Profile: Boston, Massachusetts

Get to know one of our nation's oldest cities with this short profile.

Population: 600,000

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-7

Major Airport: Logan International Airport

Employers with a Major Presence: Bank of America Corp., Boston University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dunkin’ Donuts, EMC Corp., Fidelity Investments, Genzyme, Harvard University, John Hancock Insurance, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Microsoft Corp., Novartis, NStar Electric, Teradyne

Founded in 1630 by English Puritans, Boston is one of our nation’s oldest cities. It was home to fiery revolutionaries such as Samuel Adams, who staged the Boston Tea Party to protest taxation by King George III. From the Old North Church in today's North End, Paul Revere began his midnight ride to warn of the British invasion. Rooted in its 400-year history, the city is also known worldwide for the brownstone architecture built in historic Back Bay during the Gilded Age. Old neighborhoods and narrow, crooked streets throughout Boston, which are more fit for walking than driving, make it the nation’s most European-style city.

But in the 1980s, Boston moved like lightning into a future that placed it squarely at the center of the high-technology revolution. Harvard student Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen worked on their first computer programs in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Back Bay. Digital Equipment Corporation and Data General Corporation mass produced the original minicomputers, and a Boston firm created the Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet and was the first to use the @ sign in e-mails. While Silicon Valley is home to sexy Internet startups, Boston continues to play an important role in innovation. Its biotechnology industry, clustered around Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General and dozens of other hospitals, has thrived in recent years in Cambridge.

The hallmark of Boston politics has been a voter demographic in flux. The city's posh social and political scene was long dominated by upper-crust Brahmin descendants of the Mayflower's passengers. The nation's 19th century immigrant wave shook things up. In 1914, Democratic machine politics, under the city's new Irish mayor, Michael Curley, came into its own. "The Massachusetts of the Puritans is as dead as Caesar," said Curley, who came from a poor background.

Boston, which during the Civil War was home to many prominent abolitionists and a destination on the underground railroad, erupted in racial strife in the 1960s. Jews fled the Blue Hill Avenue neighborhoods for the suburbs as blacks moved in. In the 1970s, tensions boiled over amid court-ordered busing of inner-city black children to suburban schools.

Today, Boston's first mayor with Italian roots (after decades of Irish mayors), Thomas M. Menino, presides over a diverse city that attracts Chinese to Chinatown's cramped apartments and Caribbeans, Brazilians and others to outlying neighborhoods. According to The Boston Globe, this influx has made Boston a “minority-majority” city.

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