The Unique History of Blue Hills

The history of Blue Hills is significant and has played a part in American history for almost four hundred years. In 1614, Capt. John Smith while exploring what is now Boston Harbor documented the sighting of several large hills, of which he named the largest Massachusetts Mount. The word Massachusetts is an Algonquin word meaning “The people living near the great hills.” For a short time, at the request of King Charles I, it was renamed Chevyot Hills. The hill was later named by European settlers Great Blue Hill due to the blue hue created by exposed blue granite on the east facing side of the hill, which is the first sign of land on nearing from the coast. The hill officially was named the Great Blue Hill by an act of the Massachusetts legislature in the establishment of warning beacons in 1776.

The Highest Land from Boston to Key West


With an elevation of 635 feet, Great Blue Hill is the highest land on the Atlantic coast from Boston to the Florida Keys. Its summit affords unaided view of twenty-five miles. It is these views that have been of interest to the public, government, and science. As far back as 1681, references have been recorded of people journeying to the top of the Great Blue Hill to enjoy among other things, the view, sunrise to the east, and dining. In 1798, a three story stone and wood building was constructed by a local tavern proprietor to create a resort that offered dining, parties, balls, summer boarding, and views from an observation deck (the building was taken down in 1885).


During the revolutionary war, the top of the Great Blue Hills was used by the military as a lookout point to detect approaching enemy forces by land and or sea. Beacons were used as alarm that could be seen from Boston. During the war of 1812, the Great Blue Hills afforded views of the battle between the U.S.S. Chesapeake and H.M.S. Shannon.


Liberty and Independence


The Great Blue Hill was also illuminated with beacons to celebrate special occasions. These included the repeal of the Stamp Act by the British Parliament, the approval of the Declaration of Independence, and the defeats of Burgoyne and of Cornwallis in Yorktown that led to the end of the revolutionary war. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a celebration march took place to the top of the Great Blue Hill and closed with these word: “this mountain is consecrated and hallowed ground, dedicated to liberty and independence”.


Science and the Great Blue Hill


Science has played, and continues to do so, an important role in the history of the Great Blue Hill. In the 1830’s, Harvard College constructed a twenty-foot high stone tower for securing a meridian line. In 1845, the U.S. Coast Guard used the top of the hill to survey the coastline and in 1880’s, the U.S. Geological survey conducted topographical surveys from the top of the hill. It was in 1885 that a meteorological observatory was constructed on the top the Great Hill and is still in use today (Teele, 1887).


The Ski Area

The beginnings of what was to become the Blue Hills Ski Area took form in 1935 when the Civilian Conservation Corp started work on the first two downhill ski slopes, which were usable that winter. The following year a practice slope was built. In 1949, the park commission constructed three rope tows and fourteen years later (1963), the commission would add a lodge, two J-Bar tows and a double chair lift. The double chair lift was replaced in 1978.


For some 30-years prior to Ski Blue Hills Management LLC taking over ski area operations in 2007, little attention was given to investment in the long-term viability of the ski area. With a careful plan of investing in both in capital infrastructure improvements and investing in its business operations, Ski Blue Hills Management LLC has made prudent investments that has increased the enjoyment and satisfaction of its guests, increased the future viability and financial stability of the ski area, and created value for Massachusetts residents and the DCR.