Showing posts from March, 2020

Boston: Old South Meeting House

America's most famous party started right here.  This week, we turn our attention to the Old South Meeting House.  When you see the structure, you'll immediately think it looks like a church, and that's because it is.  In colonial times, meeting houses were built with public (tax) money, but served many purposes including regular religious worship.  As early as 1669, the site was home to a wooden Puritan meeting house, known as Boston's "Third Church".  First Church was the original 1630 congregation, started by John Winthrop, followed by Second Church in 1649.  It was in 1729, however, that Third Church was rebuilt in its current brick form as the largest building in Boston. Old South's size made it a perfect location for large segments of society to gather, and this is precisely what began to happen as patriots and loyalists began to choose sides during the pre-Revolution years.  Thousands of citizens would crowd inside to hear orators and debates.

Boston: Old Corner Bookstore

Today we will embark on a study of one of the more complex locations along Boston's famed Freedom Trail.  The modern story of the Old Corner Bookstore actually began in 1634 when William and Anne Hutchinson moved to Boston and built a home on this site.  This same Anne Hutchinson would become famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) for challenging the same Puritan leaders she had followed to the New World, and was both excommunicated and banished from Massachusetts for sedition and heresy in 1638 - where she assisted Roger Williams at the Providence Plantation colony in the creation of Rhode Island.  The original wooden structure was burned along with many others by fire in 1711 but was purchased and redeveloped in brick by Dr. Thomas Crease for the dual use of home and apothecary.  This business is now America's oldest commercial building, as well as one of its oldest brick structures.  Above the first floor, the facade appears nearly the same as it did when constr

Boston: Latin School Site and Benjamin Franklin Statue

Welcome back from our one-week hiatus!  This week we'll delve into the next stop along the famous Freedom Trail, and given that this is the first week back from a school break it seems only fitting that we're discovering the nation's very first public school.  Boston Latin School, founded in 1635, was a place where boys of any social standing could come and learn, although due to its success it has attracted children from the upper echelon of Boston's population.  Still active to this day, although now in a different location, the school's proud motto proclaims "Sumus primi" - We are first. It also boasts quite an interesting history related to the American Revolution.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence studied at this location, but the only one who didn't graduate is now memorialized on the site with his own statue - Benjamin Franklin was, in fact, a dropout.  A quick study of Franklin's story during the Revolution will show that h

Happy Spring Break

I'm on vacation with the family this week - wishing everyone a terrific Spring Break, and excited about delving back into the geography and history of Boston soon!

Boston: King's Chapel & Burying Ground

Just as the Granary Burying Ground that was the focal point of our study last week was not affiliated directly with the Park Street Church next door, today's site contains both a chapel and cemetery that are not under common administration.  And as much history as our previous two stops may have provided, neither one can compete with the age of King's Chapel and the King's Chapel Burying Ground.  As Boston's oldest cemetery, this site housed the only burial location in the city for thirty years following its inception in 1630.  Historical individuals such as Mary Chilton (the first woman from the Mayflower to set foot on the New World), John Cotton (a highly-influential 17th century Puritan minister), and John Winthrop (the first colonial governor of Massachusetts) are buried here, but no more than half of the 1,000+ graves on the property have a surviving headstone or footstone.  In the image below, note the proximity and size difference of King's Chapel Burying Gr