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Boston’s Freedom Trail

16 Apr

After lunch

(actually, not wanting to waste any time, we ate fries on the go),

we finally did what I was dying to do

– Walk the Freedom Trail.

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Throughout Boston Proper,

the historic neighbourhood of Boston,

there is a trail marked by a red line

that leads you to all the important historic places in Boston.

This is why we came to Boston

so to say I was excited would be a bit of an understatement.

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The trail starts at Boston Common,

so back we went.

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Did I tell you last time that they hung people in the Common?

Pirates, witches and heretics swung from the gallows.

On a nicer note, thousands gathered here

to hear Martin Luther King speak.

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The next stop on the Freedom Trail was the Massachusetts State House.

It was built in 1798 and yet it is still called the “new” State House,

this is to distinguish it from the Old State House.

Clearly there is some really old stuff in this city.

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Across the road from the new State House

is the Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Glory”,

you’ll know the story of Robert Gould Shaw and the African American troops of the 54th Regiment.

And if you haven’t seen the movie, you should!

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On another corner of the Common is Park Street Church,

also known as Brimstone Corner.

No, the sermons weren’t fiery,

but gunpowder (which contains brimstone/sulphur)

was stored in the basement during the War of 1812.

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Next door to Park Street Church is the Granary Burial Ground.

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Originally it was called the South Burying Ground

(when the North Burying Ground filled up

and they had to open this new site to the south)

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but later it was renamed after the Granary

that used to stand where Park Street Church now stands.

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We spent a lot of time wandering around the cemetery,

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partly because we had to walk so cautiously.

The paths were icy and treacherous.

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But it gave us plenty of time to read the headstones.

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There were a lot of famous dead people in this cemetery.

The most famous, at least on my hierarchy,

was Paul Revere.

(Aussie readers, if you don’t know who Paul Revere is

you need to at least read “Paul Revere’s Ride”.)

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Smack bang in the centre of the burial grounds

is the Franklin cenotaph,

which marks the graves of Benjamin Franklin’s parents.

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John Hancock’s tomb is also in this burial ground

(He was the president of the continental congress

and the first signer of the Declaration.)

While this is his tomb marker,

(actually it’s a replacement of the original)

it is thought that his remains may have been stolen.

There’s no accounting for the taste of some robbers.

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This is Samual Adams’ headstone.

He was a key organiser of the Revolution

and he was a signer of the Declaration.

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Five victims of the Boston Massacre

are also buried in the Granary Burial Ground.

(If you ever visit Boston, you simply must know your history!)

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Interestingly enough,

the headstones in this burial ground

no longer mark where the bodies are located

They moved them into nice tidy straight rows.

(It helps with the lawn mowing apparently).

That just seems so wrong to me.

We could have been walking on dead people.

Ewwww!!

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I must say there were some rather creepy looking headstones.

The Puritan weren’t allowed images inside their churches

so they completely went to town on their headstones.

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Moving onto our next stop on the trail,

we wandered over to King’s Chapel.

Isn’t it a funny looking church?

Apparently they ran out of funds for a steeple.

Oh and those lovely columns out the front

…they are made of wood with sand mixed into the paint to make them look like stone.

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I kind of feel sorry for the little chapel.

It wasn’t wanted from the beginning.

You see, it’s an Anglican church and Boston was full of Puritans at the time of its building.

The church represented everything that the Puritans had been fleeing from in England

so no one would sell the church any land to build their chapel.

Eventually, a piece of land had to be seized from the burying ground (the north one).

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Yes, we visited that Burying Ground too.

It’s called King’s Chapel Burying Ground,

but obviously it doesn’t belong to King’s Chapel.

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It’s more than 50 years older than the church

and was the first cemetery in Boston.

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There weren’t as many famous people here

that I could recognise

but there were a few.

This is William Dawes’  graves.

He’s the other guy who rode that night with Paul Revere.

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And this is Mary Chilton’s grave.

She was the first pilgrim to step foot in America.

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It would have been nice to spend more time looking at headstones

but we had a whole trail ahead of us

and a time schedule to stick to.

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A short distance away is the site of the first public school,

the Boston Latin School.

It’s no longer there but remembered with a statue.

And why is it a statue of Benjamin Franklin?

Well he was one of their most famous students.

He also dropped out of the school!

How many schools do you know commemorate their dropouts.

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The building behind the statue is the Old City Hall.

Nothing exciting about that.

But it was a lovely looking building.

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This is the Old Corner Book Store.

Well actually it’s now a burrito shop.

(I’d prefer a bookstore.)

Before it was a bookstore,

it was the location of a book publisher.

“The Scarlet Letter” was published here.

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The next stop on the trail was the Old South Meeting-House.

It was the largest meeting hall in Boston

so a lot of the pre-Revolution gatherings were held here,

when the crowds outgrew Faneuil Hall, the town normal meeting hall.

In fact, the meeting before the Boston Tea Party was held here.

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Further down the trail

was the Old State House

(as opposed to the New State House near Boston Common)

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It was a much less popular building during the Revolutionary period.  .

It was the centre of British authority

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The lion and the unicorn on top of the State House

are symbols of Britain.

Sadly, these are just replicas of the originals.

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The originals were burned in a bonfire

on the night after the Declaration of Independence

was read from this very balcony.

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In front of the Old State House

is a circle of paving stones

that marks the general location of the Boston Massacre of 1770.

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I just love how these little historic places

are towered over by modern life.

I’m particularly appreciative that

the sites were valued enough to be protected and preserved.

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Faneuil Hall was next on the Freedom Trail.

It was the city’s town meeting hall.

The earliest meetings about ‘the tea’ were held here.

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Check out the ‘fallout shelter’ sign I find on the front entrance.

We saw these signs here and there on our trip.

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Remember the Quincy Markets where we had lunch the previous day.

Here’s it’s entrance.

We had to rush past this day.

By this point in the Freedom Trail

we were behind schedule

and had to pick up the pace

to make sure we were at our meeting place on time.

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It was a bit of a walk to Paul Revere’s House

but it was well worth it.

Sadly it was closed for President’s Day

but I was perfectly happy to just see its exterior.

His little wooden house is the oldest structure in Boston.

Apparently some of the original wallpaper still remains on the walls!!

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The area where the house is located is called North Square

and many of Paul’s neighbours were involved in the Boston Tea Party.

I liked the story of one North Square resident – a Captain Kemble.

He returned home from a 3 year sea voyage,

on a Sunday,

and dared to passionately kiss his wife on their doorstep.

Oh the horror of it!  :)-

For such “lewd and unseemly conduct”,

defiling the Sabbath,

he had to stand in the town stocks for 2 hours.

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Another longish walk through the oldest streets in Boston

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took us to the Old North Church.

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There we found a statue of Paul Revere preparing for his ride.

You simply have to read “Paul Revere’s Ride”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

to have any idea of what I’m talking about.

Oh and bear in mind that the author was a poet and not a historian

so you have to dig a little deeper if you want complete accuracy.

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The steeple of the Old North Church

that you can see in the background

has always been the tallest steeple in Boston,

(although destroyed twice by hurricanes)

and is where the lanterns were hung

to warn of the British troops’ march to Lexington.

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The Old North Church is also

Boston’s oldest standing church

and is still used.

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The interior is virtually unchanged

and just lovely.

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Sadly (but thankfully), it was being restored when we visited

so pretend that the scaffolding isn’t there.

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We particularly loved the quirky pew boxes.

Each was set aside for a particular upper class family.

Everyone else was expected to stand in the balconies.

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Notice how high the walls are around the pew.

At least you can’t be distracted by what is happening around you.

And it would certainly force your eyes heavenward.

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I wonder if that’s why the minister had such a high pulpit.

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They wouldn’t have seen him if he stood on the altar.

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Robert Newman was the bloke

who shone the signal lanterns in the steeple.

As the story goes,

there were British soldiers quartered in his house

so he had to climb out of his bedroom window to avoid detection.

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Then, after he entered the church,

the door was locked from the outside to avoid detection

and he climbed to the top of the steeple.

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After briefly sending the lantern signal

(they didn’t want to draw too much attention),

he left the church through this window.

In time the window was covered over by renovations

but in 1989 the original window was rediscovered

and fairly well preserved.

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The lantern hanging on the window

was lit by President Ford in 1975

as a call to the nation

of renewed effort and hope.

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The final stop on our walk of the Freedom Trail,

(due to time constraints

we had to eliminate the Charleston part of the walk),

was the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

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Apparently people nicknamed it Corpse Hill,

which is probably a pretty fair description of a colonial graveyard.

We read that it wasn’t that uncommon to see parts of caskets or bones poking up through the ground.

Ewwww!!

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Unlike the other two burial grounds we visited,

there were very few famous people in this graveyard.

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And that wraps up our Freedom Trail walk.

But before we move on

I have to share this picture of the reclaimed land in Boston.

This totally surprised us.

The brown areas on this map show land that was reclaimed from the sea.

Boston as the pilgrims knew it is shown in yellow.

How very different the peninsula looks from then to now.

Wow!

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Are you thinking that our day must have been complete

after all this?

You’d be wrong.

Next we were off to the Boston Museum of Science.

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2 responses to “Boston’s Freedom Trail

  1. Petra

    April 16, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I quite like visiting historic cemeteries but I don’t like the way they moved the headstones just to make them neat and tidy – that’s kind of sacrilege. And I found the map interesting 🙂

     
  2. Jen

    April 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    I love looking at old buildings!! And graveyards too although no one else in my family share that love 😀

     

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