. "A Place Over Time" will detail Boston's architectural development since the 17th century.

Appropiately, the last major exhibit will focus on Boston's future. "Boston 2000" will explore the effects new technology and other changes could have on the city as it makes a transition to the 21st century.

Some of the exhibits will be permanent, as will other elements of Jubilee 350 . A select group of nationally known writers with Boston roots or ties will creat, "A Book for Boston," a collection of original essays, stories, and memoirs. Other lasting monuments include new statues of eminent 20th-century Bostonians and plaques for buildings with historic significance.

Whether it's to recall the city's past, enjoy its present, or discover her potential, Jubilee 350 promises to be a grand opportunity for visitors to experience Boston.


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