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Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.2

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 5: King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground

The original King’s Chapel was built in 1688 on the town burying ground, when no one in Boston would sell the Royal Governor land to build a non-Puritan church.

By 1749, the congregation had grown too large for the church, and American architect Peter Harrison was hired to design a church that “would be the equal to any in England.”  The steeple that was part of the original design was never built, but it does contain a colonnade, which was completed after the Revolution.

The King’s Chapel Burying Ground remains next to the chapel and was Boston proper’s first burying ground. It contains the graves of many notables, including Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

Stop 6: Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue

Boston Latin is America’s oldest public school, founded in April 1635.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended here: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper.  Interestingly though, Ben Franklin did not graduate; did you know that he was a high school dropout?

This building was torn down in 1745 in order to expand the King’s Chapel next door, but there is now a statue of Benjamin Franklin on the site as well as a historic plaque on the sidewalk.  The school has moved to the Fenway neighborhood and continues to this day.

Stop 7: The Old Corner Bookstore

The Old Corner Bookstore began in 1718 as an apothecary shop.  The bookstore and printing shop that occupied this site was opened 1828 and operated until 1903.  It first produced the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Wardo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and Louisa May Alcott.  Many of these notable authors visited the building.

The building has been preserved, but sadly there is no longer a bookstore here.  I believe it currently houses a Chipotle restaurant.

Stop 8: The Old South Meeting House

This building was built in 1729 as a Puritan meeting house, and was at one time the largest building in Boston.  It was also the site where some of the most dramatic discussions and decisions leading up to the Revolution occurred.  A meeting on December 16, 1773, set the stage for a historic event that every school child in the United States studies.  Over 5,000 colonists met to discuss the fate of 30 tons of tea that was waiting to be unloaded from the holds of three ships in Boston Harbor.  If the tea was unloaded, the colonists would owe the tea tax, when did not had a representative in the British government.  The colonists had attempted to have the tea sent back to England but the attempt failed.  So what to do?

Samuel Adams addressed the crowd, saying, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”  Some believe these words were code to the Sons of Liberty to begin the Tea Party.  Men dressed as Mohawk Indians then went down to the wharf and dumped 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.  The rest, they say, is history…

As we were still on the tour, I apologize for the poor quality of my photos.  We didn’t stop directly in front of many of these buildings, so I was shooting from a distance with scores of people around!  I hope you get the gist…  One thing I found very interesting was seeing these historic sites from hundreds of years ago juxtaposed with modern construction and a bustling city life!  There is a Walgreens just out of frame of this last photo!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.1

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

One of the places that I most wanted to see on my trip was Boston.  There is so much history there, and I had never been!  Well maybe I went once with my family when I was really little, but I don’t remember it… But I was also nervous about driving in this big city that is notorious for its bad traffic.  I decided to give it a go, and woke up early on a Sunday morning to head in.  I set my GPS for Boston Common, which has a visitor’s center where I could get my bearings.  The first parking garage where I had planned to park was full, due to a race that morning, so I found another in the area – $25 for the whole day – that’s not bad for a big city.

I found the Visitor’s Center and purchased a guidebook to the Boston Freedom Trail for $7 and a walking tour for $13 or $14.  I had a bit of time before the walking tour started, so it was finally time to settle my big city nerves.  Dunkin Donuts was the perfect place for a bagel breakfast sandwich and a coffee!

The tour guide was a older gentleman in period costume (and in character!) as a British Officer.  The tour did the first 11 stops of the Freedom Trail, and it was so informative and interesting!  We got to see some of Boston’s oldest cemeteries, the churches where many of our founding fathers worshiped, the site of the Boston Massacre, and more!

Follow along with me!

Stop 1 – Boston Common

Boston Common is America’s oldest park; established in 1634, it long predates the independence of the United States.  It is also probably one of America’s first public projects, with each homeowner paying six shillings to fund the 30 pounds required to buy the Common’s 44 acres from the first settler in the area, William Blackstone.  Until 1830, the common was used to graze local livestock, with livestock owners chipping in to collectively pay a town shepherd.

In 1775, Boston Common was the camp of the Redcoats during the British occupation of Boston.

More recently, in addition to it still being a public park, it has been the site of rallies and celebrations, including hosting speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr, and Charles Lindbergh, as well as civil rights and anti-war rallies.  For Boston’s large Catholic population, Boston Common was the site of a mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Strangely, I didn’t take any real pictures of Boston Common.

Stop 2 – Massachusetts State House

This impressive building with a golden dome was designed by Charles Bulfinch, and completed on January 11, 1798.  The land with the state house is situated was once John Hancock’s cow pasture.  Initially the dome was made of wood, but was covered with copper by Paul Revere; the gold leaf wasn’t added until 1874.  At the very top of the dome is a gilded pine cone, honoring the state’s reliance on logging in the 18th century.  Interestingly, during World War II the dome was painted gray, due to blackout orders.

This stunning building still houses the senators, state representatives and governor who conduct the daily business of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Stop 3 – Park Street Church

Built in 1809, the Park Street Church is the home of the Trinitarian Congregational church.  The church became known for its support of abolitionist causes after William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first anti-slavery speech on July 4, 1829.  Another fun fact – the song America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) was first sung from the steps of the Park Street Church.  The church continues to hold weekly congregational services today.

Stop 4 – Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660, named for the huge grain storage building that was once next door, and it is Boston proper’s third oldest burying ground.  Although there are 2,345 markers, it is estimated that about 5,000 people were buried here.  There are many notables buried here, including three singers of the Declaration on Independence; Robert Treat Paine, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.  Paul Revere is buried towards the rear of the cemetery, and Benjamin Franklin’s parents have a centrally located obelisk.  There is an infants tomb, where hundreds of children have been interred.  And last but not least, the five victims of the Boston Massacre are buried here: Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell and Patrick Carr.

You will notice that the stones are neatly placed in lines.  This was not how the cemetery was originally arranged.  In fact, many of the headstones have been rearranged in order to make it easier for the lawnmower to get through.  So take the actual gravesites with a grain of salt here!

The Puritans made up a large part of Boston’s population in the days when the Granary Burying Ground was actively being used, and they didn’t mark their gravestones with religious icons.  Instead, skulls and crossbones and other imagery is popular here.  I liked Captain John Decoster’s stone; he died in 1770 at the age of 26.  In addition to the skull with wings, his stone was engraved with this interesting quote, “Stop here my Friend & Cast an Eye; as you are now so Once was i; as i am now so you must be; Prepare for Death & Follow me.”  He has a point!

It was here as we were milling around looking at headstones, when I was approached by a young woman who was also on the tour alone.  She introduced herself as Clara, and she was in Boston from Singapore for a training for her new job.  She asked if I was going to be touristing after the end of the tour, and if so, would I mind if she tagged along!  Absolutely!  It was nice to meet a friend who was interested in history, and have someone to chat with and share the day!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 370

We launched into spring last weekend with a gorgeous sunny day!  Haha – just kidding – I wish.  It rained.  Pretty much all weekend.

That didn’t stop me from taking a long walk in the rain on Saturday, but I must admit that the rest of the weekend I was lazy.  I made chili with bratwurst meat, which seemed to fit the still-wintery gloom.

A year ago (shortly before COVID) I found a rock polisher at Goodwill and snatched it up for $12.99.  However, there it sat, unused, because I couldn’t figure out how to get the lid to seal when you put the rocks, grit and water in it.  The instructions I found online weren’t very helpful.  A few weeks ago though, a friend showed me how it works, and now I’m on a roll, happily tumbling the few rocks I had collected.  I swapped them out to change the grit this last weekend and they are definitely starting to shine up!  I can’t wait to see how this batch turns out!  Of course, this means I need to find some more rocks, so next time I have a complete batch to polish.

I have been told many times that my interests are those of much older people.  History, battlefields, antiques, rocks, etc.  I suppose they are right.  I don’t care though.  I’ll retire early and travel, visit battlefields and collect rocks, and be happy.

Yesterday I was rummaging through a box of old postcards that were sent to my grandparents and aunts between the 1960s and the 1980s.  I found one from Nebraska, three days after my parents’ wedding in 1968.  They drove from Michigan to California, where my Dad was already working.  Mom was unimpressed with Nebraska, per her postcard narrative.  She doesn’t remember this, but it made me smile.  I still haven’t made it to Nebraska – I wonder if I will be more impressed.

Last night I finished a Thomas Kinkade puzzle that I had gotten at Goodwill a few years ago.  It was hard!  But thankfully it had all its pieces, and the English cottage scene makes me want to jet off to the real English countryside.  It’s either that or bake myself in the Arizona sun, to try to tan away the nearly translucent skin I acquire each winter.  Some hiking in Sedona sounds really good about now, but of course, it is still far colder there than it is here in the Pacific Northwest.

This coming weekend marks my two-year anniversary at my job, and my raise!  Woot woot!

Happy Tuesday, Peeps.  I hope you are well.

Circus Trip 2018: Lowell Part 2

Day 55, Saturday, September 8, 2018
Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts

After I visited the Boott Cotton Mill and Museum, I headed back outside to find a folk music festival happening on the grass outside. I stopped to listen for a while and was impressed by the talent of the musicians!  There was a banjo and fiddle competition and a musical duet.  It was nice just sitting outside and enjoying the music.

Next I headed over to the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, just across the square from the Mill.  The exhibit is housed in what used to be one of the Boott Cotton Mill’s boardinghouses.  The boardinghouse was built in 1835, and housed 20-40 mill girls in a communal setting.  About $1.25 per week would have paid for three meals per day, limited laundry and a shared bedroom.

The boardinghouses were owned and operated by the mills and had strict rules for the residents.  Girls had curfews, were not allowed to consort with men, were not permitted to drink and had to attend church services on Sundays.  If they broke the rules, their job could be at risk.  Times were different then…

It was interesting to see the parlors, communal dining room, and bedrooms in the boardinghouse.  Even though the girls wouldn’t have had any privacy, it did give them ready access to friends and a support system in a city and job that was unlike anything they had experienced.

After I left the boardinghouse, I took a walk back through the town along the canal and its walking path.  It was interesting to imagine what these workers experienced almost 200 years ago.  I’m so glad that Lowell had the foresight to save these old buildings and their history.

Circus Trip 2018: Lowell NHP

Day 55, Saturday, September 8, 2018
Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts

I was in Massachusetts!  A new state!  I spent several days in the Boston area and the first day that I was there, I spent the day in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Lowell is a city with an important part of our national history, but it may not be a name that you recognize.

How Lowell got its start is a fascinating story.  Francis Cabot Lowell was already a successful merchant when he and his family traveled to England from the United States in 1810.  He became interested in the operation of power looms, but was not able to buy blueprints or a model of any of the looms the English had developed, as they were closely guarded trade secrets.  So he watched the looms operate and memorized how they worked.  In 1812, Lowell and his family sailed once again for the United States.  Since the War of 1812 was underway, all of Lowell’s baggage and belongings were searched for contraband when they left England; but Lowell had committed the information to memory and did not have any written material.

Back in the U.S., Lowell partnered with a machinist named Paul Moody, and the two were able to successfully create the first American power loom. Lowell began the first textile mill using a power loom in Lowell in 1814, and sadly, he died only three years after it began operations.

Lowell is currently the fifth largest city in Massachusetts, starting out as a mill town incorporated in 1826.  Built along the confluence of the Merrimack and the Concord Rivers, Lowell had the water power to sustain a large industrial complex.  The canals and mills were built by immigrant men fleeing the famines of Ireland, and the female mill workers generally came from the farming families of New England. By the 1850s, Lowell was the largest industrial complex in the United States, with several huge textile mills weaving raw cotton from the South into fabric.  Much of the fabric made its way back to the south to clothe the slaves; Lowell was the name given to the coarse cotton fabric that this clothing was made from.

The mills continued to thrive after the war, with later mill workers being comprised of German Catholics and French Canadians.  The mills finally began to close in the 1920s, when new mills were built in the south, taking advantage of cheaper labor.

After many years of decline, Lowell began to see a turnaround, when Wang Laboratories based its headquarters there.  Revitalization occurred, focusing on culture and history, and the Lowell National Historical Park was created on June 5, 1978.  The historical park focuses on the history of Lowell as a mill town, with the Boott Cotton Mills and Museum, the Mill Girls and Immigrants Boardinghouse, and a Visitor’s Center among several other sites.  The sites are spread out among the downtown area, but it is easily walkable, and a great way to spend the day!

I started at the Visitor’s Center to get a map of the sites, and watched their 19 minute introductory video.  It was very interesting!

When I left the Visitor’s Center, it was close to lunchtime, so I stopped in at the Lowell Burger Company, where I had a salmon burger with a handmade patty. It was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture!

Next I headed over to the Boott Cotton Mills and Museum, which has been renovated to its original state, with fully operating machinery.  They give you earplugs before entering and recommend using them, because the looms are loud!  The first floor shows the full operation of a working textile mill, and you can wander though seeing the machines.

Upstairs is the museum area, which goes through the history of the mill, as well as how the various machines worked to create fabric from raw cotton.  It was so fascinating!  It also has exhibits on the mill workers who worked in Lowell, mostly young women from farm families.

What was particularly interesting was an exhibit that gives visitors a chance to weave your own piece of fabric on a small loom.  You could choose colors and different patterns to use.  Then after you were done, they mailed it to you!  It was tough to get it right and I definitely made quite a few mistakes on mine!

I really enjoyed this museum, and there was so much more at Lowell to see!

Circus Trip 2018: Penobscot Narrows Bridge

Day 54, Friday, September 7, 2018
Fort Knox State Historic Site, Prospect, Maine

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory is an impressive bridge, with a tower observation deck, that is operated by the State of Maine.  Your ticket to visit Fort Knox also includes the observatory and it is a must see!

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge was opened in 2006, built in an impressive 42 months after it was discovered that its predecessor, the Waldo-Hancock bridge, was close to failing.  The new cable-stayed bridge is 2,120 feet, extending over the Penobscot River from Prospect to Verona Island, Maine.  Its support towers are 447 feet tall.

In addition to the state of the art technology of the bridge, the bridge also has an observatory in one of its towers.  Visitors can take the tallest and faster elevator in Maine up to the observation deck at 420 feet.

The views at the top were spectacular – it was amazing seeing the 360 degree views!  The highway, the river and Fort Knox are all visible.  When you go, depending on how busy it is, you might have to wait a little while, since they have capacity limits in the observatory, but it is worth taking the time to see it.

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Knox

Day 54, Friday, September 7, 2018
Fort Knox State Historic Site, Prospect, Maine

First off, I just want to say that this is the “other” Fort Knox, and it is actually the original Fort Knox.  The one that most people think of when they hear Fort Knox is the one in Kentucky, which is adjacent to the United States Bullion Depository, which holds about half of the United States’ gold reserves. So now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on!

This Fort Knox was built between 1844 and 1869. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, there was some considerable anti-British sentiment lingering.  The Aroostook War in 1838-1839 revived that sentiment when military troops and civilians in Maine clashed with the British troops and subjects in New Brunswick; it was essentially a border dispute fueled by valuable lumber.  Never heard of the Aroostook War, you say?  Well, you may know it as the Pork and Beans War – because of course the mainstay of a lumberjack diet was said to be pork and beans (stay with me here, it gets better!)…  So apparently there were disputes over timber when some Canadians cut some trees on land that the Americans considered their land.

Then a hapless black bear wandered along and just wanted the lumberjacks to leave, or was looking for a meal; the bear was not interviewed about his side of the story….  So the bear comes along and attacks three Canadian lumberjacks and badly injures two; the Canadians then shoot and kill the bear.  The American lumberjacks nearby hear the gunfire and think the Canadians are shooting at them, so they shoot back. Thankfully no one was injured (by the gunfire at least).

Obviously, tensions are pretty high at this point and both sides start mustering militiamen in the area…  Diplomats got involved and saved the day, negotiating a treaty that would set the border in Maine, mostly along the St. John River, but also throwing in some border clarifications in New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota too.  And you thought these insane omnibus bills that Congress passes were a new thing, but nooo… This treaty also created a joint naval system between the Americans and the British to suppress the African slave trade off the coast of Africa.  Because, of course that seems related!

Tensions remained though, and a few years later the Americans started building Fort Knox along the Penobscot River.  Fort Knox was the first fort to be built entirely of granite and is nearly unchanged from the time that it was built.  It was never totally completed, and although it never saw battle, it was manned by regiments during the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  When the U.S. Government declared it excess property in 1923 and sold it, the State of Maine picked it up for a song, paying only $2,121!

These days it is operated as a State Historic Site and nearly the entire fort is open to the public!   I enjoyed wandering around and checking out all the rooms.  There is even a hot shot oven, designed to heat up cannon shots to fire at ironclads.

In 2018 when I visited, an $8 ticket got you access to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  What a deal!  And one final side note – I ate lunch that day in the picnic area at the park, and this adorable little guy was really, really hoping to grab a snack!  Don’t worry, I didn’t feed him, but I did get some photos of his antics!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 2

Day 53, Thursday, September 6, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I had another full day in Acadia National Park, and it happened to be my birthday!

I started out by checking out the Bass Harbor Head Light.  You might not know this lighthouse by name, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize it.  The Bass Harbor Head Light was built in 1858 and sits 56 feet above the mean high water mark.  In 1876, they added a fog bell and the tower.  The light was originally fitted with a 5th Order Fresnel lens, but a 4th Order Fresnel lens was installed in 1901 to give it more light. It had a range of 13 nautical miles (15 miles).

You can descend a wooden staircase to access the rocks below the lighthouse.  This is the best view of the light, so make sure you make the extra effort!  The rocks have plenty of tide pools to explore as well.  I love seeing all the little sea creatures in their natural habitat.  I spoke with a local man who was doing the stairs for exercise, and he gave me a great recommendation for where to get a delicious lobster roll – I tucked that tidbit away for lunchtime…

I went for a short hike on the Ship Harbor Trail to a small secluded cove, and saw only a few other hikers along the way. The view was nothing amazing, but it was nice to get a hike in the woods.  I did see a cute woodpecker and took approximately 927 terrible pictures of him!  The photo I included was my best bad bird pic of the day…  Then I headed over to the Seawall to explore the area.  It is a beautiful rocky beach, with picnic tables and plenty of space to stay away from the crowds.

By this point, I was hungry, so I headed over to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound to try out their lobster roll!  I ordered a lobster roll ($19.95) and a blueberry soda float ($5.95).  They were both delicious!  I hung around and talked to the owner for a bit because it was raining – he was very friendly and even tried to convince me to move to Maine.  Believe me, I’m tempted!

Behind Charlotte’s are some goats that the kids will love, and an old family cemetery.  One of the tombstones said that the teenager died at the Connecticut State Hospital in 1872, and it made me wonder why the family chose to place that on his stone.  The owners of the restaurant have an appreciation for the history of the area, and maintain the small plot.  I found some deer munching on fallen apples too!

 

My last stop for the afternoon was at a lakeside swimming area.  It was too chilly to consider jumping in, but there were some hardier souls than me!

Acadia National Park really impressed me.  I loved the gorgeous shoreline and the natural diversity within the park.  I can’t wait to visit again!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Desert Island

Day 53, Wednesday & Thursday, September 5 & 6, 2018
Mount Desert Island, Maine

Much of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, which also has several towns and communities that are not within the boundaries of the National Park.  In my travels to and from the park each day, I stumbled upon places that were fascinating and worth taking the time to tell you about.  Here are just a few!

While driving through the village of Somesville, I had to stop at the Somesville Selectman’s Building.  This little building was built in the 1780’s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who had settled the village in 1761.  Over the years it has served as a cobbler’s shop, post office, town office and museum.  The bridge in front was built in 1981, and the two together make for a truly picturesque landscape!

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society, which includes the Somesville Selectman’s Building, was closed that day, but perhaps one day I will get to see inside this beautiful building!

I also decided to stop by the Wendell Gilley Museum one afternoon because it was raining.

Gilley was widely known for his career in decorative bird carving.  The small museum had many examples of his carved birds and other bird artwork.  It was interesting because you got to see the progression of his work over time.  I was impressed by the art!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anything in the gift shop that was affordable, so I left empty handed.

This area had so much to see and do, and I would have loved to have more time there to explore.  I definitely want to get back to Maine soon!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 316

Another long long week…  Another weekend!  Except I have a meeting in the morning on my day off because I wasn’t quite able to get to everything I needed to get done.  Sigh…  Cora doesn’t mind; she just likes that I’m home.

The COVID cases here continue to be high, so unfortunately the lockdown continues, even as most other states are lifting theirs.  Our surge started after the new lockdown went into effect, so let’s just think on that for a moment…  I’m tired.  The vaccine rollout is a mess; our county has literally no vaccine at all.

We got about a flake and a half of snow this week before it petered out and the sun came out.  I think I would have preferred a foot of snow!  I mean I work from home anyway, so why not?

The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day my friend and I went on a little Sunday Funday jaunt nearby.  We found an old ship from 1917 that was scrapped and turned into a breakwater in the 1960s.  The trees growing out of it are pretty tall!  I’ve lived here all my life and had no idea this was close by until I was searching around for fun oddities to go see.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we had a great time!  It was so refreshing to have good weather in January! That made lunch outside tolerable, maybe even nice?  The fish and chips certainly lifted my spirits!

We also spent some time exploring a nearby state park that I’ve driven by a million times, but rarely stop at.  We walked the beach and hiked to a view of the Deception Pass Bridge.  What an incredible day!

I started a new puzzle, but haven’t made it very far.  The panorama format makes it look so small, even though it is 750 pieces!

I was thinking on life the other day and came up the idea to pass along some words of wisdom.  I mean, I’ve done a lot of living; it’s nice to think I might have learned something along the way.  Some will be mine, but I might share snippets from others too (attributed of course).  So here you go!

COVID Words of Wisdom:  If you are lucky enough to have a woman who tells you what she needs, make sure you listen and at least try to deliver. If you don’t, she won’t stop needing it, but she will stop needing it from you.