Tag Archive | Massachusetts

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.4

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

Stop 13: Old North Church

“One if by land, two if by sea.”  We probably all learned these lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, when we studied the American Revolution in elementary school.  Now I got to see where the words were inspired!

Christ Church, aka Old North Church, is the oldest standing church building in Boston, opening on December 29, 1723.  The 191 foot steeple is also the tallest in Boston.  Just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, British General Thomas Gage made plans to capture the munitions stored by the rebels at Lexington and Concord, and to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  However the Sons of Liberty discovered the plot and had time to hatch their own plan to warn of the arrival of the British Army.

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere instructed Christ Church sexton Robert Newman to light lanterns in the steeple to signal the path that the British troops were taking in their advance.  One if by land, two if by sea…  Although the two lanterns only hung for a couple of moments, it was long enough for patriots in Charlestown to learn that the British were crossing the Charles River.

The original steeple was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, and a replacement was destroyed in 1954, so Old North Church is now on its third steeple.  It doesn’t detract from the beauty of this historic site.  When I was there, there was construction going on and the street that leads to the church was fenced off.  The base of the Paul Revere statue in front of the church was covered in plywood to protect it.  On the way back though we were able to take a photo from the other side.

Stop 14: Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was Boston’s largest colonial cemetery, dating from 1659.  Most of the people here are ordinary Bostonians; merchants, artisans and craftspeople who lived in the North End of Boston.  A few are notable.  Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, son and father, Puritan ministers who played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials, are buried here.  The sexton of the Old North Church who raised the lanterns, Robert Newman, is also among those who rest here.  It is also believed that approximately 1,000 free African-Americans lie here.

It isn’t all peaceful however.  The British used the burying ground as a vantage point and placed cannons here, in order to bombard Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

Stop 15: USS Constitution

The USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world!  She was built over the span of four years, and completed in 1797!

The USS Constitution was rated at 44 guns, but usually carried between 50 and 60 guns.  She also had a larger crew than many ships she came up against.  That combined with her top speed of 13 knots gave her a competitive advantage.

Old Ironsides got her nickname in the War of 1812, when she battled against the British Frigate HMS Guerriere, and cannonballs seemed to bounce off her as if she were made of iron.  This was due to the three layers of white oak and live oak she was constructed with.  Her copper fastenings were made by Paul Revere.

The USS Constitution is berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard and she heads out into Boston Harbor several times a year for demonstrations.  The Navy Yard and the USS Constitution are part of the Boston National Historical Park, and there are several passport stamps!  Because she is still a commissioned warship, she still has a crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel.  Clara and I were able to tour her, and it was so fun to check her out!  Watch out for the low ceilings!

Stop 16: Bunker Hill Monument

The first major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775.  Interestingly there was confusion about which hill was supposed to be fortified.  So it was actually Breed’s Hill that was incorrectly fortified due to an incorrect map, and the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill.

During the battle, it took a force of 2,200 Redcoats three different assaults to dislodge the rebels from the hastily constructed redoubt on top of the hill.  Although the battle was a British victory, the battle showed how well the Colonial troops could fight.

A Bunker Hill monument was laid in 1825 by the Marquis de Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the battle.  The granite obelisk that memorializes the hill is 221 feet tall, and was completed in 1842.  You can climb the 294 steps inside the monument and see some beautiful 360 degree views of Boston!  That was fun, but did show me that even though I’m in pretty good shape, Clara is much younger than me!

The Bunker Hill Monument is a part of the Boston National Historical Park as well, so there was another chance to get a stamp!  It was at this point that the official stops of the Boston Freedom Trail ended.  But Clara and I were certainly not done for the day!  We still had to retrace our steps to get back to Boston Common and the parking garage where I was parked.

Clara wanted to check out Mike’s Pastries on our way back, so we got chocolate mousse cannoli, tiramisu, and strawberry cheesecake and shared them all.  They were so delicious!

It was now evening, and Clara and I said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the parking garage, then back to the campground.  The good news was that I missed the evening traffic as well!

I had so much fun in Boston, and it was so much fun to have someone to sight-see with!  Boston was easily one of my favorite days on my trip.

Note: If you would like to see the other stops on the Boston Freedom Trail, see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

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!

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!