An October 1992 trip
to Boston by actonsteve
Quote: Of all the cities in the United States, the most European is Boston. Europeans will feel at home in the winding streets rather then the grid plans of most American cities. It also has an interesting history, one which will be of interest to British visitors.
Attraction | "Old Grannary Burial Ground"
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 23, 2000
Old Granary Burial Ground
The best place to start is on Boston Common where you can pick up the red line on Park Street. From there it leads north to the Golden domed State house. Completed in 1798 by Charles Bullfinch this really catches the eye - especially on a sunny day when the sunlight glints off the gold. Then back down Park Street to the Old Grannary Burial Ground (see earlier entry) and across the street to the very white Kings Chapel, and a left down the hill to the Old State House. This building loses some of it's impact due to being crowded by skyscrapers and McDonalds but is still an excellent example of Georgian archicture. It was the seat of the Colonial government and you can imagine bewigged gentleman inhabiting this elegant building. Inside is an informative museum including a display on the Boston massacre which happened outside. I rather like the balcony facing south with the symbol of the crown - 'the Lion and Unicorn' still on display. Can you believe they wanted to tear this building down earlier in the 20th Century?
A little way downhill is a charming little building called the 'Old Corner bookstore' which is open to visitors and was a literary salon for the likes of Longfellow and Hawthorne. Across the road is the Old South Meeting House where the plotters met to plan the Boston Tea party, but as soon as you turn a corner - then Quincy Market becomes apparent. You can pick up the Freedom trail on the other side of the market and along Congress Street. Here I was accosted by a bespectacled gentleman dressed as Ben Franklin. All part of the show I suppose?
Then you come across a rarity in America, a real market with people shouting and shoving. And a feel that people really do their shopping here.Then through a graffitti-lined underpass to the Italian district.
Here stands the Paul Revere house. Home of the local gentleman who rode into Boston shouting "the British are Coming! The British are coming!" This is definitely worth visiting and is the only 17th Century building left in Boston. This is where he lived from 1770 to 1800 with his 16 children and I was allowed to roam around its rooms which still had the original furniture. The whole thing was built in red brick with a beautiful garden that contained a well. I couldn't help thinking that even then Americans lived in larger abodes then Europeans.
I then had to leave the Freedom trail to catch my bus down to Hyannis but I planned to pick up where I left off in a few days time. As I walked to the bus station I noticed the number of European/English tour groups that were using the trail. I suppose Boston has what the English love, beautiful buildings and an interesting history, and that sense of stepping back in time. And as for the fact that the trail is subconsciously anti-British. Well, we have seen it all before and can live with that..can't we?
Just before this is a lovely courtyard where wall plates commemorate those who died at the battle of Bunker Hill. With trees and benches this is a beautifully genteel part of Boston and the streets narrow here to give a real sense of the past. The Old North church itself is a lovely Anglican church made of whitestone and a wood-beam carved interior. It was packed with tour groups when I was in there so I left and followed the red trail uphill to the Copps Hill burial ground.
With the exception of New Orleans, this is one of the few parts of America that still looks the same way it did hundreds of years ago. This is reinforced by the brownstone Georgian houses and cobbled streets and the absence of traffic. The burial ground itself is a beautifully kept cemetery with trimmed grass and expansive views over Boston harbour. This is where British troops aimed their cannons ready for the battle of Bunker hill. And the tip of the Bunker Hill monument is visible from this high bit of ground. In fact in this spot you get a good idea of Boston's original intention, that of a port.
Then under the underpass (why have they put a freeway through the centre of historic Boston?)and across the bridge to Charlestown. Here the Freedom trail became a little obscured as it passed a construction site. And there followed an amusing sight of tourists scouring through the dust and rubble trying to pick it up again. Then the wonderful Charlestown naval yard with USS Constitution - "Old Ironsides" which was built in 1797 and was used in the war of 1812. This was a terrific ship to explore and I like so many other tourists couldn't help but play with the Bofors gun.
Then up through the Brownstone streets to the Bunker hill monument. This area is gorgeous and the walk uphill takes you past Georgian houses and ornate lampposts. At the top of the hill is a huge tower marking the spot of the battle of Bunker hill. Inside is an uninformative museum with diorama's showing the battle. But also 300 steps leading up to the top of the tower which give excellent views of the harbour and north Boston. On my way out I was accosted by a character dressed in 18th garb who informed me the monument was to commemorate the battle and to chant "Down with the British! Down with the British!".
I looked at him with amazement.
"But I am British."
So that was the end of the Freedom trail and I must admit it is a wonderful idea and showed me parts of Boston I would never have wandered into on my own. It has that wonderful sense of stepping back in time and its inhabitants are very proud of its history. But in many ways it was very unsatisfactory. As you wandered the streets you noticed the names - Hull Street, Fleet Street and Richmond Street. And realise there are stories behind the names. I wanted to know what life was like in 18th century, for rich or poor, black and white. And Freedom trail, despite its hyperbole, did not accomplish this.
But as I waited for my bus to Washington I walked along the Charles River to the Harvard bridge and looked across the water. There were joggers in the park and yachts and rowers on the river, all silhouetted against the skyscrapers of downtown Boston. And there is no denying it - this is a great city.
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