Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Following in the Footsteps of Freedom

[Apologies that the “Add a comment” feature isn’t working. I’m trying to figure out how to fix that so you can participate in the blog. Also apologies that there are fewer pictures today. It was raining so hard most of the time, and I didn't want to ruin my camera.]

In the afternoon it was still raining, so we took off in the car to Fairsted, the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Olmsted was the father of American landscape architecture. He designed the Emerald Necklace in Boston, Central Park in New York, and many other famous parks and gardens. Unfortunately it wasn’t open. But we were able to see the outside of his house and had a little walk around the landscaped yard, picked up an informative brochure, read it in the car, and had a good talk about the people and movements Olmsted must have been influenced by. Sarah has an uncanny knack for being able to guess such connections, and she’s usually right.

We continued on towards Boston Common and decided to brave it and walk the Freedom Trail, despite the horrendous downpour. We parked the car in the garage under the Common. As we emerged, a friendly Bostonian walked past us and said (with a grinning nod to the weather his “fair city” was blessing us with), “Welcome to Boston!” We took refuge for a brief while under the dome of the Bandstand in the middle of the Common, along with a motley crew of other drenched pedestrians. A convivial gathering of mutual understanding, even though we didn’t exchange actual words.

Founded in 1634, Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States. Over the years it has been used for grazing “cattell” (as the sign with old spellings has it), as a “trayning field” (for British soldiers during their occupation of Boston), for public hangings (one of the most famous was Mary Dyer, one of the “Boston martyrs” – four Quakers who were put to death for their beliefs), and for public demonstrations (the largest one in Boston’s history being the Vietnam War protests in 1969 which drew 100,000 participants).

Stepping out along the red-brick-marked Freedom Trail, we saw the Massachusetts State House with its beautiful gold dome, designed by famous Bostonian architect (the first native-born American of the profession) Charles Bulfinch. Completed in 1798, it is a masterpiece of the Federal style.

Next we passed Park Street Church (1809), a historic evangelical (Conservative Congregational) church that has been associated with a number of famous pastors, evangelists, abolitionists, and musicians. On July 4, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public statement against slavery here. The song “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” (aka “America”) was first sung at this church, on July 4, 1831. (You get the impression that July 4 is a significant day around here….)

Next door is the Granary Burying Ground where many famous Boston fathers (and mothers) are buried, including Samuel Adams (one of the leaders of the American Revolution), John Hancock (most prominent signer of the Declaration of Independence), Paul Revere (famous for his midnight ride to warn that the British were coming), Samuel Sewall (Salem witch trials judge, the only one who ever publicly repented of what he’d done), Phillis Wheatley (first African-American poet), Crispus Attucks (African-American victim of the Boston Massacre), and Mary Goose, whom legend has it was the original Mother Goose, though that has been debunked.

After that we passed Tremont Temple Baptist Church, the first racially integrated church in America, founded in 1838 as a “free” church. That is, unlike other churches of the day, there was no rent charged for pews – thus it was open to all, no matter what their means.

Next we took a look inside King’s Chapel, with its striking box pews. Many famous people have attended there, including George Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), and Oliver Wendell Holmes (a Supreme Court Justice).

We continued down School Street to the Old City Hall and the original site of Boston Latin School, the first public school in America, founded in 1635 by Benjamin Franklin (whose statue is out front). Nearby is a fun statue of a donkey with elephant-embossed footprints in front of it where you can “stand in opposition” – commemorating the animal emblems for the major American political parties.

At the end of that block is the site of Old Corner Bookstore (formerly the home of Anne Hutchinson), which was a meeting-place for authors including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. On the opposite corner is the Boston Irish Famine Memorial, commemorating the Irish immigrants who arrived in flight from the Great (Potato) Famine of 1845.

Across the street we went into Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party was orchestrated in 1773. It was originally a Puritan Meeting House, though it no longer has a congregation meeting in it. It is now a museum showcasing dissent and freedom of speech.

Next we went to the Old State House (unfortunately they didn’t let us in because it was almost closing time) which is adjacent to the site of the Boston Massacre.

Next stop was Faneuil Hall (a public marketplace and meeting house since 1743, and the site of several important speeches encouraging independence from Britain) and the adjacent Quincy Market, built in the 1820s as part of the same marketplace complex.

We walked past Paul Revere’s House (1680) en route to Old North Church, famous site of the hanging lanterns immortalized in Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” (“one if by land, two if by sea”). There were people in line to get inside for a fashion show featuring people in colonial costumes. We opted to take a pass, as we were getting hungry. So we hoofed it, past Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (second oldest cemetery in Boston, final resting place of many notable Bostonians, including several Mathers – Increase, his brother Samuel, and his son Cotton), over the Charles River, to Warren Tavern in Charlestown. Founded in 1780, it is “one of the most historic watering holes in America.” It was frequented by the likes of Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. We had a delicious meal of homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans – a welcome antidote to the chill that had begun to set in after all that walking in the rain.

After dinner, we took a walk around Charlestown – along Warren Street and up Monument Ave to the Bunker Hill Monument. We were smitten by the loveliness of the architecture and the feel of the neighborhood. We could both imagine living there. Sarah would have moved right in, so I almost had to drag her along to the T (Boston's subway).

No comments:

Post a Comment