Has anyone seen Boston recently? Nice little city, lots of charm, historical buildings, a couple of sports teams that my teams love to hate. All I’ve seen on the news is this plain of white, cold ice and snow for as far as the eye can see. There must be something still there, I’m hearing news about the Boston Marathon bombing trial. Maybe someone dug a tunnel in The Great New England Glacier Of 2015, going from Hartford to Manchester and found Boston along the way.
If you’re digging side tunnels in the glacier and you find Boston Common, please dig out The Freedom Trail so that folks can walk it again. It’s not too strenuous, only 2.5 miles, mostly flat, one historic site after the other. Starting at Boston Common, walk up Fremont Street to the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, and the North End Park. Follow the trail into Boston’s North End (with the elusive Callahan Tunnel to Logan International Airport buried somewhere underneath you) and you’ll find some wonderful, quaint neighborhoods, with many fine places to eat when you’re done walking the trail.
Near the end of North Street, on North Square, you’ll find Paul Revere’s house. For a small fee you can tour the inside, which I recommend. I’m a sucker for seeing how people lived 200+ years ago, especially when it’s the original building and furnishings.
Two blocks away, on Hanover Street, you’ll find Saint Stephen’s Church. It used to be called the “New North Church” and if you’re tracking down your Paul Revere history, you might mistake it for the famous one in the story of Paul Revere’s Ride. This isn’t it. However, it is the last remaining church in Boston that was designed by famed architect Charles Bullfinch.
Originally founded as a Congregational church in 1714, it had become a Unitarian church when Bullfinch designed this current building in 1802. It’s now a Roman Catholic church, where one of its more prominent parishiners, Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of Boston’s mayor, was baptized in 1890. It’s also where she was laid to rest in 1995. In between, she married Joseph Kennedy and had nine children, including Theodore, John, and Robert. (I’m going to assume you’ve heard of them.)
Across the street you’ll find the Paul Revere Mall, which leads to the Old North Church. This is the one that you’re looking for if your cell phone battery is dead and you have a couple of lanterns to hang as an alternative means of communication.
I’m also a sucker for statues, the bigger the better. Of course, Paul Revere will be portrayed on a horse and not as a silversmith or a leader of the American Revolution. We all take our fame where we can get it.
I’ve always heard (and believed) that there’s a code of some sort for how people on horses are shown. If the horse has one foot up the rider was wounded in battle, two feet off the ground means the rider died in battle, all feet on the ground mean they survived all battles. (I guess if you weren’t in any battles at all you don’t rate a statue showing you sitting on a horse.) Turns out that “code” is bogus.
Here’s your Old North Church, built in 1723 and site of the infamous “One if by land, two if by sea” signals. Paul Revere’s ride and the signal lanterns hung here on April 18, 1775 warned revolutionaries in Lexington and Concord that British troops were on their way to attack.
The Old North Church is the oldest standing church in Boston, and still serves as an Episcopal church. Inside it’s bright, sunny, and a fantastic place to sit and relax for a few minutes before heading toward and across the Charles River. If historical churches are fascinating, historical churches that are still in use every day as churches are even better.
The current steeple is 175 feet tall, but it’s not the original one that the 1775 signal lamps were hung in. That steeple was destroyed in a storm in October 1804. Our old friend Charles Bullfinch designed a replacement, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1954. The current steeple mixes elements of both designs and is an easy-to-spot landmark for tourists. Tourists who, as you can see, should be walking the Freedom Trail instead of trying to find a place to park!
Invigorated by one of the highlights of your tour of Boston, it’s time to head north toward the Charles River. There might be just a couple of other things there that you heard about in grade school.