Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Freedom Trail

Benjamin Franklin statue in front of Old City Hall

On my first full day by myself, I set my sights on the Freedom trail. It is composed of 17 historic sites linked together by a trail set in the streets of Boston with red brick which makes it easy to follow.  Stop number seven was this statue of Benjamin Franklin and the old City Hall which is now utilized as a steak house. One thing I noticed and which I think it a great thing, instead of tearing down historic structures, Boston tends to recycle them in creative ways. Down the street from our hotel was a huge castle like building that had also been converted into a steak house.

Political party sculptures

In front of the old state house was a donkey which was put there by the democratic party sometime in the past. Not to be outdone, the republicans put a pair of footprints for you to stare the donkey depending on your political persuasion. 

Old South Meeting House

This is a picture of the Old South Meeting House where the likes of Samuel Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren and many other Patriots gave speeches leading up to the siege of Boston. Back then, churches sold pew boxes like property to the highest bidder so if you were wealthy enough, you had your own guaranteed seat. As people died or moved out, their pew boxes were put up for bidding and as you gained wealth and put in your time, you could gradually move closer to the front of the church. Since good records were kept, one could still sit in the same pew boxes of well known patriots.

Old State House
 Up until this point in the freedom trail, much of the activities had been free or asked for a free will donation. The Old State House required a fee for a guided tour. I paid up and joined a tour which had just started and quickly learned that it was history-lite. Since people were free to roam around after the guided tour, I slipped off the end and just walked around myself. Almost every room had been dumbed down to keep kids interested but the room behind the doors of the above shown balcony was kept pretty much as it was back in the late 18th century. That balcony was where the first reading of the Declaration of Independence took place. Below the balcony and not shown because there was a cherry picker hoist parked on top of it is the spot where the Boston Massacre took place many years earlier.

Faneuil Hall was built by wealthy businessman Peter Faneuill as a place to gather all the markets in town into one spot. This wasn't popular among the merchants though so it wasn't a slam dunk proposal but eventually it passed and was built. Back when it was built, where I was standing to take this picture would have been in the actual bay but years ago, Bostonians scalped the hills of Boston and filled in the shallow bays so now, the waterfront was out of sight and a long ways from here. When I first entered the ground floor of Faneuill hall, I was disappointed because it was essentially a tourist trap of little kitsch shops designed to part a tourist with their money. However because I had done some research, I knew that one could go see the other three floors free of charge and I did so. Because it isn't posted as such, I pretty much had the rest of the place to myself while the ground floor was packed. The second floor was a meeting room where political events often took place and many of the patriots gave speeches to the masses. The third floor (actually the fourth floor) was a military armory chalk full of interesting military related weapons, paintings, uniforms, etc. It was one of the better museums along the Freedom Trail.

Home of Paul Revere
Along the way I passed by the home of Paul Revere. I didn't go in it for a variety of reasons. One, I think Paul Revere though a talented merchant, is way over sold in his importance to the Revolutionary cause. Two, he only lived in the house for ten years as an adult before renting it out for another ten years and selling it. Three, it was a small house and by this time of the day, the tourists were getting pretty thick at places like this so I took a  picture of it and kept on walking.

Statue of Paul Revere in front of Old North Church

Much more interesting to me than one of the homes Paul Revere lived in as an adult was the Old North Church seen behind the stature of Paul Revere. This was the church where the two lanterns were hung signaling that the British were going to attack by sea and not land. Paul Revere and partner William Dawes set off on horses to warn leading patriots of this news so that they could avoid capture.

Old North Church

One of the things I learned about the Old North Church was that it isn't really known for certain, who hung the lanterns up as the signal. It is suspected to be Robert Newman and Captain Pulling but because they both would have been hanged had their identities been found, it was kept a secret. Robert Newman was the sextant for the church and had the keys to he is most likely the culprit and the British did arrest him for a time afterwards before releasing him due to lack of evidence. Captain Pulling was an ardent patriot and close friend of Revere's and also a member of importance in the church so he certainly also could have helped in the task of hanging the lanterns. He and his family fled Boston after this event and remained in hiding until after the British had left which also gives credence to his involvement.

Copp's Hill Burying Grounds
 My final stop for the day was at Copp's Hill Burying Grounds, the second oldest cemetery in the city. It contains the graves of Robert Newman mentioned above and the Mather family seen below which contained many well known ministers and known ties to the Salem Witch Trials. Although I haven't proven it conclusively yet, my third great grandmother was a Mather whose family came from the Boston area so I may be related in some way.

Mather Family Tomb

Narrowest House in Boston
Although not on the Freedom Trail tour, this house is situated across the street from the Copp's Hill Burying Grounds and is said to be the narrowest house in Boston at slightly less than ten feet wide. With weary feet, I walked to the nearest subway terminal a half dozen blocks away and called it a day at this point. Two days later I would take a water taxi to the end of the Freedom trail and finish the last two stops. More on that later.


sage said...

It appears you had a good trip... So, did Boston invent the indoor mall (Faneuil Hall). Today, if churches went back to selling pews, they would have to put a premium on those at the back.

Ed said...

Sage - Actually Faneuil Hall stood in the middle of a massive ring of buildings and back in the day, the shops set up on the inside perimeter of that ring. The Hall was mostly for business and political meetings.

I thought about modern day pews having a premium on those in back but the more I thought, the more I think the ones up front would still have the premium. Those that want to be seen and want to attend church still sit up close, at least in my church. Maybe not the front front row but still in the first half. I have seen modern day churches that auction off a pew to raise money so that family always has guaranteed seating where they desire so perhaps it is just a matter of time before we come full circle!