Strolling through Public Garden, Common is education in itself

BOSTON, Part Two: Taking indirect routes often results in discovering gems of history

Story and photos by Bob Dunn

(This is the second of a two-part series on revisiting Boston, the walking city.)

After strolling through the Public Garden, cross Charles Street to enter the Boston Common for a longer walk to the corner of Park and Tremont Streets. The sights you will see will be an education of sorts.  The Common has been the site for many small and large meetings over its 331 years.  It was first formed when purchased by the City of Boston in 1634 and used as a public livestock grazing area.  Stop and listen to one of the many speakers; you may laugh or be shocked by the subject line, but it will be interesting.  As you exit the Common, the Park Street Church, founded in 1809, will be on your left.

Walking through the Common.

The State House, Boston.

When you clear the Common, head down Bosworth Street rather than the more direct route down Winter Street towards Downtown Crossing.  Bosworth Street is really an alley ending at a set of steps with the longtime favorite café/restaurant, Café Maliave, on the right.  About a block farther on is the north end of Downtown Crossing.  Maybe if you hit it right, you could enjoy some of the city sponsored entertainment in the walking only section.  The better idea would be to check the City of Boston web site for any possible events either at Downtown Crossing or Government Center (Old Scollay Square).

Park St. Church and MBTA station.

The Granary Burial Ground, Tremont Street.

The other way to head is over Tremont Street towards Government Center. For history and old photos of this area when it was Scollay Square, go to the Scollay web site.  On the way, drop in to the Granary Burial Ground started in 1660 and check out some of the historic graves such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the five victims of the Boston Massacre, the first of whom to fall was Crispus Attucks, a black man and the first American to die in the American Revolution.

The Old State House.

Fanueil Hall.

Then it's down Court Street towards Faneuil Hall and the North End.  The Old State House, built in 1713 and replaced by the present State House in 1798, has a collection of historic items which is worthwhile as is viewing the building itself inside and out.  When you are taking a photo of the Old State House, you might end up standing on the sidewalk plaque that commemorates the site of the Boston Massacre.  The views of Faneuil Hall (circa 1742), the old Custom House Tower (now a condo development), the old North Market and Quincy Market buildings are a tourist spot but enjoyable if caught when it is not too busy.  Many years ago I would head into the old Quincy Market (at that time a commercial site, not retail) where fruit and vegetable wholesalers opened at five a.m. and pick up cases of oranges, grapefruit and other staples for our growing family.  It was great as I would pay the wholesale price rather than retail.

James Michael Curley bronze.

Haymarket pushcart fish vendor.

The way to get some good buys today is to hit the Pushcart Market, near Haymarket Square where, on Fridays, sellers are present with all vegetables, fruits and fish products on display from their pushcarts and trying to sell at discount prices which compete with the pushcart beside them.  On the way down to Haymarket and the push carts, you might want to catch a photo of a friend sitting on James Michael Curley's lap.  His knee is always shiny from the number of people doing so.

Pushcart fruit/vegetable stand.

View down Hanover St., North End.

Then head for the North End for a relaxing lunch at one of the many Italian restaurants in the area.  One of my favorites is Lucia's, run by Donato Frattaroli, who this year won the Restaurateur of the year award from the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.  It is located on Hanover Street.  Also while in the North End visit Paul Revere's House (circa 1680) and the Old North Church built in 1723, the oldest church in Boston and still an active Episcopal church to this day.  Two other churches to view in the North End are St. Leonard's, a Catholic Church built in 1873 by Italian immigrants and St. Stephen, a Bullfinch design and built in 1802, originally a Congregational Church until 1814 when it became Universalist and then was purchased in 1862 by the Catholic Church.    

St. Leonard's Church entrance.

Old North Church, interior.

St. Stephen Church.

St. Stephen Church, interior.

To visit all this in one day is too much.  Plan a couple of days to really enjoy it all; or, even better, take a number of days.  After all, it is only an hour away. The two places that I have not mentioned that are also favorites deserve a special day each tied in with maybe one of the areas already mentioned.  They are Castle Island in South Boston and Bunker Hill and USS Constitution "Old Ironsides" in Charlestown.  Castle Island can be reached in two ways:  by the MTA via the Orange and Red line exiting at JFK/UMASS Station.  A great walk along Carson Beach allows for viewing Pleasure Bay before the circuit of Castle Island and Fort Independence which is on Castle Island and was originally constructed in 1694.  If you choose this, be prepared for about a three mile walk but there are plenty of benches along the way.  The other way is to get off the Red Line at South Station and transfer to a surface bus that will drop you right at Castle Island.  If you choose this route, check out the new convention center on lower Summer Street near the old Fargo Building.  This choice will leave you with only a short walk around Castle Island with great views of the fort, Harbor and Logan across the water.  

New Convention Center entrance.

The Fort at Castle Island.

View of the Harbor and Logan from Castle Island.

Container ship and UAL plane landing at Logan.

New Hotels across the street from the old Jimmy's Restaurant.

On a separate day, ride the Orange Line to North Station and walk back across the bridge to Charlestown and over to the Old Navy Yard.  There a visit to "Old Ironsides", launched in 1797, is a real treat.  Remember to keep your head down when below decks!  It is a relatively short walk, although uphill, to The Bunker Hill Monument, built in 1842.  It is worthwhile, especially if you climb the 294 steps to the top to enjoy the view of the city, harbor and the Zakim-Bunker Hill Bridge.  Bunker Hill is closed for serious maintenance until September 1.  So enjoy this in the fall.  

Sightseeing boat and Commonwealth Pier.

Bunker Hill.

Helpful web sites:
      go to Freedom Trail
      great history and photos of Old Scollay Square, Old Howard and others.


June, 2006