Along the Freedom Trail Part II
In the 1950s concerned Bostonians were determined to preserve the story of the American Revolution. In Boston there are 16 historically significant sites and so a unique 2.5 mile urban walking trail was created, marked with a bricked or painted red line and named the Freedom Trail. Designated a Millennium Trail by First Lady Hillary Clinton in 2000, the Freedom Trail today is an integral part of Boston, adding tremendous economic value to the city, through education, tourism and preservation programs. It has become a “signature historic experience in New England,” attracting over 3.2 million people annually.
I became one of those people on a recent visit … but having only one day to explore Boston’s history kept me motivated … and my feet moving as I wandered past statues and columned brick buildings nestled beneath soaring glass skyscrapers. Taxis and buses, decorated with “Blue Men” advertisements honked and maneuvered through the brick paved streets. I came to King’s Chapel, home of the largest and “sweetest” bell ever made by Paul Revere. Noted to have both Royalist and Patriot parishioners during the Revolution, King’s Chapel has one of the oldest pulpits in use today. This historic building is listed as one of the “500 most important in the United States” and I found it a fascinating spot during my trek.
Nearby, along School Street, a life-sized bronze Ben Franklin smiled down at me from his stone pedestal inside the gates of the marble-columned Old City Hall building gardens. This was once the Boston Latin School, the country’s oldest public school. I took a rest on the stone seats and learned the original wooden Boston Latin school building was torn down in 1745 to make way for an expanded King’s Chapel. Here four signers of the Declaration of Independence attended school, but only three graduated. Ben Franklin, one of America’s greatest minds and famous for so many inventions, turns out to be also one of its most notable high school dropouts.
Not only does one of the “Fathers of our Country” stand within these gates but here too resides a life-sized bronze donkey. Its torso and ears are shiny bright from people sitting on its back and rubbing its ears for luck. In 1828, Andrew Jackson established the Democratic Party and ran for president using the populist slogan, “Let the people rule.” His opponents thought him silly and labeled him a “jackass” but Jackson picked up on their name calling and used it to his advantage. He put the donkey on his campaign posters and thus, the long-eared image became the accepted symbol of the Democratic party to this day. I had to laugh when I saw, set into the ground in front of the donkey, a flat, square bronze plaque, with two shoe-prints facing the equine, each with an elephant imprinted on the sole. Below these, the words, “Stand in Opposition” are engraved. A sign states that the symbol of the Republican party, an Elephant, was born in the imagination of cartoonist Thomas Nash published in Harper’s Weekly in 1874 and it eventually was adopted by the Republicans as their parties’ symbol. I saw more then one set of tourist sit on the donkey and stand in the shoe-prints “in opposition” while I enjoyed the garden.
Wandering down another narrow street, I came out onto the star-shaped intersection of State Street, crammed with whizzing cars and walking tourists. On the corner, amid all the stoplights and rush, stands a colonial, clock towered brick building (now the entrance to the subway). Steps from its foundation, is a simple ring of stones, embedded in the triangle brickwork of the corner, marking the site of the famous Boston Massacre. Local period dressed guides were telling a tour group about the massacre and that here each year, on the anniversary day, re-enactments take place. I paused to look around and found it remarkable that this historic place was now dwarfed by a circle of soaring office buildings.
Off I went, to what has been christened the Cradle of Liberty, the famous Faneuil Hall. It was here, in 1764, that Americans first protested against the Sugar and Stamp Acts … “no taxation without representation.” A statue of Samuel Adams stands in front of Faneuil Hall, for it was here he did his greatest work. The third floor of this brick building houses the headquarters for the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, the third oldest chartered military organization in the world and the oldest in the western hemisphere. Following the Revolution and to this day, Boston’s Faneuil Hall has been the stage for historic debates. It is also famous for its weathervane … the golden Grasshopper. Tradition has it that during the War of 1812, anyone who did not know the answer to the question “ What is on top of Faneuil Hall?” was suspect of spying. Today, 24 times a year, between 300 to 500 people take the Oath of Allegiance at Faneuil Hall and are sworn in as new U.S. citizens.
Behind the Hall is Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a bustling plaza of shops and cafes, including the “Cheers” bar. There is much more to see along Boston’s Freedom Trail but I have to admit that the rest of my day was spent exploring the plaza, ending with a wonderful steamed Boston Lobster supper … my bucket list had one more adventure checked off! ❖
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