Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photo essay - Beavertail State Park RI

Beavertail State Park is in the town of Jamestown RI on an island in the Narragansett Bay. It has a light house that dates to the 1890's and some beautiful rocky shorelines. Here are some photos I took that day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Walking the Freedom Trail in the Tea-Party Era

I had to think a long time before writing this entry. We live in a time where "The Founding Fathers" are thrown around to justify any right-wing anti-government policy and nut-job. So I had a lot of second thoughts before I sat down to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard in this case).

But I learned several things during my walk and in doing some research during the past week. Let's start by putting the American Revolution into historical perspective. The era from the 1600's to the 1800's was one of change from feudal societies to capitalist societies. This was a progressive movement at the time. And along the spectrum of the leaders of the American Revolution the Boston leaders were among the most liberal. Many were influenced by the reaction to a movement towards Puritan orthodoxy in the 1760's and then by the arrival and formation Unitarian Universalist congregations in the early 1770's. Read about the history of the UUA here.
Massachusetts State House

The Freedom Trail starts at the Boston Commons and the Massachusetts State House. This "new" state house was completed in 1798. The dome was originally wood, and then covered in copper by Paul Revere's in 1802.

From the Commons you walk north along Tremont Street and pass the the Park Street Church. Don't skip the Old Granary Burial Ground. This cemetery is home to the remains of many prominent early Bostonians and Heroes of the Revolutionary War. These include the 5 men killed during the Boston Massacre, The family of Benjamin Franklin (although not old Ben, who is buried in Philadelphia), Sam Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock.

Samuel Adams' grave

 One of the things that I found fascinating is the way the tomb stones were decorated by the families of those "Founding Fathers" whom we are told were so religious. Most of the gravestones are decorated with skulls and deaths heads:

That's right - a christian burial ground with no cross to be seen. Now some of the stone do have cute little cherubs:

Remember this the next time someone starts to talk about the religion of those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Continue following the Red Brick path of the Freedom Trail past the King's Chapel:

King's Chapel
You will get to the Old South Meeting House -

Old South Meeting House
The Old South Meeting House was built in 1729 and served as a Congregationalist Church until the  congregation moved to new digs on Copley Square in 1877. It was the spiritual home to Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin and Phyllis Wheatley. It also served as the meeting place for the organizers of The Boston Tea Party.

Speakers platform in the Old South Meeting House

Old South Meeting House interior
 The Old South Meeting House has been a home for public speeches and discussions on many issues over the past 240 years. Abolitionists, Suffragettes,Peace activists have all been represented here. The Old South Meeting House has been a home for those who were "Banned in Boston".

The next stop is the Old State House - which was the site of the Boston Massacre

The Old State House, with new Boston in the background

The Old State House
A lot has been written about the Boston Massacre (1770). What is clear is that a group of colonists confronted a British soldier who was guarding the Old State House. This was possibly at the instigation of Samuel Adams. Words were exchanges, rocks and ice balls were thrown at the redcoat. When more soldiers arrived the situation escalated leading eventually to the murder of 5 unarmed men, including Crispus Attucks - the first African American killed in the Revolutionary War.

Continuing on to Fanieul Hall and Quincey Market - These buildings contain a large food court and many shops spreads among 4 buildings. This can be a nice place to grab lunch, although it is always crowded, there are plenty of places to sit outside if you use the food court, and many good restaurants.

The next stop is Haymarket Square, where there is a fruit and vegetable market on Fridays and Saturdays.

Oyster shuckers in Haymarket Square
From here you cross the Ethel Kennedy Greenway. This park sits over the "Big Dig" tunnels. This underground highway system replaces a maze of elevated highways that used to divide the North End and the Waterfront from downtown Boston

The Freedom Trail now crosses into the North End. Today this is Boston's Little Italy. There are many restaurants and gelatoria's, but my favorite food are the fresh made canollis. I find that the North End is one of the most European looking neighborhoods in the United States, although my mother votes for the West Village in NY.

The North End

Building Details in the North End

North End Street

North End street
The North End is also home to Paul Revere's Home and the Old North church, where lanterns were hung to tell Paul Revere how the British were going to advance on the night of his famous ride.

Paul Revere's Home

Revere Home

Paul Revere with the Old North Church

Almost to the end of the Freedom Trail, it is now time to cross the Charles River and climb Bunker Hill

The Bunker Hill Monument
Walking the Freedom Trail is a day going back through history. There is a fascinating truth behind who the leaders of the Revolutionary War were and what they believed. This walk through the past is worth the trip.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Walk Around Boston Public Gardens and Beacon Hill

Looking over the shoulder of Trinity Church
Boston is a wonderful walking city. one of the very nice walks is from Copley Square, through The Boston Public Gardens and on into Beacon Hill. (see map)

Copley Square is a public space that may be best know as the finish line of the Boston Marathon. On its South side sits the Boston Public Library - designed by architects McKim, Mead and White. On the north side Trinity Church. Built in 1877 by Henry Hobson Richardson. It has beautiful masonry work:

North side of Trinity Church

North side of Trinity Church and tower

The church also has a lovely wooden interior, but I didn't get to see it because of all of the business going on in preparation for this years Marathon.

On the east side of Copley Square sits The Fairmont Copley Plaza. Built in 1912 the Copley Plaza is the Grand Dame of Boston Hotels. It still maintains the luxury and opulence it has always shown:
The Amazing Ms D. in the Copley Plaza entrance hallway 

The Copley Plaza main lobby
Walk three block north up Boyleston Street and you get to the Boston Public Gardens. Built in 1860, the park holds some iconic Boston Sights.
Arlington Street Church

 The Arlington Street Church is a Universalist Unitarian church and has a long history of abolitionism, fighting for women's rights and as a home for the peace movement during the Vietnam war.
The worlds smallest suspension bridge

Notice that the willows have started to grow their leaves

Me on the bridge
 The Boston Public Gardens is home to the worlds smallest suspension bridge, and the famous Swan Boats. Contrary to what many people think, these are not individual boats. You ride on benches in front of the swans.
It was a cold day, but spring has sprung

The willow has started to weep

The Amazing Ms D. on the bridge in the Boston Public Garden

Make way for ducklings!

The Boston Public Garden is also home to one of my favorite stories growing up - Make Way for Ducklings written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.

Momma duck and the ducklings are wearing blue and yellow in honor of "Boston Strong" in preparation for this years marathon.

If you the Public Gardens through the North east corner and continue up Charles Street you will enter Beacon Hill. This is "Old Money Boston." The Upper East Side, Knob Hill all with a Bahstan accent.

Beacon Street across from the Public Gardens
 Beacon hill is typified by Boston Row house. These are 3-4 story brick houses.

Charles St
This beautiful house didn't quite fit in

At the corner of Mt. Vernon and River Streets sits this Asian style gem. It doesn't exactly fit in with Beacon Hill tradition, but it is a really lovely house.

This view down river Street
 is a typical and wonderful sight. The trees are just starting to show their colors.

Pinkney Street

The houses on Pinkney Street all sport 2nd floor bay windows, another Beacon Hill feature.

We had lunch at Figs by Todd English. Chef English has over where Wolfgang Puck left off. His squared off pizzas are made with fresh ingredients, and with special mixtures. We split our pizza between the Prosciutto and Fig and Portobello and cheese. This gave us a great mix of sweet and salty on one half, and the umamy taste of mushrooms and cheese on the other. With an appetizer of fried asparagus and a spinach with Gorgonzola and warm bacon this was really enough for 3 or 4 people.