Written by notso62 on 11 Jul, 2010
It is hard to explain the feeling that comes over Boston every time the fourth of July comes around. There is an energy in the air that is fed by the thousands of tourists and historical re-enactments and displays that pepper the town. Nowhere is…Read More
It is hard to explain the feeling that comes over Boston every time the fourth of July comes around. There is an energy in the air that is fed by the thousands of tourists and historical re-enactments and displays that pepper the town. Nowhere is this feeling more evident than the Charlestown Navy Yard, where the USS Constitution is docked. Not only is the USS Constitution decked out with flags and patriotic decorations, but there are also typically several other Navy ships that visit the yard for the weekend. The Navy Yard is accessible through many of the bus tours that circle Boston and also through the ferry with service from Rowes Wharf (close to Faneuil Hall). A footbridge and harbor-side walking path can be found that connect North Station with the Navy Yard area, if you know where to look for them (behind North Station--- over the canal locks that separate the Charles River from Boston Harbor).In 2010, the World War II Destroyer USS Cassin Young was docked in the Navy Yard for the Fourth of July festivities. Another Navy ship was also docked in the yard, but the USS Cassin Young was the only one that was open to public tours. It was interesting to walk around the deck of the Destroyer and view the gun turrets and torpedo launchers. It was also interesting to see the very small dining and sick-bay facilities which make one wonder how anyone could've survived their stay on the vessel back in the day. The main deck was the only one open for public viewing, but I saw several park rangers give guided tours of the lower boiler rooms and quarters to a few people upon request. The USS Constitution was very crowded on the weekend of the Fourth. Navy personnel keep the line moving smoothly to get aboard the ship, but it probably took a half-an-hour more than usual to get through the line. Boarding the USS Constitution is difficult to do on July 4th itself, since it is engaged in its annual "turnaround cruise" for the better part of the day. But seeing the ship sailing in the harbor is still a sight to see in itself; best viewed from another boat. As always, all the attractions in the Navy Yard including the Constitution and the USS Cassin Young were free to partake in. I would highly recommend visiting the Navy Yard in Charlestown if you are looking for a truly patriotic experience on the Fourth of July. Few places offer this kind of spirit and historical experience in the same package. The flags and patriotic decorations are typically only on display during this time of year, so make for the perfect photo opportunity to remember your summer Boston travels.Close
Written by zabelle on 14 Dec, 2009
I love shopping in Boston and Cambridge is no exception. Especially in the area around Harvard Square, there are some unique and very interested places to poke around in.Tis-Tik54 Church StreetI fell in love with this store as soon as I saw it. It is…Read More
I love shopping in Boston and Cambridge is no exception. Especially in the area around Harvard Square, there are some unique and very interested places to poke around in.Tis-Tik54 Church StreetI fell in love with this store as soon as I saw it. It is filled with items from third world countries made by artisans and if you are looking for something different that will make a unique gift this is the perfect place to shop. I bought Kasey a gorgeous silver necklace with pink stones and matching pink earring. As it turned out the artist was in the store and had just placed her work there that day. It was a very nice experience to get to meet her and tell her how much I loved her work. If you can’t get to Cambridge they do have a very nice website and many items are for sale online. Globe Corner Bookstore90 Mt Auburn StreetThis is my favorite travel bookstore in the world. That is their specialty and they have a great selection of books about almost anywhere in the world you might want to visit. While you will find all the major guides you will also find lots of unexpected things. I Was able to find some of the guides to the counties of England that I usually can only find overseas. Cindy and I spend over an hour in here just browsing around. Beadworks 23 Church StreetIf you are into beads you will be in heaven. There was a class going on when we stopped in and there were a table full of people stringing beads to make a necklace. It was like walking into a bead rainbow, there were beads of every color and many different shapes. I have to say I did stop and look at a couple Murano beads that were selling for almost nothing and wonder if maybe I could put them on my Pandora Bracelet. I opted not too because they aren’t sterling and I really put a beating on my bracelet. Harvard Coop1400 Massachusetts’s AveThis store wasn’t exactly what I expected. It certainly does have everything Harvard that you might possibly want to buy, sweatshirts, lanyards, mugs and travel cups, really the works but it also had a nice selection of chocolate and some great Vera Bradley items. I was surprised at all that they had to offer. MIT CoopKendall SquareBarnes and Noble runs this coop and it has a great selection of books for every member of the family in addition to all the MIT gear you might want. The staff here was great, they helped me find a couple of books for the grand kids and if you have a Barnes and Noble discount card be sure to use it and get your 10% off.These are just a few of the places I like to shop when I am in Cambridge. There are many more. There is nothing quite like enjoy a historic college town and doing some Christmas shopping at the same time. Close
Written by MilwVon on 24 Jul, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009Every year tens of thousands of youth soccer players participate at their State Championships with one goal in mind . . . to represent their state at one of four regional championships that will lead them to competing in July at the…Read More
Friday, July 24, 2009Every year tens of thousands of youth soccer players participate at their State Championships with one goal in mind . . . to represent their state at one of four regional championships that will lead them to competing in July at the US Youth Soccer National Championships Series and the possibility of being NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!Unfortunately Wisconsin is not one of the national powerhouse states, like some of the larger states like Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California, but our teams generally hold their own at the regional level. It's been a couple of years since we've had a national finalist team, but we still enjoy attending the championship event and watching these amazing athletes compete at the highest levels.Teams from across the United States came to Lancaster, Massachusetts this year in hopes of winning the Championships. Each of the four regions will send a boys and girls team at each of six age groups. Additional teams qualify through the US Youth Soccer Nat'l Leagues. I spent an afternoon out at the fields during the group play. During this phase of the tournament, each of the teams play the other three in their age group bracket with the top two advancing for the championship match on Saturday or Sunday.Because we had a lot of rain overnight, the tournament schedule had to be modified slightly to include moving games from grass fields to turf (artificial grass) . . . still located at the same complex.A little about the complex. The Citizen Bank Fields at Progin Park are well kept and manicured fields. It was unfortunate to have the heavy rains, but the good news was that it wasn't sweltering in terms of heat, although the humidity has been high. It is a small complex, one that might surprise folks to be hosting a national level championship especially since there are no lighted fields and relatively limited seating provided for spectators (tri-level bleachers were at all fields in use for this event).The complex does have a nice snack bar concession stand complete with bathrooms (vs. the "blue rooms" you see at so many parks and facilities). Parking was somewhat limited, but tournament organizers minimized the inconvenience of the downhill (or uphill for your return trip to your car) by provided golf cart shuttle service. HURRAY for that!I watched the entire U15B game between Casa Mia Bays 94 (Baltimore, MD) and SCSA 92 Gold (Charlotte, NC). In the end it was a 1-0 win for the bracket leader Casa Mia. Attached to this story is a photo of the lone goal scored in the 9th minute of the game on a penalty kick. NOTE: For the soccer novice, U15B means "Under 15 (age) Boys". These kids were all 15 now (or within the next week) as the cutoff date for birthdays for this year’s event would have been 8/1/08.NOTE: On Saturday, July 25th the U15B Casa Mia Bays 94's won the National Championships and in doing so, accomplished the "double" as they had earlier this summer won the US Youth Soccer National League for their age group.Sunday, July 26, 2009Today I caught the last of the U18 girls championship match of Ohio Elite (OH/S) vs. FC Bucks (E/PA). While Ohio South held tough after an early second half goal by PA/E's team, that was enough for FC Bucks to get by them. (See photo of the great save late in the game, made by the Ohio keeper.)The second game that I watched was the U19B and another Casa Mia Bays team from Baltimore. Their opponent was NASA 08 Elite of Georgia, the top team in the USA as of the 7/24/09 rankings. At this age group, many of the players are already playing college level soccer and in this particular game most were playing at D1 schools.It was a very exciting game, with the Baltimore team winning their second National Championship this year for their club. With a goal in each of the halves, the game seemed much closer than the final 2-0 score.For those who may actually be interested in youth soccer and the US Youth Soccer National Championships, check out the championships’ page at: http://championships.usyouthsoccer.org/index.asp.Close
Written by zabelle on 21 Nov, 2007
Let me begin by saying that there are several choices of hop on hop off trolley tours in Boston. Our hotel recommended Old Town Trolley and I am familiar with them having taken their tour in Savannah. The reason we chose Beantown Trolley was that…Read More
Let me begin by saying that there are several choices of hop on hop off trolley tours in Boston. Our hotel recommended Old Town Trolley and I am familiar with them having taken their tour in Savannah. The reason we chose Beantown Trolley was that they went to the Museum of Fine Arts and none of the other tours did. I would recommend Beantown if you plan to visit the Museum but otherwise the tour itself is about two hours to make the round and that is longer than it needs to be.Most of the tours have kiosk at Long Wharf. Beantown is behind the other tours facing Legal Seafood. We bought a two day ticket for $35 and it included a free Boston Harbor Tour (which I will describe in a separate entry). The Harbor Cruise is included May-October, otherwise you get free entrance to the Maparium. We took the 12:30pm Harbor Tour and were back to get on the Trolley at 1:30pm. You get a receipt that is a register tape so be careful to hang on to it, you need to show it every time you get on and off. The tour heads out of Long Wharf and into the North End. Our first driver was not very interesting as a tour guide, he sounded bored and it was pretty much by rote. In spite of this we enjoyed our first views of the area. We then crossed over the Charles River to visit Charlestown where the USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young are docked. This is also the stop for the Bunker Hill Monument and the Park Department film “Whites of their eyes”. We got off at this stop on our second day of touring to see the film.Coming back across the river to Boston the next stop will allow you to visit Faneuil Hall Market Place, Quincy Market, The Old State House and the site of the Boston Massacre. Needless to say this is a very popular stop. Be sure to keep you trolley tour map close at hand it will tell you everything you need to know about each of the stops.One thing I was hoping was that taking the tour was going to familiarize me with the city and it did in some areas but in others we seemed to weave in and out of streets that made no sense what so ever to me. Stop 7 is the beginning of the Freedom Trail right across the street from the State House. We decided to visit the Otis House on Saturday and this is best reached from stop 8 which is right down the hill from the house.The trolley crosses the Charles River again at this point and goes over into Cambridge. It doesn’t go to Harvard or Harvard Square but it does take you on a loop through MIT.Stop 10 is the Back Bay Hilton and it is an 8 minute stop allowing for a bathroom break if you can find the bathroom in the Hilton (Which we did but not without difficulty and it is a very small bathroom). On Saturday we got off here and walked to the Mary Baker Eddy Center to visit the Maparium. The trolley goes to the Fine Arts Museum if anyone wants to go there otherwise it has a couple of stops in the Back Bay mostly at hotels, go figure. We headed back up Atlantic Ave and returned to where we had started. On our second day we had three tour guides who were much more enthusiastic and actually deserved the tips they so blatantly ask for. Close
Written by ssullivan on 01 Mar, 2005
On the last morning of my weekend in Boston, my friend and I had about 2.5 hours between finishing breakfast at our hotel and the time we needed to be back at the hotel to check out and head for Logan Airport to catch our…Read More
On the last morning of my weekend in Boston, my friend and I had about 2.5 hours between finishing breakfast at our hotel and the time we needed to be back at the hotel to check out and head for Logan Airport to catch our 2pm flight home. Both of us love the Beacon Hill neighborhood, a section of the city we had yet to visit on this trip, so we decided that a walk through the neighborhood and adjacent Boston Common and Public Garden were in order.
Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and from the 1790s through the development of Back Bay in the 1870s, Beacon Hill was the place to live in Boston if you were wealthy. After a period of decline through the 1870s to 1950s, Beacon Hill began to see a renaissance in the mid-20th century. Today, the neighborhood has regained its former status, and even the most modest homes are prohibitively expensive for the average Bostonian. The neighborhood remains home to thousands of historic Federal-style homes, many designed by famed Boston architect Charles Bulfinch; a number of beautiful churches; and some unique shops along Charles St.
Our Sunday morning walk through Beacon Hill started by crossing the Common and heading down Beacon Street from the Massachusetts Statehouse. The south slope of the hill facing the Common has always been one of the neighborhood’s premiere addresses, and the architecture reflects this. Beacon Street is lined on one side with a row of grand Federal mansions, and on the other, by the Common and Public Garden. Reaching Charles Street, the dividing street between the Common and Public Garden, we turned left and headed into the neighborhood.
Charles Street is primarily a commercial street, with some apartments on the upper levels of the historic buildings that house florists, produce markets, butchers, book shops, art galleries, and antique shops on the street level. Some of these shops are absolutely beautiful, with colorful displays of perfect fruits, vegetables, and flowers filling the store windows, enticing passers by to come inside to browse. The nearest supermarket is at Copley Square, so many residents in this part of town rely on the smaller markets on Charles Street for many of their groceries and other necessities. For a lover of urban living like myself, this type of neighborhood is almost divine; how nice it must be to just walk down the block to a nice neighborhood store owned by friendly people who have had the shop in their family for generations to buy a loaf of bread instead of getting in the car to drive to a nearby mega market like I must do at home in Houston! Walking by these shops, I wonder if the residents of Beacon Hill really appreciate what they have, or if they are as oblivious to it as I am about going to a huge supermarket surrounded by a giant parking lot.
Reaching Mt. Vernon Street., we turn left and cross in front of the historic Charles Street Meeting House, which dates to the early 1800s. Originally built to house a Baptist congregation, the building has more recently been converted to commercial use but still retains its classic architecture. Next door stands a site familiar to viewers of MTV’s reality show The Real World. The old fire station that housed the cast and crew of the 1997 season of the show is located at 127 Mt. Vernon on the corner of Mt. Vernon and River Streets, just off Charles Street. The building is now the home of Hill House, a nonprofit community center. Across the street at 130 Mt. Vernon is the whimsical Sunflower Castle, definitely the most unique and colorful home in the neighborhood. We continued down Mt. Vernon, then turned right and circled back toward Charles Street via Pickney Street, passing more unique and beautiful examples of Boston’s 19th-century residential architecture.
After reaching Charles Street again, I had to convince my friend, who is not a fan of hills, that it really was worth walking up Pickney to the summit of Beacon Hill. After a few protests, we crossed the street and started up the steep incline. Granted, Beacon Hill is nothing compared to the hills of San Francisco that I drug this same friend up and down for 3 days a year and a half earlier, but it’s still a bit of a climb. Going up the hill, it’s interesting to see how builders of these houses accommodated building the structures on the side of a steep incline. Many have half basements and half basements that are partly below street level and partly above it. Some houses are built with stairs leading up to the front door, while others have just a small step up from the sidewalk. Toward the top of the hill we reached Louisburg Square, still arguably the most prestigious address in all of Boston. This enclave of homes, which surrounds the city’s last private square, is perhaps the best example of the neighborhood’s architecture. In the center of the tree-filled square, which is surrounded by an iron fence to keep out nonresidents, stands a statue of Christopher Columbus, an 1850 gift of a wealthy Greek merchant. Louisburg Square is said to be the place where the Christmas traditions of Christmas Eve caroling and candlelit windows started.
Leaving Louisburg Square, we continued several more blocks before turning right and heading back toward Beacon Street. Sometime during this section of the walk, the air began to be filled with the bell peals of area churches calling their congregants for Sunday morning worship. The sound of the bells, resounding in all directions and echoing down the narrow streets, was a glorious celebration of a beautiful morning. It was the perfect compliment to an absolutely wonderful walk through one of Boston’s finest neighborhoods on a cold, clear late February Sunday morning. And it was the perfect way to end a short but fun visit to one of my favorite cities.
Written by friskycelery on 27 Mar, 2002
Boston, like any big city, is made up of neighborhoods, and Harvard Square (pronounced
Hahvahd Squayah) is a fun neighborhood to explore.
Be forewarned: Boston is undergoing a major construction project called "The Big Dig". (You can get details of this project at their website: bigdig.)…Read More
Boston, like any big city, is made up of neighborhoods, and Harvard Square (pronounced
Hahvahd Squayah) is a fun neighborhood to explore.
Be forewarned: Boston is undergoing a major construction project called "The Big Dig". (You can get details of this project at their website: bigdig.) It entails taking the Central Artery and moving it underground. Traffic tie ups are legendary, and rerouting of streets is common. This project is not expected to be finished until 2004. Unless you are a true glutton for punishment, DO NOT DRIVE in Boston if you can avoid it.
That said, you can get just about anywhere you want to go by public transit, known as the T. The T is cheap, safe, and convenient. Harvard Square has its own T stop on the Red Line.
Guess what? When you come out of the Harvard Square T stop, you are right by Harvard. (Pretty clever, eh?) You can take a walk through Harvard Yard, which is pleasant, and see the engraved stone detailing how 400 English pounds were given to start this new college. (200 pounds down, 200 pounds upon completion.) It is beautiful and surprisingly small.
As you might expect, this locale is ripe with bookstores. The Harvard Coop, which is actually a cooperative association, carries general reading as well as textbooks. They also have a large section of Harvard memorabilia.
Another bookstore which I am going to add to my list of favorites is Wordsworth. This bookstore boasts that every book is discounted every day. The selection here is spread over several floors, and runs the gamut from the most run of the mill paperbacks to some pretty esoteric stuff. And, yup, everything I looked at was discounted about 20%.
Like any other college town, Harvard Square has its share of little restaurants and pubs. One I particularly like is called Finagle-A-Bagel. This is a local chain, and is a great deal for lunch or a
The Finagle-A-Bagel in Harvard Square is located at 14 JFK Street, and the cafe is downstairs. I had a "Blue Chicken" which is a flatbread made from bagel dough, topped with four cheeses, spicy chicken, and blue cheese dressing, and run under a broiler until melted. It cost $4.59, and it was outstanding. Pair this with a beer, they have several on tap, or a soft drink, and you have a reasonably priced meal. This location also has internet connections. I did not use them, so I can't tell you how fast they are, or the cost.
Right across from Finagle-A-Bagel are the law offices of Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe. (If this doesn't ring a bell, see my note below.) The sign is on the second floor, at the pointed end of the building, so look up.
The pharmacy of Billings and Stover is just down the street. This has been a pharmacy since 1854, and is still in operation. It reminds me of drugstores back when I was a kid, before chain drugstores started selling laundry detergent and milk.
All in all, this is a nice place to spend a few hours, more if you are a die hard Harvard fan.
Note about Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe
If you are a fan of National Public Radio, you have probably stumbled across a show called "Car Talk". "Car Talk" is hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, two brothers who actually run a service garage in Cambridge. They also both graduated from MIT, so we ain't talking your average grease monkey here. This is hands down the single funniest show on the air today, whether on TV or radio. And, by the way, they dispense pretty good advice about cars in the process. If you want to get a taste of their show, you can go to CarTalk and listen to their weekly radio show,
among other things. Anyhow, in their sign off each week, Tom and Ray always refer to their lawyers Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe. (Go ahead, say it out loud.)
Written by Idler on 05 Sep, 2002
"He reports the American joke correctly," Mark Twain begins in his essay, "What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us." "In Boston they ask, How much does he know? in New York, How much is he worth? in Philadelphia, Who…Read More
"He reports the American joke correctly," Mark Twain begins in his essay, "What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us." "In Boston they ask, How much does he know? in New York, How much is he worth? in Philadelphia, Who were his parents?"
Few cities have as formidable an intellectual heritage as Boston. The images spring quickly to mind: Boston’s illustrious universities, such as Harvard and M.I.T.; Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Lowell and other "Boston Brahmins;" eminent philosophers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and George Santayana; and more than its fair share of poets, playwrights, and novelists, the most famous of whom are celebrated on Boston’s "Literary Trail."
For some, Boston’s high-toned, cerebral reputation provides an easy target for that all-American pastime, intellectual bashing. Frequent references to Boston stuffiness and reserve – sometimes made by Bostonians themselves, oddly enough - zero in on the dated image of the staid, stodgy Bostonian. This is somewhat counterbalanced by that other Boston stereotype, the boastful, feisty immigrant.
When I consider Boston, however, neither bluestocking nor braggart comes into focus. I see instead a city of dreamers, extending back to the original colony of Puritans who dreamt of religious freedom. Their high-minded venture ultimately led to the larger vision of self-governance that sparked the American Revolution. Scarcely had the echoes of the Revolution died than a new cry took up the cause of Abolition, and Faneuil Hall rang with the fiery speeches of William Lloyd Garrison, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass. Then, beginning in the 1840’s, the dreams of immigrants held sway, as waves of Irish, German, Italian and other newcomers made Boston the second-largest port of entry, surpassed only by New York.
While dreams of freedom have fueled Boston’s growth and defined its character, the general atmosphere of excitement, bustle, and promise have nurtured dreamers in all manner of fields, contributing to what has been referred to as Boston’s "culture of invention." The list of well-known Boston-based inventors and their inventions is legion: Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, Elias Howe and the sewing machine, Edward Land and the Polaroid camera, Percy Spencer and the microwave oven, and King Gillette and the safety razor are only a few. Equally impressive are the results of private and academic-based research groups which developed the first programmable computers (the Mark I) and the ARPANET technology which made possible the Internet and e-mail. And let us not neglect the medical pioneers: the smallpox vaccine, general anesthesia, organ transplant, chemotherapy, and genetically engineered mice are some of the better-known Boston breakthroughs.
But it is Boston’s affinity for civic-minded institutions and related civic reforms that to me best typifies the spirit of the city. Paul Revere was not just the man who gave the alarm, "The British are coming!" He was also the first chairman of Boston’s Board of Health. Boston’s city fathers were among the first to foresee the need for an organized volunteer fire department, with local ironmaker Joseph Jynks developing an "ingine" to pump water onto flames. The nation’s first commercial bank, the Massachusetts Bank (now Fleet Boston Financial), was established in 1784 in Boston, providing the capital needed for local merchants and, not coincidentally, giving the newly formed country greater financial independence from England.
Many of Boston’s best-known buildings and structures are likewise testimony to the laudable visions of civic-minded Bostonians. One early benefactor, the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil, seeing the need for a public market, built Faneuil Hall as a gift to the town. It is interesting that it served both as a market and public meeting hall, a typically Bostonian fusion of commerce and community. The hall was twice expanded in the 19th century to accommodate larger and larger meetings and today stands at the head of the vibrant Quincy Market complex. The State House, which Oliver Wendell Holmes proclaimed "the hub of the solar system," was built on land donated by another Boston benefactor, John Hancock. The young public-spirited architect Charles Bulfinch designed the building, which later became a model for the U.S. Capitol. In Copley Square stands another great civic building, The Boston Public Library, which was America’s first free municipal library. The magnificent marble structure was conceived by architect Charles McKim as a "palace for the people."
Everywhere I turned in Boston, I saw evidence of the public-spirited visionaries who shaped the city. Clear-eyed practicality and Yankee ingenuity combined with aspirations of an ideal city and society, with sometimes chaotic (viz: the Big Dig) but nearly always well-intentioned results. Furthermore, most Bostonians believe and participate in these urban dreams in some way. Starting with pre-Revolutionary acts of defiance such as the Boston Teaparty, Bostonians have time and again expressed their willingness to make sacrifices for the greater civic good. As sociologists and scholars today bemoan the rise of the "bowling alone" phenomenon and the decline of community spirit, they would do well to consider Boston, where civic participation and the dream of community still flourish, as a model.
Written by Idler on 03 Sep, 2002
This was my third trip to Boston in the past several years and, as always, I was struck by the massive construction projects everywhere. Most of this involves the Big Dig (more on that later), but it seems the entire city is continually either…Read More
This was my third trip to Boston in the past several years and, as always, I was struck by the massive construction projects everywhere. Most of this involves the Big Dig (more on that later), but it seems the entire city is continually either shoring up or tearing down what my husband, who often attends conferences there, laughingly refers to as the "crumbling infrastructure."
My friends who live either in or outside of Boston, too, refer to the various enormous civic projects with fond derision tinged with barely-suppressed pride. On prior visits to Boston, I regarded the resulting chaos with a certain asperity (if it wasn’t finished yet, what possible good could it conceivably do me in the next few days?), but on this last trip, driving in to Boston along I-93, a route which features both hair-raising traffic and awe-inspiring views of the Big Dig construction, I resolved to do a bit of investigating while I was in town about this and other Bostonian mega projects.
What I discovered was surprising.
Boston, it seems, has a long history of ambitious civic engineering projects. Most notably, before the Big Dig there were the Big Fills. Some 360 years ago, when the town was first settled, Boston was confined to a slender finger of land jutting out into the bay, terminating in a larger area, almost an island, upon which stood three mountains. The low rise of the area that is now Beacon Hill is all that remains of the mountains today, though nearby Tremont Street's name refers to them. Starting during the late 18th century, Boston began filling in the surrounding bay to extend the harbor front. Then, as the population grew, more and more land was reclaimed from the sea in a succession of fill projects.
The three mountains were gradually carted off and dumped into nearby coves to give the overcrowded town some breathing room. Tourists strolling through present-day Quincy Market may not realize it, for example, but they are walking on what used to be the shoreline of the Boston Harbor. And, before buying into the myth that Boston’s streets were laid out along existing "cow paths," consider that the original topography of the town bears absolutely no resemblance to the city’s ultimate configuration. The streets in the oldest sections were confined to the narrow oddly-shaped peninsula; subsequent landfills proceeded erratically and irregularly, and thus Boston’s notoriously confusing street layout was born.
The most ambitious of these fill projects began in the mid 1800’s and involved filling in what is now the entire Back Bay area. I heard the same story about the filling in of the Back Bay from not just one but three people while I was in Boston. For over fifty years, day and night, 24 hours a day, gravel was brought in by railroad from Needham and westward areas, up to 3,500 railroad cars of it a day. The scope of this project alone, not to mention the many other areas that were filled (West Cove, South Cove, East Cove, Marine Park, South Boston, Charlestown, the Logan Airport area, and others) surely make the creation of Boston one of the greatest American engineering feats. To get a sense of how dramatically the land was built up, take a look at this animated page displaying the Sequence of Landfill Projects in Boston. Impressive, isn’t it? And the work continues even to this day.
Perhaps, then, it is appropriate that the city which has essentially built the very ground it stands upon, has for the past eleven years embarked on what is undoubtedly the most ambitious construction project in U.S. history. Comparisons are frequently made to the Panama Canal or the Chunnel. But, if the truth be known, the Big Dig is an elaborate form of penance for what was essentially a Big Mistake: an ill-conceived elevated six-lane highway started in the 1940’s that cut through the heart of Boston, dividing communities and becoming in short order a congested eyesore. Bogged down in community protests, it was never even completed. By the late 1990’s, the road designed to carry 75,000 vehicles a day was carrying 190,000. Accident rates on the elevated highway are four times the national average for urban interstates, and the amount of pollution spewed by the countless autos inching along the clogged central artery is almost unfathomable. The elevated highway was and is an unmitigated disaster.
Boston had little choice but to go under the city to correct the mess above it. Still, this doesn’t diminish the grandiosity of the Big Dig concept. What’s most striking is that from the onset the planners vowed to keep everything running while the underground construction proceeded simultaneously. The twelve labors of Hercules pale beside the technical challenges the Big Dig’s engineers face. For example, each of the support columns for the elevated highway lies directly in the path of the new highway tunnel. An ingenious system of "underpinning," replacing each of the 67 rows of support columns and shifting the weight to the walls of the new tunnel, has been devised. Mind you, while all this restructuring is going on, the traffic on the road above never stops. (Here near D.C., in comparison, it doesn’t seem that road crews can replace a manhole cover without closing at least three lanes of traffic!) Not until the underground expressway is completed will the elevated road be demolished and replaced by a green swath of open space with limited development. It will be, whenever it is finally completed, something worth seeing.
One specific part of the Big Dig, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, is already clearly a masterpiece in the making. This huge asymmetrical bridge rises like a gigantic stringed instrument from the center of town, a gleaming vision of taut white cables splaying out over the river. Few structures that I’ve ever seen are as visually stunning. It is something of an irony that the best views of the new bridge are from the old one running right alongside it (and the barely-moving traffic provides plenty of time to view it). Crossing the Charlestown Bridge on foot on one occasion, I repeatedly stopped to gawk at the Zakim Bridge. What a beauty.
The engineering complexities of the Big Dig project are generally beyond my comprehension, though I got an inkling of them at a display devoted to the project at the Science Museum. After we returned from Boston, still intrigued by the project, I found an even better source of information on a website devoted to the Big Dig.
While the landfills and Big Dig are rarely mentioned in most Boston travel guides and visitor websites, these phoenix-from-the-ashes urban renewal projects are in fact just as characteristic of Boston as the Freedom Trail and the Red Sox. Next time you’re in town, set aside an hour or two to check out the progress on the Big Dig, or just ask someone about it. Any Bostonian who’s experienced the years of construction upheaval is in and of himself testimony to the hardheaded idealism that characterizes this city.
Written by actonsteve on 27 Dec, 2000
The idea of the Freedom trail is a fantastic one. A single red line weaving it's way through the city leading to all the historical sights and sides of the city a tourist normally wouldn't see. It is very popular, and deservedly so - and…Read More
The idea of the Freedom trail is a fantastic one. A single red line weaving it's way through the city leading to all the historical sights and sides of the city a tourist normally wouldn't see. It is very popular, and deservedly so - and a visitor to the city cannot afford to miss it.
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?
Written by Beth on 20 Sep, 2000
Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market is touted as one of the most, if not the most, popular tourist site in the United States. This area combines culture, history, dining and local ambiance for visitors and Bostonians. If you want to fit in, be sure to say 'Quin-zee.'
Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market is touted as one of the most, if not the most, popular tourist site in the United States. This area combines culture, history, dining and local ambiance for visitors and Bostonians. If you want to fit in, be sure to say 'Quin-zee.'
Every year, performers audition to perform during the spring/summer tourist season. Only a fraction win a gig as a juggler, musician, artist, etc., so you can always count on interesting entertainment for families.
The shops have mostly made way to large, national chains like Banana Republic, Gap and Ann Taylor. However, there are still several 'local' shops wedged in between and the pushcarts sell a variety of local goods from clothing to crafts to food. In fact, you can buy almost everything you can think of in the two Market buildings.
The actual Faneuil Hall is a major historic site in Boston where many famous orators from our country's history incited the public. There are some shops in the underground, including one that sells reprints of significant moments in sports. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird -- you can buy prints of these kinds of athletes for a reasonable price. You can also get prints of black and white photos from Boston's early days like ice skaters on the Boston Common. Great souvenir.
Just to the side of Faneuil Hall is Bostix -- one of the day-of theatre ticket purchasing kiosks. The bulletin board lists all the performances for which Bostix is selling half-price tickets for shows that day. Definitely worth scheduling this stop in if there's something you want to see.
Faneuil Hall has a variety of restaurants selling everything from Italian, nouveau cuisine, burgers and seafood. For nightlife, there are several Irish pubs, Lily's Piano Bar, and the Rathskellar for pool. The Comedy Connection is the best comedy club in Boston with the most history. You name the comedian, they've performed here.
Be sure to get a look at the area just outside of Quincy Market. The Rack was named by Boston Magazine as the best place to play pool but this is also a see and be seen kind of place with lots of live music. A film crew and Jules Asner from E!'s Wild on... show was just here to get the lowdown on Boston's wild side.
If you're thinner than any of the waitresses at the Rack, be sure to eat! There are lots of take away places in Quincy Market but few places to sit, especially in inclement weather. Some of the restaurants in the Market are tourist traps. I recommend heading to one of the places on Union Street or Marshall Street. The Green Dragon and the Purple Shamrock both offer lobster dinners for $9.95. The Marshall House has great burgers and a good selection of seafood. Many menu items come with your own little pot of Boston baked beans.
The Bell in Hand, established in 1795, is billed as the oldest tavern in the United States. Some of the pubs in the Washington DC area might give them a run for their money at that claim, but it is a fun bar that often has live bands in the front and/or back rooms. All of the bars along here are at full capacity when there is a concert at City Hall Plaza. Various radio stations sponsor a variety of shows, recently folk singer Dar Williams performed and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Check out the Calendar section in the Thursday edition of the Boston Globe (www.boston.com) for all things entertainment.
Also along Union Street is the holocaust memorial -- six glass towers etched with the numbers of all the camp prisoners. This is a really interesting and effective memorial.
Every Friday afternoon and Saturday Haymarket is held -- produce and seafood is sold at great prices. It's crowded and you should be careful of your pockets and belongings but you can get great buys if you are in the market. The seafood is good too -- in the past few years I've only gotten one batch of bad scallops but no problems with salmon, shrimp or swordfish. This is a messy, smelly area on Saturday nights, however.