Tag Archive | founding fathers

Circus Trip 2018: Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, VA

Day 59, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

After I left the Boston area, I had plans to visit a friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.  I was going to spend a few days there, and use that as my jumping off point for visiting Washington, D.C.  I had left Quincy, Massachusetts, and embarked on a long drive through multiple states to get to Alexandria.  I split it over two days, as it is a total of about eight hours driving, through a lot of traffic.  Heading from Massachusetts to Alexandria meant I had to skip some great locations, but you can’t possibly see everything on a trip, I suppose.  It was tough to drive through so many great places and just pass them by!  Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and more!  I so very much want to go back and see all these places!

All that said, I rolled into Alexandria about 4 in the afternoon, and headed to Jason’s house.  He had planned a surprise for my visit! He knows how much I love history, so he made reservations at Gadsby’s Tavern!

Gadsby’s Tavern was originally built in 1785 by Marylander John Wise, and opened the building next door as the Federal City Tavern in 1792.  There was another tavern on the site before the current building though, which reportedly was in business from around 1770.  An Englishman named Gadsby leased the tavern in 1796; the current name is a nod to him. 

Back in the late 1700s, several notable guests frequented the tavern, including Founding Fathers and Presidents!  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known visitors to the taverns here.  A banquet was even held in Washington’s honor here in 1801; how cool to be in the same place where these men talked politics. 

Gadsby operated the tavern until 1815, and then passed through various hands and it was various businesses, until it fell into disrepair and abandonment.  In 1917, in this sad state, some of the ballroom woodwork was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where it apparently remains today.  However, this was the catalyst for the historic preservation.  Gadsby’s Tavern was restored to the period of the late 1700s, and reopened as a restaurant in 1976.

There is a fine dining atmosphere, with delicious food and ambiance.  I had the herb encrusted grill salmon, finished with a balsamic glaze, and served with jasmine rice and sauteed spinach, and a glass of white wine.  To add to its charm, period actors make their way around the room, reciting the words of our Founding Fathers and engaging restaurant patrons in discussions on the governance of our young, budding country!

It was so much fun getting to see Jason and watch the actors engage with people!  An amazing experience for a history nerd like me!  

After dinner we wandered around Alexandria and got ice cream nearby, just chatting and catching up.  I certainly want to go back and see more of this fascinating and historic city!

 

Circus Trip 2018: John Adams

Day 58, Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts

Quincy, Massachusetts was the Adams’ family hometown for multiple generations.  As a result, there are multiple sites with Adams history, aside from the John Adams National Historical Park, where a history nerd like me can literally walk in the footsteps of two of our nation’s Presidents.

John and John Quincy Adams and their families both attended the United First Parish Church, a Unitarian church.  The church first gathered in 1636 as a branch of the Church of Boston, which was founded in 1633.  First Parish then became an independent church in 1639.  It was originally founded as a Puritan church, but became a Unitarian parish in 1750.

Both Adams were lifelong members of the congregation, and their tombs are beneath the church; they share a crypt with their wives Abigail and Louisa Catherine.  In addition, the Patriot John Hancock was baptized here.

I visited the church and the docents were happy to show me around.  I got to sit in the Adams pew, where John Adams and his family sat whenever they attended.  They also took me downstairs to the crypt to view John and John Quincy Adams’ tombs.  It was so humbling to sit where these Presidents sat and pay my respects at their graves.  I was all alone with the docent, and she was kind and knowledgeable, and even offered to take my picture in the pew!

Outside, the town cemetery contains the graves of many more Adams family members, including John Adams’ grandparents.  When I got on the road and headed out that day, I was happy to have spent some time with these important historical figures!

Oh, and just so you know, today – July 11 – is John Quincy Adams birthday! 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.3

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

Stop 9: Old State House

The Old State House was built in Boston in 1713 to house the colony’s government.  It was also at the center of many of the pivotal moments leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1761, James Otis gave a speech against the Writs of Assistance, which allowed Royal customs officials to search for smuggled goods without cause.  In 1768 the colony’s House of Representatives defied England by refusing to rescind their call for united resistance to taxes enacted by the British.  That lead to the occupation of Boston.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old State House, and the building became home to the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The lion and the unicorn atop the facade are reproductions.  The original lion and unicorn, which are symbols of royal authority, were removed and burned after the Declaration of Independence was read here.

Today the building houses a Revolutionary Museum (that I would love to go back and visit).

 

Stop 10: Boston Massacre Site

The British occupation of Boston began in 1768.  By 1770, tensions were high, and fist fights and other altercations occurred with some regularity.  On March 5, 1770, Private White, struck Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting Private White’s superior officer.

That lead to a mob throwing snowballs and yelling.  A regiment of Redcoats arrived to get White out of there, and they had to force their way through a group of several hundred angry colonists.  According to witness accounts, a colonist threw a club, which hit Private Montgomery.  Montgomery fired the first shot.  The crowd did not disperse, and several more shots were fired.  You know the rest; five men were killed.

Interestingly, John Adams was the defense attorney for the soldiers; all but two were acquitted of all charges.

Stop 11: Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a center of commerce.  It was designed with market stalls on the first floor and a meeting hall on the second floor, and remains this way today.

In 1764 American’s first protested against the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, which set the stage for what we now call, “no taxation without representation.”  The funeral for the victims of the Boston Massacre was held here.

 

Our walking tour ended here, right at lunchtime, so Clara and I checked out the meeting hall upstairs. Then we decided to get lunch in one of the market stalls in the Quincy Market next door; they had excellent lobster rolls.  They were so delicious!

We also did a bit of shopping in the stalls, and spent some time outside watching a busker who was an escape artist.  It was fun to watch him!

 

Stop 12: Paul Revere House

Paul Revere purchased this home in 1770 when he was 35 years old. By that time the home was already about 90 years old, because it was built around 1680.  Revere lived here when he went on his famous night ride to Lexington to warn the colonial troops that the British army was on it’s way.

Revere, a silversmith by trade, had a huge family.  Revere’s first wife Sarah died giving birth to their eighth child, and his second wife Rachel had another eight children!  Several of these children grew up in this home, along with Revere’s mother.  The home served as a boardinghouse and tenement in the 19th century, and was saved by the Paul Revere Memorial Association in the early 1900s.  It has operated as a historic house museum since 1908!

Clara and I decided to tour the home for $6, and it was fascinating to see a home built in 1680 and a place where one of our pivotal American heroes lived.  Sadly, no photos are permitted inside.  According to the museum website, about 90% of the home’s building materials are original, although they had to renovate to return the home to what it likely looked like when Revere lived here.  There is a lot of good information on their website.

We also saw a religious parade in this Italian neighborhood.  Several men had religious icons held aloft, and they were decorated with bills.  There was a band playing behind them.  I never did figure out what they were celebrating.  I looked to see what Catholic saint’s days were September 9; Saint Peter Claver is the only one who came up, but he was a Spaniard from the region of Catalonia, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If you know what it was about, please let me know!

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton

Wow – this book is a comprehensive digest of Alexander Hamilton’s life.  Written by Ron Chernow, it begins with his childhood in the British West Indies – the city of Charlestown on the island of Nevis.  It goes into detail on the troubled life of his mother and his illegitimate birth, to his rise to fame in the budding United States Government.

Hamilton was a genius, clearly, and in many ways a man of contradictions.

Hamilton was taken in by a wealthy merchant after his mother died, and was sent to the United States as a teenager to pursue his education.  It was there that he volunteered for the Continental Army, became a top aide to General Washington, and set his life on a trajectory that made him one of the most influential and polarizing of the Founding Fathers.

George Washington had a lot of respect for his young aide’s opinions and advice, and the two developed a long-standing friendship that was interrupted only once by Hamilton’s impulsive distancing of himself for a period of time in order to pursue his career – he wanted to get into the action of the war, and Washington felt he was invaluable as an aide.

Hamilton was very influential in getting the US Constitution ratified, which wasn’t an easy process.  He was Secretary of the Treasury in the Washington cabinet, and was responsible for the founding of the national banking system, and many of the economic policies of the Washington Administration.  He was a founding member of the Federalist Party.  He implemented tariffs to raise money to cover the debts remaining from the Revolutionary War, and wrote the Federalist Papers, which shaped opinions on many government and economic topics.

It isn’t any secret that Hamilton died in perhaps the most famous duel in history.  Which is interesting, because his son died in a duel, fought with the same dueling pistols, a few years previously.  After that duel, Hamilton was open about his changing opinion about dueling.   Yet when he was challenged by Burr, he still couldn’t bring himself to step away – instead he further inflamed the feud.

Chernow goes into great detail about Hamilton’s life, both personal and professional.  It is clear that he has done his research, and he is fairly candid about Hamilton’s flaws.  In my opinion he does let his pro-Hamilton, anti-Jefferson-Adams-Madison-Burr bias show a smidge more than he ought to.  It did serve to highlight how divisive our Founding Fathers really were.  Which is probably good to remember when we consider the current political sentiment.

This is an excellent read – and Chernow’s style kept me interested even through a lot of dry detail on banking, political wrangling over the location of the capital, and other similar topics.  It is well researched, well written, and shed a lot of light on a statesman I had never explored much before.  It was certainly a worthwhile read.