On Thursday we once again drove to the Airwife station and took the subway into Boston. Boston had the first national subway system in the nation. With so much to see we got off at the station near the Boston Common and hit the ground running. The Boston Common was established as the nation’s oldest public park in America by the Puritans. Years ago cattle grazed here and British soldiers camped. We walked up the hill to the State House built in 1798. This hill, called Beacon Hill, is Boston’s tallest hill. Samuel Adams and Paul Revere laid the cornerstone for the State House in 1795. The beautiful dome on top is gilded in 23 carat gold. Beacon Hill received its name because in the event the city was attacked, a beacon would be lighted on the hill as a symbol for help.
Here on Beacon Hill we caught an open air bus by Old Town Trolley. Though pricey, it gave us a nice tour of the city, helped us orient ourselves as to what we wanted to see, and allowed us to hop on and off throughout the day which would allow for less walking. Once we boarded the trolley it took two hours to make the loop through the city, with the driver giving a nice narration of the sites.
There was so much to see and do, it was almost overwhelming. We got off the trolley and focused on the historical places in the city.
The “first school site” was where the oldest public school in America was established by Puritan settlers in 1635. Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock all attended school here.
The Old State House was built in 1713. A cobblestone circle under the balcony marks the spot of the Boston Massacre in 1770 when British soldiers fired on a crowd of Bostonians, killing five. Some say the dispute began over a bar bill that led to a riot with five killed. The Patriots used this as propaganda to stir up anti royalist feelings. Today the building is a museum of Boston history. From the balcony the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in Boston on July 18, 1776.
Old North Church, located near the Paul Revere mall, was built in 1723 and is Boston’s oldest church building. It is still an active Episcopalian church today. On the night of April 18, 1775, Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the 191 foot steeple to warn the patriots the British were coming by sea. At that time the church was the tallest building in Boston. Interestingly the steeple has twice been destroyed by violent storms and rebuilt. The church was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. A quick side note here: we learned from the guide on our trolley that Paul Revere was married twice and had 16 children, eight children by each wife.
At the Granary Burying Ground are the graves of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and the victims of the Boston Massacre.
We rode by the Boston Harbor, site of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. We also saw the Boston Trade Center where cruise ships dock.
And of course no visit to Boston is complete without riding by Fenway Park, the oldest operating MLB stadium. In 1903 the team, known then as the Boston Americans, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates during game eight of the first modern World Series.
We also rode past the location of the Cheers neighbor-hood bar which inspired the TV series. The front entrance of the bar was used in the opening scene of the series.
The Park Street Church is where the hymn “My Country Tis of Thee” was first sung publicly on July 4, 1832.
As we walked around the city we often followed the Freedom Trail, a brick lined path along a two and a half mile route detailing sixteen significant places and events on the road to freedom. The Freedom Trail originated in 1951 as a way to help tourists find their way around the city and to promote tourism. More than 1.5 million people walk the trail a year.
We had lunch at the Quincy Market (1825) a historic market complex near Faneuil Hall (an old market building built in 1742). Town meetings were held here and Samuel Adams and others protested taxes on the colonies at this location. In fact so many fiery speeches denouncing British rule were delivered here that Faneuil Hall is often called “The Cradle of Liberty”. At the top of the hall’s bell tower is a gilded copper weather vane in the shape of a grasshopper. During the Revolutionary War, suspected spies were asked to identify the object atop Faneuil Hall. If they couldn’t identify this easily recognizable landmark, they were convicted of espionage. In the 1800’s Frederick Douglass and others spoke here against slavery.
By late afternoon we were really feeling the heat but we still had one more place to go. We got off the trolley at the closest stop and trudged up the hill to the Bunker Hill Monument located in a section of Boston called Charlestown. Dedicated in 1843 with a speech by Daniel Webster, the 221 foot obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. It is actually misnamed because the battle really took place on nearby Breed’s Hill. Control of these hills on the Charlestown peninsula was critical to the British occupation of Boston. The British advanced and the Patriots, being low on ammunition gave the legendary order not to shoot until they saw “the whites of their eyes”. The British won the battle but lost half of the 2,200 Redcoats fighting the battle. The Patriots lost 400 to 600 men. While the Patriots technically lost the war, psychologically it showed the Patriots they could stand their own against the British.
We walked back down the hill to the closest subway station and rode back to the Alewife station. By now we were really really hot and tired. We had parked on the 5th floor of the parking garage and it seemed to take forever for us to work our way down five floors through traffic leaving the garage. By the time we got out on the road it was past 6:30 and some of the traffic had passed.
The only other thing we really wanted to do but ran out of time was touring the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides). Launched in 1797, is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America and it is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. It is the engagements with the British in the War of 1812 that earned it the nickname “Old Ironsides”. The 44 gun frigate had its timbers secured by bolts and copper sheathing made by Paul Revere. However it is currently in dry dock undergoing restoration until summer 2018. Because of this, the tour times and accessibility of the ship has been significantly reduced. We thought long and hard about going into Boston for an additional day to see it but decided against it. Between the 90+ minutes drive each way to Alewife station and the 30+ minutes each way to get to Boston on the subway, it would mean another four hours of travel time. Not even Old Ironsides could entice us to make another trip. We will come back again. The traffic and heat really wore us down.
We really liked Boston. The city was clean and felt safe. Walking in the footsteps of those who thought liberty was precious and worth fighting for, was simply amazing!
my sisters and I spent 10 days in Boston some years back… you saw almost as much in the couple of days you have been there that we were able to see in 10. However, I will bet we were not nearly so tired. We were also fortunate to be there over July 4 for all the holiday hoopla. Got to see the Boston Pops at the theater as well as on the 4th.
We had the opposite problem in Boston in March. Froze our tails off and since it snowed, we had to keep brushing the red line off so we’d know where to go. Did see Old Ironside before reno and had an unusual tour. The guide was Navy and he did the tour about the men working above and below deck. I learned why the toilet is called The Head in the ship! By the time we were done my feet were frozen so I ducked into Legal Seafood for some hot chowder. Love the city like you two.