Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Birth of Independence

Boston, MA

Most guides get dressed up in costume, but ours didn't

It took us nearly eight hours to drive 238 miles, the traffic was slower than walking pace at times. What a way to spend my birthday, I didn’t time that very well. There were about four tolls ranging from $2.25 to $24.75. Three of them took cash but the $25 one is going to send us a bill, which is a pain as we will have to get a mail posting before we leave the US and I don’t know how long it takes to get sent out. The toll roads were in excellent condition, so that’s some compensation.

the roads in Boston are narrow

After coming onto a parkway there was a flashing sign that said high vehicles take the shoulder. I assume that meant to go around the corner without falling over. The next bridge was too low for us and we had to go off the parkway and come back on. Not long after this we stopped off at a rest stop but couldn't park anywhere. So we just stopped in the roadway. Alarm bells should have started ringing. Lindsay wanted some Pringles so I went inside the trailer. As I got out a guy called out to me. You won't be able to get under any bridges on this road, and it's actually illegal for you to be on this road, it's only meant for cars and the fine is about $400. shit. How are you supposed to know this? You need to get off at the next exit and find the I-95. Okay. So we take the turnoff and he has followed us to the turn off and tells us how to get to the I-95. How nice is that. He tells people all the time as he lives in the area and doesn't know why there isn't a sign letting people know.

We zipped through New Hampshire without seeing anything, I can't believe you can drive through a state in no time.

There are no RV parks around Boston, so we either needed to go south or north. I chose Salem. Remember the TV show Bewitched? We check that out in the next post.

After the previous days traffic we weren’t going to risk driving into Boston so we took the train (think V-line) which took 35 mins, it dropped us within a 15 minute walk to the Boston Common. While this is now open parkland used for rallies and the like, it used to be a pasture for livestock. We were a bit early for our walking tour so we dropped into a coffee shop on the way which gave us a chance to walk through the streets. Boston is a nice looking city. 

The Freedom Trail

One of the things to do here is walk the Freedom Trail which is marked in red along the footpaths. I had downloaded a self-guide walk and sent an email off to a guided walk to see if we could get on a waiting list. The email came through, there was room for us. We talked to a couple of guides dressed up in costume and they said a few things about our guide that sent off warning bells, but we had committed, so we went anyway. They had said that his facts weren’t correct. Maybe or maybe not. He was just an idiot. Making stupid jokes that only he laughed at, mentioning places to eat that he said he wasn’t getting a kick-back for, mumbling to himself as we walked to the next stop. He was seriously strange and incredibly annoying. So lesson learned, remember to check trip advisor before going on a tour. I had forgotten to.

Massachusetts State House

You go past lots of buildings such as the Massachusetts State House with its gilded 23k gold dome. It was originally made in copper by Paul Revere a Boston Silversmith, yes he's also the one who alerted the Colonial Militia that the British were coming.

The Park Street Church

The Park Street Church where the first anti-slavery speech was made in 1829. The King’s chapel that was originally wooden, was then surrounded by brick, they then dismantled all the wood and glass and shipped it to Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, so I will try and find it when we go there in a few weeks. Across the road from the church is the Granary Burial Ground, home to three of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Granary Burial Ground
Paul Revere is also buried here

The Latin school is the oldest school in America and is still used today, people like John Hancock (D of I) , Sam Adams (Governor); John Adams went there.

The Old South Meeting House

The Old South Meeting House where the sons of Liberty met in 1773 before sneaking onto three ships and dumping 272 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the Tea Act of 1773. The people who did this became known as the Tea Party, their names were kept a secret at the time but many came forward after the Revolution. Taxes without representation was a big issue at the time.

The building on the left is one of the oldest brick buildings in Boston

One of the oldest brick structures used to be a bookstore but is now a Chipotle restaurant.

The Old State House

The Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read out for the first time in 1776 and caused a mini riot. The unicorn and lion were torn down as they represented the English. They were put back. The D of I is now read on every 4th of July here, but so far, no more riots have ensued. Faneuil Hall was the last stop on our tour, the trail goes for another one and a half miles. The hall is known as the cradle of liberty as the man who built and donated it was famous for the meetings and protests that led to the American Revolution. The forecast that day was for clouds and 23°C, but someone forgot to tell the heavens and it got colder and rained. So even though we could have continued the trail on our own, we didn’t. Signing the Declaration of Independance was actually treason in the eyes of the British Government. So most signatures on the declaration are small, but not John Hancock, he wrote it big and right of centre so that King George would have no trouble seeing it without his glasses. You may have heard the saying put your John Hancock there when asked to sign, that is where the idiom comes from.

Black Heritage Trail

At 2pm there was a ranger talk about the Black Heritage Trail.

We learned about how a female slave took her owner to court and won her freedom. Opening the doors for many others. About the first schools for black children and the fight for integration as the schools were far inferior in staff numbers, space and books than the white ones. The meeting houses that served as churches as the blacks were not allowed into the whites’ churches. The first black regiment, which I’ll expand on later. About abolitionists, both black and white and how they risked their own lives to free others. It was called the underground railroad. The Marshalls knew which houses were hiding the slaves they were after and the abolitionists often kept kegs of gunpowder in their houses, which they would threaten to blow up if the Marshalls didn’t leave. Many blacks went to Canada. We were shown the small alleyways where escaped southern slaves would run from the Federal Marshals, who were on horseback and couldn’t fit their horses through the narrow openings to apprehend them. Boston is quite hilly and these alleyways made it easier for people to get to their destinations without having to walk all the way up or down the streets. While they were allowed to be free in the North, the southern plantation owners could still legally have them caught and taken back. The Massachusetts Liberty Act was later passed in order to make this unlawful.

One of the Safe Houses

African Meeting Place

54th Regiment Memorial

This memorial took 14 years to complete, as the artist was a perfectionist

The faces were taken from men from the streets of NYC

Due to pressure from abolitionists, African American soldiers were allowed to join the Union forces in 1863. Massachusetts formed the first black regiment in the north. However, they were not given the same pay as the whites. The whites were paid $13 per month and the blacks were only paid $10. They were later to take a stand by not taking their wages, including their white leader Robert Gould Shaw for 18 months. This would have created great hardship for their families. It worked though and they were awarded a pay rise to $13 a month too and back pay. This regiment fought in the battle of Fort Wagner to try and recapture Charleston from the Confederates but they suffered a fifty percent loss which included their leader. After the civil war many freed slaves moved north and Boston’s black population increased dramatically.

This walking tour was excellent and certainly made up for the one in the morning. Our guide had studied in Melbourne for five months to see another point of view and loved it. There was a senior ranger with us as well, he must have been checking her progress or reviewing her. She got an A from me.

Winter Island Park, Salem MA

1 comment:

  1. I lived in Boston for 10 years (20 years ago!) and loved it—it's beautiful and such a great walking city. You did quite the history immersion—glad you had a good tour guide to make up for the crazy one.