Boston is a city that stands as a shining example of the blending of old and new elements. Boston is steeped with history showcasing the birth of our nation and the events of the American Revolution. Yet, in the same token it is a modern bustling city with glimmering skyscrapers next to the shores of the Atlantic. There is so much to take in when visiting this east coast city and there is something to appeal to every taste: history, architecture, diverse cuisine, beautiful parks and of course the famous Freedom Trail.
Even if you have never been to Boston, the Freedom Trail is the most talked about and highlighted feature of the city. The red brick pathways throughout the city streets lead you to 16 of some of the most significant events in the history of the United States. And yes, they happened in Boston. Boston is frequently referred to as “The Cradle of Liberty”. The trail was originally conceived in 1951; the trail was completed and by 1953 40,000 people were walking the trail annually. The trail is easy to follow by the narrow red bricks marking the way. The entire trail is only 2 1/2 miles long, but to take it all in perhaps its easier to walk part of the trail and “trolley” part of it. There are two trolley companies within the city that provide “hop on, hop off” service. I would highly recommend this, it’s an easy way to get around and see the sights you want to without becoming completed exhausted. They both have web sites and information on their tours: Old Town Trolley Tours and City View Trolley Tours.
One of the best places to start learning about all the ins and outs of the Freedom Trail is with the National Park Service. The NPS provides an abundance of information detailed the significant events of the birth of our nation. The National Park Service has two Visitor’s Centers in Boston: one in Faneuil Hall in the heart of government center area and the other by the harbor and the USS Constitution. We went to both Centers and both facilities offer an abundance of information to gain a better understanding of the historical significance of all the sites along the Freedom Trail. For those of you who are NPS passport holders, like myself, I am thrilled to report there are 16 different stamps you can collect from all the historic sites. I didn’t get all of them, but added quite a few to expand my Passport collection.
In the heart of the city is a vibrant market place housed in both Faneil Hall and Quincy Market. Faneil Hall was built in 1742 to serve as a central market but town meetings were also held here from 1764 to 1774. Samuel Adams led meetings here with protests against the taxation of the colonies, when some of the first stirrings of a revolution began. Today Faneuil Hall contains shops and restaurants on the first floor, the NPS Visitor’s Centers on the second floor and a museum on the third floor. The museum contains a collection about the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. The Company was founded in 1638 for defense of the colony. The display has occupied space in Faneuil Hall since 1746.
In the same courtyard as Faneil Hall stands the stately building with Greek columns: Quincy Market. It was named after the Mayor of that time period (1823) who pushed to have the marketplace built to accommodate the needs of the growing city and the overcrowding at Faneuil Hall. Quincy Market was completed in 1826. It is a fascinating place to visit with all the sights and sounds of a thriving marketplace. Fish, meat, cheeses and an abundance of produce are seen up and down each aisle displayed by a diversity of vendors. Not only is this harbor town known for their wonderful seafood, but Bostonians have a unique accent and are not shy about it. Just take a look at this sign at a seafood vendor I saw at Quincy Market, it really gave me a chuckle. The way to pronounce Lobster is to drop the R….Lobsta…that’s the Boston way. I love it. We enjoyed talking with the locals and their accent was very evident with the trolley drivers. Perhaps they ham it up a bit for the tourists. I know that our Mid-western accents sound quite odd to them. That is always a fun part of traveling about the country. It’s English, but there are just so many different ways to speak it. Additionally, in this same marketplace, there are two additional buildings: South Market and North Market. Wow….So much shopping, So little time.
One of the highlights on the Freedom Trail takes you to the Charlestown Navy Yard; where the Charles River meets Boston Harbor. Here sitting in the harbor, is the oldest commissioned U.S. Naval ship: the USS Constitution. She really is quite a sight to behold, and looking at all the rigging on her sails, it’s hard to imagine all the sailors operating them without tripping over each other. It would definitely have to be an orchestrated effort. The ship was built by Bostonians and launched in 1797. She sailed in 40 battles and never lost one. She was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” because of the way cannonballs would bounce off her tough oak planking. When visiting this sight, you are allowed to walk on the ship and explore it. However, security is tight because part of the facility is a working Navy base, it’s not all for tourism. The museum on the premises is also very interesting, it’s hard to take in all the information at one time, perhaps warrants multiple trips.
The oldest public park in America, the Boston Common, is in the heart of the city and provides lush green spaces, manicured walkways trimmed with flowers, a small “frog pond” and a larger lake. It was originally established by the Puritans in 1634. Within the park is a beautiful pond with the infamous Swan Boats floating gracefully across the pond. The boats are as quiet and gently moving as a real swan, because there are no motors; powered only by peddling of the swan boat “captain”. Even when filled with people, the whole park is serene and a lovely place to relax on a blanket on the grass.
Another charming aspect of the park is the adorable “Make Way for Ducklings” statue that pays homage to the classic children’s story by Robert McCloskey. The tale of the wayward ducklings was inspired by the busy streets of Boston and a Mama Mallard trying to protect her brood. It was originally published in 1941, but it’s continued popularity has held the test of time as a classic children’s story.
Crossing the bridge on the Charles River, from Boston to Cambridge, takes you to two of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in America: Harvard University and MIT. Harvard holds the title of the oldest college in America, it was founded in 1636. Today Harvard also is known as a leading research facility. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded in 1861 and has become one of the world’s leading technical institutions.
Boston is indeed a city of many “firsts” in our county. The first printing press was in Boston in 1638. The first subway was in Boston, 1898. The first World Series was held in Boston, 1903. The last “first” I will mention is near and dear to my heart: The Boston Light was the country’s first lighthouse in 1716. How could I have missed that when I was there….sounds like I need to head back to Boston for my OWN photo of that iconic lighthouse. Put your traveling shoes on. Julie E. Smith