By Gwyn Goodrow
There’s a rumbling of discord among these (usually) civilized men. They whisper, share the latest rumors, and await the time for championing their cause. Weapons are prepared; their horses are ready. The tension becomes palpable.
Do you hear them?
I’ve arrived in the 1773 American township of Boston, Massachusetts, which carries the namesake of an English village but is better known as ground zero for pilgrims and colonists who chose and fought for liberation from their home country.
The history of colonial America began in this place. Dramatic events, layered with immigration stories, built this Boston village of 1620, the post-revolutionary city of 1822, and the modern day metropolitan city known for baked beans with thick molasses, baseball, and an intimate neighborhood pub where everybody knows your name.
Where it Began-Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
Faneuil Hall is a cornerstone location for understanding Boston history. The Faneuil Hall building was designed as a community building and trading venue near the ship docks and port. The red brick building, constructed in 1742, faces the bay and was often the first building encountered when early settlers arrived by ship to the colonial village. Years later, as a community gathering place, this was the location where Samuel Adams spoke out against the tyranny of the British crown and the inequities of taxation without representation. His speeches were pivotal in the formation of the Sons of Liberty organization, the protests of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, and the escalation to war against the crown, which became the American Revolution. Today, the National Park Service operates a visitor’s center on the first floor where they offer tours, maps, and general tourist information.
The Quincy Market building was a response to the economic growth of the city during the 1820’s and sits immediately behind Faneuil Hall. The long rectangular building is two stories tall, boasts a granite exterior with platforms at the narrow ends, designed for speeches and performances. The interior is mostly red brick with large windows and a beautiful central dome. The center hallway is enclosed and accessible from the outer corridors at the central dome. Today, Quincy Market is a vibrant shopping center and a popular lunch destination for locals and tourists alike, with over 35 food establishments and a global foodie vibe. The additional buildings (North Market and South Market) expand the shopping experience with name brand stores. The cobblestoned promenade is ideal for a stroll around the buildings and architectural observations.
It’s a Marathon
Quincy Market offers some surprises for the curious traveler. While you may not expect bronzed running shoes, Bill Rodgers’ shoes near the cobblestoned path beside Quincy Marketplace seem perfectly normal in this setting. “Boston Billy” is a the National Track and Field Hall of Fame member and holds four victories in the Boston Marathon running competition. Rodgers is known in the running world as a champion of the sport and has authored or co-authored six books about running and marathon competitions. This honorary marker is one of several delights uncovered during my shopping and dining experiences in Quincy Market.
Exploring Made Easy-Old Town Trolley Tours
The Quincy Marketplace and Faneuil Hall landmarks inspire me to delve into a broader knowledge of the city. Fortunately, I am only one street crossing from the Old Town Trolley Tours’ manned sidewalk kiosk. With trolley tickets and a colorful city map in hand, museums, landmarks, recreation areas, dining establishments, and event venues are readily accessible at 18 convenient stops along a looped route. Hop on or hop off at any of these designated stops. The bright orange trolleys are designed for comfort, with open sides for beautiful sunny days, or transparent thick plastic shades to block rain or wind. They are heated in winter and have air conditioning for the summer, so regardless of the weather, you’ll tour in comfort
As a bonus, the drivers narrate the tour as Boston’s history and culture come to life throughout the day. Although I started my day with some particular historical destinations in mind, the insider’s tips from our driver inspired spontaneous exploring into unknown areas and enriched the day’s experience
Building the Case for Freedom
My visit to Faneuil Hall gave me a new perspective on those excited whisperings of our American forefathers. Phrases from the Declaration of Independence danced in my mind as I began to comprehend the concepts that became the passionate cries of colonists seeking freedom. I followed the progression of events and soon arrived at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum (Trolley Stop #15).
The Boston Tea Party Museum deposits every visitor deep into the scene of events. A story begins in late 1773, in the simple rustic meeting house. Visitors assemble on wooden pews. Costumed actors guide us into our roles as participants in the events about to shape the country’s history. We learned the standard phrases of the time and some audience members joined the actors with speaking lines in the re-enactments.
Everyone received a card explaining a specific person’s role in the revolutionary events. We carried these cards through the remainder of the tour and learned more about how ordinary individuals shaped America’s future. Our introduction to American history was fact-filled, yet fun and entertaining. We soon became revolutionists and hurried to the ships where the over-taxed tea was being stored.
It’s December 15, 1773, and I’m in the role of James Foster Condy, a bookseller who relied on imports to provide books for Harvard students. Men who had the necessary physical strength to lift and dump the tea crates (some 90,000 pounds of tea inside 340 tea chests) performed the actual tea dumping, but there were jobs for everyone. A bookseller may have been assigned to organize the labor, help with ropes and bindings, or watch the shores.
We explored the ship and learned how the sailors and captains lived on board a typical 18th-century vessel. The next stop was the museum building, and the interactive experience continues. Through multimedia presentations, we learn about the British response to the destruction of the tea and the escalation of emotions that culminated at the Battle of Lexington. By the end of the museum tour, we’ve participated in the open debate, engaged in a tea-dumping experience, viewed a recovered original tea chest, observed the intensification of emotions from multiple political viewpoints, and watched a large screen movie reenactment of the days leading to the April 1775 Battle of Lexington.
Time for Tea
Abigail’s Tea Room is the on-site bistro for a relaxing meal with scenic harbor views. The restaurant offers tea, scones, sandwiches, salads, soups, and cookies. Join the short lines for ordering your food selections and the costumed colonial women will bring the food to your table. While dining, you can take in the view or engage in dice games, card games, or table-top board games such as checkers. There were five different teas tossed into the harbor during the colonial protest, and these flavors are available to sample at Abigail’s Tea Room. The adjacent gift shop includes these tea selections and other souvenirs.
The Boston Tea Party Museum is only steps from the Boston Children’s Museum and the next trolley pick-up location. Back on the trolley, I toured the city. As the trolley route weaved effortlessly through the busy streets, we saw the Boston Common from several vantage points. This beautiful green sanctuary, founded in 1634, is the oldest public park in the United States. It has been used for public gatherings, of course, but also as a cow pasture and as the site for public gallows executions. Today, the swan boats and the nearby Boston Public Garden are some of the favorite attractions. History lovers will enjoy the park during the 2.5-mile walking path for the Boston Freedom Trail. (Trolley Stops #8, #13 or #14)
American history seeps from the landmarks and culture, and this is an ideal city for a no-drive, no-worries, long weekend trip. Getting around in this sophisticated city is no problem with the exceptional services offered by Boston’s Old Town Trolley Tours.
Boston’s rich history offers much to explore, and my short visit left me wanting more. I’m already planning a return visit to this vibrant city and long weekends are perfect for exploring the destinations that influenced our nation’s history.
Here’s a few helpful links, if you go:
Faneuil Hall – https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/fh.htmhttps://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/fh.htm
Old Town Trolley – https://www.trolleytours.com/boston/hop-on-hop-off
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum – https://www.bostonteapartyship.com/
Boston Common – https://www.boston.gov/parks/boston-common
All photos by Gwyn Goodrow