Thursday, July 7, 2011

Part I: Boston and the Freedom Trail - walking through history...

Over the Fourth of July weekend, my son and I had the opportunity to travel to Boston.  Since it was a weekend to celebrate the independence of our great nation from British rule, it seemed like a good idea to take a walk down the Freedom Trail.  Don't know what that is?  The Freedom Trail is a walking route through Boston which highlights many of the important sites in the early history of our nation.  Come along with us as we relive that walk through our photos...

For convenience, the Freedom Trail is marked with a red line and these medallions set into the sidewalk.  The red line is mostly brick, but in some places is just a red line painted on the ground.  It took us through many fun and interesting neighborhoods, through the middle of a farmers market, and into the heart of Boston.

The Trail starts at the Boston Common, part of which was undergoing some sort of construction.  Today, commons exist in many towns and cities in the Northeast, and really throughout the country.  But, do you know what they used to be?  Now most of them are nice parks where we stroll along, and maybe have a picnic.  But, originally commons were developed in the center of towns and villages as a communal grazing ground for cows. 

We avoided the construction at Boston Common, and walked past the State House (closed on the day of our visit), poked around the Park Street Church, and saw the grave of Samuel Adams at the Granary Burying Ground.

Samuel Adams was a statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.  He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, helped draft the Articles of Confederation, and was eventually elected governor of Massachusetts. Our trip was planned somewhat last minute, and we didn't explore the cemetery all that much, otherwise we would have also visited the grave of Paul Revere.

As we were walking by the cemetery, we heard music coming from down the street.  When we stopped and watched and listened, we realized THE BRITISH ARE COMING! THE BRITISH ARE COMING!  Along came a group of period actors dressed as British soldiers.  A bystander began yelling at them, "Go home Tories! Go home!" which added to the historic significance.

The next stop along the Freedom Trail is King's Chapel, which was founded by Royal Governor Sir Edmund Andros in 1686 as the first Anglican Church in New England.  The original King's Chapel was a wooden structure which was demolished.  In 1749, a new stone structure was built, which is the building standing today.  Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the stone structure was built around the old wooden church.  The wooden church was taken apart, and the pieces were removed through the windows of the new church.  The wood was then shipped to Nova Scotia and used to construct a church there.  During the Revolutionary war, King's Chapel was vacant, and did not reopen until 1782.Paul Revere was a member of King's Chapel, and the family of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, attended as well.

There were a number of other stops along the Freedom Trail between King's Church and the Old State House, but I will reserve those for another post.  Right now, I want to jump to the stop that I found to be the most important, even if we didn't actually spend a lot of time there...the Old State House.  Why is this site so special?  Because, it is where the Declaration of Independence was read publicly for the first time.  Unfortunately, the building was closed during our visit.  But, put yourself in 1776.  Imagine standing in the street with your friends and family as the Declaration of Independence was read aloud.  The birth of a nation and freedom from British rule!  What a time to have been alive!

On July 18, 1776, from the east balcony, Col. Thomas Crafts, one of the "Sons of Liberty", emerges with Sheriff William Greenleaf, after having read the document in the Council Chamber.  Greenleaf attempted to read the Declaration but could get no more than a whisper.  Crafts took over and read it to the crowd.  Imagine the feelings sweeping through the people below, listening to the document that would shape the country?  It is estimated that 2/3 of Bostonians supported the revolution.  What joy and revelry there must have been on that afternoon!


Next post, I will cover several other significant stops along the way.  The post after that will be a few interesting asides from the same trip.  Stay tuned!

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