Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA

Suffolk County is situated on the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts in New England, USA.  To the north it is bordered by Essex County, to the south by Norfolk County & to the west by Middlesex County. To the east is Massachusetts Bay & here Suffolk has a water boundary with Plymouth County to the southeast. Suffolk comprises the towns & cities of Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop & Boston; the latter being the county seat as well as the state capital. In area, Suffolk covers 59 square miles of land & 62 square miles of sea.

 

Population:-  The population at the 2010 census was 722,023.

How to get there:-

By Road: From the north, take Interstate Highway 95 south, then Interstate Highway 93 south. From Providence, RI & the south, take Interstate Highway 95 north, then Interstate Highway 93 north. From the west, use Interstate Highway 90.

By Rail: Boston has three intercity rail stations. From the south & west, trains terminate at South Station, many having also stopped at Back Bay. Trains arriving from the north terminate at North Station. Amtrak services also run daily; connecting Boston with Washington DC, New York, Baltimore, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago & Virginia. A commuter rail system also serves the local area.

Boston’s General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport is located in East Boston, Suffolk County.

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer +1 hr.

 

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

History:

Early History & Derivation of Name

The Abolition of Suffolk County 

Suffolk Resolves

Suffolk Bank & the Suffolk Banking System

Suffolk University

Suffolk Mining Company

Suffolk County Militia

Geography:

Cities & Towns of Suffolk County:

      Boston

      Chelsea

       Revere

     Winthrop

Neighborhoods of Boston

Roxbury Puddingstone 

Suffolk Downs Racetrack

Suffolk Downs Station

Parks/Reserves etc:

Boston National Historical Park

The Freedom Trail

Boston African American National Historic Site & Black Heritage Trail

Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area & Boston Harbor Island State Park

The Emerald Necklace

Other Parks & Reservations of Suffolk County

Castle Island

Buildings:

Boston Athenæum

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Museums of Suffolk County

Ye Olde Union Oyster House

Cheers Beacon Hill (The Bull & Finch Pub)

People:

Benjamin Franklin

Samuel Adams

Dr Joseph Warren

Paul Revere

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Edgar Allan Poe

Robert Lowell

Sylvia Plath

Donna Summer

The Kennedy Family

 

Please Note:

Articles on Suffolk Bitters & Suffolk Bitters Pig Bottles can be found on the Suffolk Misc page.

Early History & Derivation of Name

Suffolk County came into being on 10th May 1643 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony was divided up into counties by the Massachusetts General Court, at which time Essex & Middlesex counties were also formed.  A fourth county, Norfolk, was also  established north of the Merrimack River, but this was only part of Massachusetts until 1680 when it became the core of New Hampshire.  It is unrelated to the Norfolk County created in 1793 from Suffolk County. All these were named after counties in the south & east of England.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony had been founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company, which itself had originally been known as the New England Company. Established in 1628 when it obtained a grant of land between the Charles and Merrimack rivers from the Council for New England, the company changed its name & obtained a royal charter as the “Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England” in 1629.

In 1630, a group led by John Winthrop sailed for New England having signed the Cambridge Agreement the previous year, in which they agreed to emigrate provided they could buy out the Massachusetts Bay Company’s stock from non-emigrating shareholders & thus gain complete control of the company's government and charter.

Arriving at Salem, they soon established their major settlement at the mouth of the Charles River; which they named Boston after the town in Lincolnshire, England. Centred around Boston & Salem, the colony began to flourish in the 1630s with the migration of more than 10,000 people to New England, most of whom were Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England.

John Winthrop was born at Edwardstone, Suffolk, England in 1587/8 into a wealthy family who owned several properties in Suffolk & Essex. After leaving Trinity College, Cambridge he practiced law in London & became Lord of the Manor at Groton Manor in Suffolk. In the late 1620s he decided to emigrate to America, due to the religious intolerance towards Puritans prevalent during the reign of King Charles I. He served 12 annual terms as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony between his arrival in New England & his death in 1649. The town of Winthrop, Massachusetts is named after him.

At the time of its creation in 1643, Suffolk County covered a far greater area than the county as finally constituted in the 19th and 20th centuries, stretching over parts of the counties of Norfolk, Middlesex, Plymouth, Worcester and Essex, and even into the neighbouring states of Rhode Island and Connecticut.  These areas were lost over the next 200 years, and are featured on The Ones That Got Away page - Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Land Losses & Gains section. 

The history of the county after 1643 is very much that of Boston and the other three communities that made up Suffolk County (Chelsea, Revere & Winthrop). These are dealt with separately below. 

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The Abolition of Suffolk County

Suffolk County exists today only as an historical geographic region, and has no county government.  As the urban growth spread over the area of the county, particularly in the case of Boston, there was little need for a second tier of government.  As long ago as 1821 the county administration was consolidated with that of the City of Boston.  The members of the Boston City Council were also accepted as the Suffolk County Commissioners and the financial requirements of the county were met by the City of Boston.  The other three communities in the county that were not part of the city made their own agreements for sharing services with the city.  Similar movements developed elsewhere in Massachusetts, and the realisation took hold that it would be more efficient and economically sensible to abolish some of the counties.  In 1998 and 1999 the state abolished eight of the 14 counties, including that of Suffolk (1st July 1999).  The former area has no official standing, but the term Suffolk County remains as a geographic entity and does form a district within its old county boundaries for various state-wide organisations.

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Suffolk Resolves

The Suffolk Resolves was a declaration made on 9 September 1774 by the leaders of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.  A convention met to consider their reaction to the oppressive measures that the British government had introduced in the American colonies in response to the Boston Tea Party.  Delegates from Boston and the neighbouring towns in Suffolk County met at Dedham and agreed a first draft drawn up by Dr Joseph Warren (see below) on 6 September at the Woodward Tavern in Dedham, which is today the site of the Norfolk County Courthouse.  The representatives met again in Milton on 9 September 1774 and unanimously adopted a series of resolutions that became known as the Suffolk Resolves.   

They included the following:
* Refusal to obey the acts introduced by the British parliament or the officials responsible for enforcing them.
* Urged their fellow-citizens to cease paying taxes to British officials and organised a boycott of trade with Britain.
* Advised the people of Massachusetts to appoint militia officers and commence arming their local forces.
* Warned that any attempt to arrest citizens on political charges would result in the detention of the arresting officers.
* Announced that they no longer owed loyalty to a king who violates their rights.

Paul Revere carried a copy to the First Continental Congress, which was then in session in Philadelphia.  The Suffolk Resolves were endorsed by a vote of the Congress on 17 September 1774.  The Resolves were an important predecessor document to the Declaration of Independence.

The Suffolk Resolves House stands at 1370 Canton Ave, Milton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts.  Milton was part of Suffolk County until 1793, when Norfolk County split off, leaving only Boston and Chelsea in Suffolk  (see
Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Land Losses & Gains section of the The Ones That Got Away page).

The Suffolk Resolves House is the building in Milton where the Suffolk Resolves document was signed.  To prevent its demolition in 1950, the house was moved from its original location on Adams Street (where the Citizens Bank is now located) to its present location.  The house was restored and later given to the Milton Historical Society, for which it serves as headquarters.                                                                                                                                                                         

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Suffolk Bank & the Suffolk Banking System

Suffolk Bank was first incorporated in Boston in 1818, & from then until 1858 operated as a clearing bank that exchanged local bank notes for those from country banks, which traders & merchants living in the Boston area couldn’t otherwise redeem.  Before this time, each bank would issue its own bank notes (including Suffolk Bank, see photo, left), & over time notes issued by Boston banks became worth more than those from country banks due to the expense that redeeming the latter entailed.  Suffolk Bank devised a process whereby, so long as the country banks maintained an account with Suffolk Bank, their notes would be redeemed at par value. To qualify for an account, banks outside of Boston had to remit a starting deposit of at least $2000 & maintain a sufficient balance to redeem any of their notes that Suffolk Bank might receive. Suffolk Bank in turn benefited from the interest received on the deposit. In 1824, all except one of Boston’s banks agreed to make the Suffolk Bank their agent for the redemption of notes from banks outside the city. This practice was known as the Suffolk Banking System.

During the US Banking Panic of 1837, which was mainly caused by a combination of land overvaluation & erratic banking policy, New England banks fared better than those in other parts of the country, due in part to Suffolk Bank’s activities & services which were, in many ways, similar to those functions performed today by central banks.  Perhaps because of this, by 1838 almost all New England banks had joined the system. The Suffolk Banking System continued until 1858, by which time Suffolk Bank was clearing $400 million worth of notes per annum. In this year, however, the Bank of Mutual Redemption was organised, with the passing of a law by the state of Massachusetts that provided for a reserve of 15% against both notes and deposits; at which time, although not forced out of business, Suffolk Bank ceased its note clearing operations.

This was not the end of the Suffolk Bank, however. In 1864, Suffolk Bank became the Suffolk National Bank, & in 1902 amalgamated with the Washington National Bank to become the National Suffolk Bank. In September of the following year, however, the corporation liquidated, with the assets & liabilities passing to the Second National Bank of Boston.

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Suffolk University

In 1906, a young lawyer named Gleason L. Archer founded the Suffolk School of Law as an evening school for “ambitious young men who are obliged to work for a living while studying law”. Initially based in his house in Roxbury, Archer quickly relocated the school to his downtown law offices. In 1908, after one of Archer’s students passed the bar, an increase in registration allowed Archer to give up his law practice & devote himself fully to the school. By the early 1930s, Suffolk School of Law was one of the biggest law schools in the USA.  

In 1937, Suffolk School of Law, together with the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, & the College of Business Administration, amalgamated & were incorporated as Suffolk University. Over the years the new university moved away from being a night school to offer a full range of courses in the arts & sciences, law & business.

Today the university comprises the Suffolk University Law School, the Suffolk College of Arts and Sciences, the Sawyer Business School, and the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University (NESAD).  The university is co-educational &, with more than 9,000 students from all over the world, is the third largest university in the Greater Boston area. The main campus is located in the Beacon Hill district of Boston, with three further satellite campuses elsewhere in Massachusetts (Cape Cod Community College, Merrimack College, and Dean College.)

Suffolk University also has a European campus in Madrid, Spain. Often known as Suffolk Madrid, this campus was established in 1995 & is situated in the university district of the city. Working in agreement with the neighbouring private Universidad CEU San Pablo, it offers students the chance to study for two years in Madrid, before transferring to Boston for a further two years. 

In 1999, Suffolk University also established a campus in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, which was located in the École Nationale d'Économie Appliquée (ENEA). Like Madrid, Suffolk Dakar offered students a chance to study here for the first two years, before moving on to the main campus in Boston. The Dakar campus closed, however, early in 2011, as it was found that many students preferred to relocate to Boston for the entirety of their course.
 

 

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Suffolk Mining Company

This Boston-based corporation usually gave the name Suffolk Mine to those that it operated in other parts of the USA.  See Suffolk Misc. page for details.

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Suffolk County Militia

Suffolk County Militia Regiment 1631 to 1774

The first colonists in Massachusetts knew that they had to rely on themselves for their own defence.  Their main threat came from the thousands of Native Americans who surrounded them.  On 12th April 1631 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established the first military legislation—a simple requirement for all adult males (except ministers and magistrates) to possess arms.  Based on the English system, local colonial militias or “train bands” were drawn from the body of adult male citizens of a community.  The “train band” or militia was a military force raised from the civilian population.  Militia service was distinguished from regular military service in that the latter was normally a commitment for a fixed period of time for a salary, whereas the militia was only to meet a threat for periods of time expected to be short.  The distinction is important because militia members were not paid soldiers, but served as volunteers on an ad hoc basis, who met for periodic training (hence the term “train band”).  

By 1636 each of the towns in Massachusetts had their own “train band”, officially a militia company.  They all acted independently of each other.  In an attempt to organise them for the mutual defence of the Colony in conflicts with the Native Americans, on 13th December 1636 the General Court ordered that the militia companies be merged into North, South and East Regiments.  A regiment consisted of 10 companies of between 50 and 100 men each, commanded by a commissioned officer.  This act ultimately gave birth to the US National Guard.

On 13th December 1636 the existing militia companies in Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, Weymouth and Hingham were organised as the South Regiment under the command of John Winthrop, Sr. of Boston, with the rank and commission of colonel.  The South Regiment saw action in the Pequot War of 1637 under Capt. John Underhill from Boston who, with Capt. John Mason leading the Connecticut militia, attacked and destroyed the Pequot village near modern Mystic, Connecticut.  The Pequot War was significant because it eliminated the possibility of strong armed resistance to the new colonial settlements.  The local tribes were decimated by disease as well as warfare, and were in no position to resist further encroachments on their land. 

The three existing regiments changed names when the counties were created as political entities. Therefore, on 7th September 1643 the South Regiment became the Suffolk Regiment, the East the Essex Regiment, and the North the Middlesex Regiment.  The Suffolk Regiment was composed of eight companies from Boston, and one each from Roxbury, Dorchester, Weymouth, Hingham, Dedham, Braintree, and Medfield.  Later cavalry troops were also formed.  The first troop of horse is said to have been raised in 1644, but no authentic record exists.  It is known that the 1st Suffolk Troop from Dedham was in existence by 26 May 1652.  A 2nd Suffolk Troop was formed on 15th October 1679 from the townships of Hingham, Weymouth and Hull.

The Suffolk Regiment saw further action in King Philip’s War 1675–76.  This was the most brutal and devastating war between the colonists and the Native Americans in New England.  The war is named for King Philip or Metacomet, the war chief of the Wampanoag tribe.  The Suffolk Regiment was notably involved in the Great Swamp Fight, in what is now Kingston, Rhode Island, on 19th December 1675.  This crucial battle against the Narragansett tribe led to the capture and execution of their war chief, Canonchet, and the virtual extermination of the tribe.  King Philip was killed soon after.  The war, which was extremely costly to the colonists in people and money, resulted in the elimination of the tribal Native American life in Massachusetts, and the way was now completely clear for white settlement. 

On 13th October 1680, in a major re-organisation, the Suffolk Regiment was divided.  The Boston companies with the Suffolk Troop of horses now constituted the 1st Boston Regiment.  It was the Boston Regiment that ultimately became the 101st Field Artillery (“Boston Light Artillery”) regiment, which is the oldest field artillery regiment in the United States Army.  Those companies in the townships that subsequently became Norfolk County formed the 2nd Suffolk Regiment under William Stoughton of Dorchester.

After the local threat ended, the militia system was little used until the French & Indian War of 1755-1763.  By now the regular British army was in place to do most of the fighting, and the local militia was used basically for guard duties, and the relief of garrison troops.  Nevertheless, the 2nd Suffolk Regiment was called up for such duties, and in August 1757 a request was made for additional militia to support the regulars in the war, resulting in a 3rd Suffolk Regiment being formed under Col. Benjamin Lincoln.  His son of the same name was to become a notable general in the Revolutionary War.  After the war the 2nd Suffolk Regiment stood down, but the 3rd Suffolk Regiment continued to meet.  In 1771 this was renamed the 2nd Suffolk Regiment.  However, after 1763 the militia was basically inactive.

Suffolk County Militia Regiment 1774-1840

With the passage of the Coercive Acts by the British parliament in 1774 in response to the Boston Tea Party, the approach of war seemed inevitable and the militia system was revived, weapons were accumulated, and intensive training began.  In October 1774 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress adopted a plan to ensure the loyalty of its militia.  The officers in the militia regiments were required to resign their commissions, and those of Loyalist sympathies were purged.  This allowed the militia to be re-organised into seven regiments led by officers of strong Patriotic sympathies.  Each town company had to enlist a third of its men ready to act “at a minute’s notice”, hence the name of this force, the “Minutemen”.  The Minutemen were heavily involved in the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts on 19th April 1775 that began the Revolutionary War.  The British retreated to Boston and the colonial militia converged on the city and the Siege of Boston began on the same day.  

On 23rd April 1775 the 1st Massachusetts Regiment was organised consisting of volunteers from various counties, including Suffolk.  The Minutemen were absorbed into this new militia, and the regiment was adopted into the main Continental Army on 14th June 1775.  The area of conflict in these early days was concentrated in Middlesex County (the Battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill) and Suffolk County (the Battle of Chelsea Creek and Siege of Boston).  The situation of the individual county militias was fluid since many of their members had volunteered to serve in the Continental Army, at first for one year, but later this became three years.  Nevertheless, it became necessary to organise the local militias again to augment the Continental Army regulars during campaigns, and to relieve them of the mundane guard and watch duties.

On 2nd February 1776 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress established: the 1st Suffolk County Militia Regiment under Col. William McIntosh from the companies at Dedham, Needham and Roxbury; the 2nd Suffolk County Militia Regiment under Lt.Col. Benjamin Lincoln from the companies in Weymouth, Hingham, Cohasset and Hull; and the 3rd Suffolk County Militia Regiment under Col. Benjamin Gill of Stoughton.  The Suffolk Militia was mustered on 4th March 1776 and saw three days service in the taking of the Dorchester Heights that overlooked Boston Harbor, and precipitated the end of the siege of Boston with the withdrawal of British troops from that city on 17th March.

On 12th August 1777, the 3rd Suffolk County Militia Regiment was called up at Stoughton as reinforcements for the Continental Army during the Saratoga campaign.  The regiment under the command of Benjamin Gill marched quickly to join the gathering forces of General Horatio Gates as he faced British General John Burgoyne in northern New York.  The regiment fought in the Second Battle of Saratoga on 7th October 1777 serving in General Jonathan Warner’s brigade.  With the surrender of Burgoyne’s army on 17 October, the regiment stood down and was disbanded on 12th December 1777.

In the absence of the Continental troops from Boston who had been ordered to join the army of General Gates, several companies of the militia from Suffolk and Middlesex Counties were given the duty of protecting Boston and guarding the military stores there.  Thereafter most of the fighting was handled by the Continental Army, comprising regular soldiers, and the militia was no longer mustered.

After the Revolutionary War the militias stood down.  In March 1793 Norfolk County came into being comprising all the towns providing men to the Suffolk Regiment, thus there was no requirement for a regiment of this name.  However, Hingham and Hull reconsidered their decision and did not leave Suffolk County until 1803, when they joined Plymouth County instead.  In theory, this meant that the Suffolk Regiment still existed on paper until 1803. (See also Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Land Losses & Gains section on The Ones That Got Away page)

In the 1812 War with Britain, militia from the towns were mustered but saw little activity other than guard duty in the ports.  The militia was by then simply called the “Massachusetts Militia”.  After the War of 1812, the militia fell into decline, although officers were still commissioned up to 1831.  In 1840 the enrolled militia throughout Massachusetts was disbanded and replaced by a state-wide volunteer militia.  Companies of organised militia based on towns and counties no longer existed.  The Massachusetts Volunteer Militia went through various name changes until the US Congress passed the Militia Act of 1903 and the Massachusetts National Guard emerged in 1907. 

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Boston

Boston is the seat of Suffolk County, the capital of Massachusetts & the largest city in New England. The estimated population in 2012 was 636,479. In area, Boston covers 89.6 square miles, of which 48.4 is land.

Early settlers called the area Trimountaine after the three prominent hills on the Shawmut peninsula that would become Boston. Surrounded by the waters of Massachusetts Bay & Back Bay (an estuary of the Charles River), the peninsula is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Two of the hills have since been leveled & the earth used to reclaim land in the Back Bay & South End areas of the city. The third, Beacon Hill, remains a prominent landmark today.  

The area’s first European settler arrived on the peninsula in 1625. William Blaxton (also spelt Blackstone), an English clergyman, came to Weymouth in 1623 with a small band, but when the others decided to return to England, Blaxton remained and moved to Beacon Hill. He invited John Winthrop to settle on the peninsula after the settlers had problems finding an adequate water supply at Charlestown.  Blackstone, being an Anglican minister, soon tired of the intolerance of the Puritans, and moved on to become the first European settler in Rhode Island in 1635.

On 7th September 1630 O.S. (17th September 1630 N.S.), the “Court of Assistants” agreed that the name of the new settlement should be changed from Trimountaine to Boston. Thomas Dudley, the deputy governor, suggested the name since he came from that town in Lincolnshire, England, as did many of the earliest settlers. It was whilst still aboard his ship, the Arbella, that Winthrop gave his now famous sermon ‘A Model of Christian Charity’ in which he likened the new settlement to a ‘city on a hill’ that would be watched by the world.

The newcomers settled several villages around Massachusetts Bay, but could not agree on a capital for the new colony.  For a time meetings were held alternately at Boston and Newtowne (renamed Cambridge in 1638), until October 1632 when the General Court declared Boston to be “the fittest place” to be the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

During the eighteenth century Boston played a leading role in several incidents that were to lead to the American War of Independence. In the late 1760s Boston was at the centre of the resistance to the British Government’s Townshend Acts; one of the main purposes of which was to establish the right of the British Parliament to tax the colonies. The colonists objected that, as they had no elected representatives in the British Parliament, the Acts were a violation of their constitutional rights as British subjects. The ensuing unrest culminated in the Boston Massacre of 5th March 1770, when British soldiers fired on a rioting mob outside the British Custom House on King Street; killing five protesters.

Three years later, in May 1773, the British Government passed the Tea Act in an effort to monopolise the British East India Company's tea trade to the British Colonies. The Colonists reactions against this measure culminated with what became known as the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, when activists boarded three British ships in Boston Harbor & destroyed the cargo of tea by throwing it overboard. The British retaliated by sending in more troops, closing down the port & stripping Massachusetts of its self-government; making the troops commander General Thomas Gage, the new governor. On 18th April 1775, when he discovered that the colonists had set up their own government in Concord, Gage sent troops to arrest the ringleaders & seize their weapons. This resulted in Paul Revere’s famous ride through the night to warn the patriots of the British approach. The following day, the Battles of Lexington & Concord marked the first military engagements in the American Revolutionary War. This resulted in the siege of Boston, during which the British troops were cut off on the peninsula by the American militia. The siege lasted until 17th March 1776, when the British, under their commander William Howe, were forced to withdraw.

17th March is now celebrated as Evacuation Day; a holiday observed in Suffolk County and some other parts of Massachusetts. It is the same day as Saint Patrick’s Day, a coincidence that played a role in the establishment of the holiday.  While Saint Patrick's Day parades have been held in Boston since 1876, Evacuation Day was not declared a holiday in the city until 1901.  The state made it a holiday in Suffolk County in 1938. 

In the late eighteenth & early nineteenth centuries, Boston grew into one of the world’s most successful international trading ports. On 4th March 1822, with the population now more than 40,000, Boston gained its charter as a city.

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Chelsea

The area that became Chelsea was originally called Winnisimmet by the Massachusett tribe; it means “good spring nearby”. It was first settled in 1624 by one Samuel Maverick, whose trading post is believed to have been the first permanent settlement in the Boston Harbor region. It was annexed to Boston on 3rd September 1634. Until 1739, the area was part of Boston, but was incorporated in that year & named Chelsea after the district in West London, England. The second battle of the American War of Independence was fought here in 1775; known as the Battle of Chelsea Creek.

Although Chelsea had initially included the area known as North Chelsea, this area was separated in 1846; North Chelsea eventually becoming the cities of Revere & Winthrop. Chelsea was reincorporated as a city in 1857.

Chelsea is the smallest city by area in Massachusetts & is situated across the Mystic River from Boston. It covers an area of 2.5 square miles & the population as at 2010 was 35,177.

Located on Parker Street, the Bellingham-Cary House was built in 1659 & is named after Richard Bellingham, who was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for three terms between 1641 & his death in 1672. Since 1912 the house has operated as a museum & was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Chelsea also has three districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

The Bellingham Square Historic District & Downtown Chelsea Residential Historic District, both of which were mainly built in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The Naval Hospital Boston Historic District comprises the area around the former Chelsea Naval Hospital which, at the time of its closure in 1974, was the oldest hospital in continuous service in the USA; having opened in 1836.

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Revere

Revere is the northernmost city in Suffolk County. It covers an area of 10 square miles, around 60% of which is land. The population in 2010 was 51,755.

The area was originally settled in 1630 and given the name Rumney Marsh, after that place in England, by the first European settlers; it was annexed to Boston on 25th September 1634. Rumney Marsh was initially allotted & divided among twenty one of Boston’s prominent citizens. In 1739 the town of Chelsea was established, when Winnisemmet, Pullen Point & Rumney Marsh were set off from Boston. Rumney Marsh & Winthrop then split from Chelsea in 1846 to form North Chelsea. Six years later, in 1852, Pullen Point was set off from North Chelsea. The remaining area changed its name to Revere in 1871; named after the patriot of the American Revolution, Paul Revere, whose famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington in April 1775 warned of the impending approach of the British Army. Revere was incorporated as a city in 1914.

Revere Beach is the oldest public beach in the United States. Designed by Charles Eliot in 1896, Revere Beach Reservation covers almost three miles of coastline. In its heyday during the early twentieth century, it would attract visitors from all over the world to its dance-halls, movie theaters, carousel & rollercoasters, situated along the Boulevard, as well as its many hotels, restaurants & fast food outlets. A major revitalisation programme took place in the 1980s, with the beach being resanded & the pavilions & boulevard being renovated & restored. Revere Beach was officially reopened in 1992.

The annual New England Sand Sculpting Festival has taken place at Revere Beach each July since 2004.

Close to the beach was Wonderland Park; first opened in 1906. Long before Disneyworld, although similar in concept, this was one of America’s earliest and most spectacular fantasy amusement parks, which included a Wild West show, circus, funfair, a scenic railway & “Fighting the Flames”; a re-enactment of a city fire. Unfortunately, by 1911 the park had closed due to financial difficulties. In June 1935 the Wonderland Greyhound Park opened on the site, following the legalisation of  parimutuel wagering in Massachusetts. The park held annual racing here between April & September, until the final race meeting took place in September 2009, after which the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act came into force, banning all greyhound racing in the state.

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Winthrop

This area was settled in 1630 by Puritans as Pullen Poynt.  This was the spelling at that time for “Pulling Point”, as it was necessary for the men to leap out of their boats and pull them around the point with ropes against the strong tidal currents.  On 7th November 1632 it was ordered that ‘Pullen Poynt shall belong to Boston’.  The town of Winthrop was named after John Winthrop, the founder of Boston. Situated to the northeast of Boston & south of Revere, Winthrop covers an area of 8.3 square miles, although only around 2 square miles of this is land. The population in 2010 stood at 17,497.

Deane Winthrop, son of Governor John, lived in the area of Pullen Point until his death in 1704.  Deane Winthrop House (see photo, right) still stands today & is owned by the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 & is now a museum. Initially built in the late 1630s, most of the present building dates from around 1675. It is the oldest continually lived in house in the USA, as well as being one of the oldest surviving wood framed buildings in the country.

 

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Neighborhoods of Boston

There are officially 23 neighborhoods in the city of Boston according to the Office of Neighborhood Services.  They are:

Allston, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Brighton, Charlestown, Chinatown/Leather District, Dorchester, Downtown/Financial District, East Boston, Fenway/Kenmore/Longwood, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mid Dorchester, Mission Hill, North End, Roslindale, Roxbury, South Boston/Waterfront, South End, West End, West Roxbury.

However, other official city authorities have designated their own list of neighborhoods which differs from the above, in particular the Boston Redevelopment Authority which has 26, recognising the Leather District, Longwood Medical Area, and South Boston Waterfront as separate neighborhoods.  

There are many smaller communities or districts within the larger neighborhoods, usually designated sub-neighborhoods, but it is impossible to get any unanimity on these.

The islands in Boston Harbor are not in any neighborhood.  They are administered separately as part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area (see separate section, below).

Allston: The two intertwined neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton are fairly similar.  They are almost completely cut off from the main body of the City of Boston by the town of Brookline.  Only a small neck of land on the eastern boundary connects Allston with the city, the boundary meeting Kenmore at the Boston University Bridge.  The northern boundary is the Charles River, separating them from the City of Cambridge.  For the most part, Allston is administered collectively with the adjacent neighborhood of Brighton.  The two are often referred to together as “Allston-Brighton”.

Until 1867 this area was just the eastern part of Brighton.  In 1867 a railroad depot was constructed at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street, called “Cambridge Crossing”.  This name led to considerable confusion, with train passengers disembarking at Cambridge Crossing, thinking that they were in the City of Cambridge, which was over one mile to the northeast, so a name change was considered for this neighborhood in eastern Brighton.  In February 1868, on the suggestion of the Rev. Frederic Augustus Whitney, the residents chose the name “Allston” in honour of the portrait painter Washington Allston (1779-1843), who had lived and worked across the Charles River in Cambridge.  Allston is the only community in the United States that bears the name of a painter.  The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is also known to have owned properties in Allston.  Allston became part of Boston in 1874 when Brighton was annexed by the city.  

The Allston community originally developed around railroad and livestock operations, but it is better known today for its association with a large student population and the transitory nature of their residence.  Allston lies near two major universities: Harvard in the City of Cambridge across the Charles River, and Boston University along Commonwealth Avenue to the east.  A substantial part of the campus of Harvard University is in lower Allston, including Harvard Business School, and most of the university’s athletic facilities centred around Harvard Stadium and Soldiers Field.  In 1890, Henry Lee Higginson, a noted American businessman and philanthropist, donated 31 acres to Harvard, which he called Soldiers Field in memory of his friends who died in the Civil War.  Harvard Stadium was built in 1903; it was the first collegiate athletic stadium built in the United States, and was a pioneering use of reinforced concrete in the construction of large structures.  Because of its early influence on the design of later stadiums, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Back Bay: Bounded by the Charles River to the north, the neighborhood of Back Bay was created by land reclamation during the 19th century.  Back Bay is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as it is considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th century urban architecture in the USA.

The area now known as Back Bay was originally a tidal bay.  In 1814 the General Court approved construction of a mill dam across the bay.  The dam was intended to harness the power of the tides to create energy for potential mills.  It was completed in 1821; the structure was 50 feet wide and a half mile long, with a toll road running over it.  Today’s Beacon Street has been built over the dam.  The project was a financial and environmental disaster.  The tides did not generate the power predicted, and the bay soon became dirty and stagnant as the city discharged raw sewage into Back Bay.  The pollution and smell became a health hazard and plans were soon developed to infill the mill basin.

Plans to infill Back Bay could not proceed because of a dispute as to which town owned the area.  In 1636 Roxbury had been given jurisdiction over the Charles River within eight miles of its meeting house, and this included most of Back Bay.  The City of Boston only controlled a small strip of land in what is now the Public Gardens.  In 1848 the General Court intervened and took legal action: in 1857 the State Supreme Court ruled that the 71 acres of the Back Bay was the property of the Commonwealth not Roxbury, and in 1859 the General Court passed a law moving the boundary between Boston and Roxbury in the bay westward from what is today’s Berkeley Street to Fairfield  Street.  This deprived Roxbury of the development rights to Back Bay and ensured that the landfill project was in Boston.  The city began filling in the 400 acres of the bay in 1857, and by 1882 the newly built area became the Back Bay neighborhood.  This new land nearly doubled the size of Boston peninsula.  Landfill continued, and in 1890 had reached Kenmore Square; the Fenway area was not completed until 1900.

Copley Square in Back Bay is known for the number of important architectural works that have been built there.  It was originally intended to be Boston’s centre of culture and progress, and was known as Art Square until 1883.  It was renamed after John Singleton Copley (1738- 1815) the Boston-born portrait painter.  Some of the prominent buildings formerly located there have been: Museum of Fine Arts (1876-1907), Harvard Medical School (1883-1906), and Museum of Natural History (1864-1951).  Still to be found there are: Old South Church (1873), Trinity Church (1877), and Boston Public Library (1895).  

Back Bay is also renowned for having some of the tallest buildings in Boston.  The Church of the Covenant in Newbury Street, built in 1865-1867, with its 240-foot high steeple was the tallest building in the city until 1915.  It is a National Historic Landmark.
 
The Berkeley Building (also known as the Old John Hancock Building) is a 26-story, 495-foot structure located at Berkeley Street, Back Bay.  This was designed by Cram and Ferguson and completed in 1947.  From 1947 until 1964 it was the second-tallest building in the city, one foot shorter than the Custom House Tower (see Downtown/Financial District, below).  Since 2004 the John Hancock company has officially called it “The Berkeley Building”, but it is generally known as the “Old John Hancock Building”.

The Prudential Tower, situated on the Prudential Center complex, is the second tallest building in Boston.  The Prudential Tower was designed by Charles Luckman and Associates for Prudential Insurance.  Completed in 1964, the building is 749 feet tall.

Also in Copley Square is Boston’s tallest building; the 790 ft, 60 storey, dark blue glass skyscraper known as the John Hancock Tower; designed by Henry N. Cobb of the firm I. M. Pei & Partners, and completed in 1976 (see photo, left).

The Boston Marathon has finished at Copley Square since 1986.  On 15 April 2013, two bombs exploded—one close to the finish line near the Boston Public Library, the other some seconds later and one block west. Three people were killed and at least 183 injured.

Bay Village: Located south of Boston Common, Bay Village is the smallest of all Boston neighborhoods.  The neighborhood was originally an area of mudflats known as South Cove, part of the body of water known as Back Bay, west of the Boston Neck isthmus.  This changed in 1825 when the area was drained by developer Ephraim Marsh who created much of the neighborhood and laid out the streets, building some of the neighborhood’s finest houses on the former mudflats.  The name South Cove gave way to the Church Street District after the Presbyterian church built on that street in 1827.  By the 1840s, the neighborhood was fully developed and for a time was known as Kerry Village, but when that name later fell out of favour, the area came to be called Bay Village, evoking the neighborhood’s watery origins.

The payback for being one of the earliest reclamation projects came when the continuing infilling of Back Bay meant that Bay Village sewers could no longer adequately drain into that bay.  By the early 1860s it became a frequent occurrence for the residents’ basements to fill up with sewage.  Finally, the City of Boston decided to raise the neighborhood.  Starting in 1865, the City jacked up streets, 457 houses, and 24 stores on pilings 18 feet above sea level and hauled in gravel to place under them.  However, the City did not feel the need to raise the outside of the properties by as much, so a feature of Bay Village is its sunken gardens that sit some 6 feet below street level.

Another feature of Bay Village is the Armory, commonly referred to as “The Castle” (see photo, right).  This was built in 1891 at the corner of what is now Columbus Ave and Arlington Street to house the First Corps of Cadets, a private militia founded in 1741 to guard the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor.  The dramatic granite structure in the Romanesque Revival style includes a four-story head house and six-story hexagonal tower fronting a massive single-story drill hall.  Sold by the corps in 1965, the Armory is currently used by a restaurant and as a convention centre.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    

Bay Village is the birthplace of famous American poet and short story writer Edgar Allan Poe (see separate section, below). Poe was born in 1809 in a house on a part of Carver Street since pulled down.

Bay Village was the site of the November 1942 fire at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, in which 492 people lost their lives.  Its terrible aftermath led to the creation and enforcement of stringent fire codes across the U.S., in the hope of preventing other disasters on this scale.

Beacon Hill: Located to the north of Boston Common, as the name suggests, Beacon Hill is the location of a former hilltop beacon, established in 1634, that once topped the highest point in central Boston until 1784.  The area was owned from 1625 to 1635 by William Blaxton, who was the first European settler of Boston.  Beacon Hill was also once home to the writer Louisa May Alcott (1832-88), best known for her novel Little Women.  The district’s development began when Charles Bulfinch set out a plan of the neighborhood in 1795.  Four years later the hills were levelled, Mount Vernon Street was laid, and mansions were built along the street.

Brighton: To the west of central Boston, with the Charles River as its northern boundary, is the neighborhood of Brighton.  It is completely cut off from the main body of the City of Boston by the town of Brookline, which borders it on the south and east.  The only other Boston neighborhood with which it has a boundary is Allston, which for most of its history was the eastern portion of Brighton.  The two are often referred to together as “Allston-Brighton”.

In 1630, land comprising present-day Allston-Brighton was assigned to Watertown, north of the Charles River.  In 1634 the Massachusetts Bay Colony transferred the south side of the Charles River, including present-day Allston-Brighton, from Watertown to Newetowne (later renamed Cambridge, just to the east of Watertown and north of the river).  It remained Indian land until 1647 when the General Court granted part of this land to the first Englishmen, Richard Champney, Richard Dana and Nathaniel Sparhawk, who crossed the river from Cambridge.  Soon a prosperous little farming community developed that took the name Little Cambridge from its parent town.

In 1775 a cattle market was established in Little Cambridge to supply the Continental Army, then headquartered just across the river.  This was a key event for the community as the cattle trade experienced rapid growth in the post-war period.  When Cambridge’s town government failed to repair the bridge that crossed the river, and made other decisions detrimental to the well-being of the local cattle industry, the residents of Little Cambridge petitioned to secede from the parent town.  They won approval and became a separate town on 24 February 1807, choosing the name Brighton.  It is not known why they named it after the town on the south coast of England.

The largest agriculture fair in the state was held annually in Brighton in the early 19th century.  A railroad was built through the northern end of town in 1835 that greatly helped its meat packing industry to become the biggest in the area with 41 slaughterhouses by 1866.  This was a barrier to residential development as large numbers of drovers, cattle dealers, country farmers, and itinerant merchants poured into the town each week to attend the cattle market.  However, with the introduction of refrigerated cars the slaughtering industry began a slow decline.

Brighton’s more enterprising businessmen were quick to recognise the diminished prospects of the trade and soon realised that residential development now offered greater profit-making potential.  At this point a group of Brighton businessmen took the initiative and, in 1872, formed a corporation that consolidated all the slaughtering activities in the town in a single facility, the Brighton Abattoir.  This freed valuable land in the central part of the town for house construction.  More importantly, the town leaders convinced the people that annexation to Boston would bring further investment and foster desirable growth and after an 81% vote in favour, Brighton with Allston was absorbed into the City of Boston in January 1874.

Charlestown: Originally a separate municipality in Middlesex County and from July to the end of September 1630 the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it is located on a peninsula north of the Charles River, across from downtown Boston, and also adjoins the Mystic River and Boston Harbor.

The territory was called Mishawaum by the Native Americans. Thomas and Jane Walford were the original English settlers, having settled there in 1624 under a grant held by Robert Gorges.  In 1628 three brothers Ralph, Richard and William Sprague from Dorset explored the area on behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and on 4 July 1629 the engineer Thomas Graves arrived to lay out a new town.  Thomas Graves and the Sprague brothers built the first houses of this new settlement which they named Charlestown.  This was before the English colonists had established Boston across the harbour on the Shawmut Peninsula.  Thomas Walford disputed the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to this territory, but was ejected in 1631 with his land being expropriated to settle his debts.

Captain John Smith explored the coast of New England in 1614, originally naming the Charles River after the local tribe as the Massachusetts River.  In 1616, Prince Charles (later King Charles I) renamed the river after himself.  The new town adopted the name Charlestown because of its proximity to the river, not because it was the name of the king.  Charlestown grew into a major port community and it became a city in February 1847.  The city had little in common with the rest of Middlesex County, being completely oriented towards Boston and its Harbor.  Hence, it voted to join Boston and was annexed in January 1874.  Around the 1860s an influx of Irish immigrants arrived in Charlestown.  The neighborhood remains an Irish stronghold in the cultural, economic and Catholic traditions of neighborhoods like South Boston and Dorchester.

Phipps Street Burying Ground in Charlestown is the burial site of the English clergyman John Harvard (1607-38).  Upon his death, Harvard bequeathed half his estate to the New College which had been founded in 1636 in nearby Cambridge, and which was subsequently renamed after him.  Also named in his honour is the Harvard Bridge, which spans the Charles River and links Boston with Cambridge.

Breed’s Hill is a glacial drumlin located in the southern portion of the Charlestown Peninsula.  It is best known as the location of the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.  The neighborhood also houses the USS Constitution (see Boston National Historical Park, below).

Chinatown/Leather District: The name of this neighborhood speaks for itself.  Chinatown is centred on Beach Street.  It borders Boston Common, Downtown Crossing, Bay Village and the South End.  The neighborhood was once tidal flats and from 1805 landfill projects began along Fort Point Channel from Washington Street to Harrison Avenue.  In 1830, owners of the wharves along the South Cove decided that filling the cove and wharves to build railroads would be more profitable than keeping the cove open for shipping.  The city cut down Fort Hill and used it to fill the South Cove, which created modern day Chinatown, and also the Great Cove, now the Financial District, in 1833.  The project reached completion in 1845.  Filling in these coves added almost 300 more acres and created 60 percent more land for the city.

The newly created area was first settled by Americans of English descent, but after residential properties in this area became less desirable because of railway developments, it was settled by a mixed succession of Irish, Jewish, Italian and Syrian immigrants.  Each group replaced the previous one to take advantage of low cost housing and job opportunities in the area.

Seventy-five Chinese labourers were originally brought over from California in 1870 as strike-breakers by the Sampson Shoe Factory in North Adams in northwest Massachusetts.  They were followed by others and in 1874 the Chinese began to drift to Boston, settling in the same area as the Syrians.  In 1875 the first Chinese laundries began, and in 1879 the first restaurant in the area opened: Hong Far Low.  Because of the needs of the construction industry, even more Chinese labourers were brought over in 1885, pitching their tents in Oliver Place, known now as “Pin
g On Alley”.  By the 1890s the neighborhood had become known as the “Chinese Colony of Boston”.  

The Leather District is between the Financial District and Chinatown.  It is a tightly defined area bounded by Kneeland Street to the south, Essex Street to the north, Atlantic Avenue to the east and Lincoln Street to the west.  It is so named because of the dominance of the leather and garment industries from the 1850s.  The garment district was active until the 1990s.  The old leather factories have since been transformed for residential and commercial uses.  The district is the most homogeneous 19th-century commercial district in the city, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Dorchester: Situated to the south of the city centre, Dorchester is Boston’s largest and oldest neighborhood.  Dorchester was actually founded before Boston.  The Dorchester Company in the ship Mary and John arrived at Boston Harbor on 30 May 1630 and on 17 June settled at what was then a narrow peninsula known as Mattapan or Mattaponnock, and today is known as Columbia Point or Harbor Point.  On 7 September 1630 the General Court decided to rename Mattapan after Dorchester in England from where the settlers had come.

The settlement was granted a large area of land. The separate towns of Milton in 1662 and Stoughton in 1726 were carved from this territory. The expansion of Boston led to Dorchester being annexed in pieces.  The first to go was Dorchester Heights in 1804 and then a further tract, known as Little Neck, in 1855.  These were renamed South Boston.  After a plebiscite in 1869, the remainder of Dorchester officially became part of Boston in January 1870.  Additional parts of Dorchester were ceded to Quincy over the years, and portions of the original town of Dorchester became part of the separate town of Hyde Park in 1868.   

The James Blake House on Edward Everett Square is the oldest surviving house in
Boston.  Dating back to 1661, it was built by an English immigrant of that name and remained in the Blake family until 1825.  It is thought to be the first American house ever moved from its original site in order to rescue it from demolition.  It was moved less than 500 feet from its original location in Massachusetts Avenue to its current location.  The move took place in 1895 and was the first major project taken on by the newly-formed Dorchester Historical Society which now owns the property.  

In 1765 the first chocolate manufacturing plant in the USA, the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory, was opened in Lower Mills Village on the Neponset River, Dorchester.

Franklin Park, considered the “crown jewel” in The Emerald Necklace (see below), is located in Dorchester.  

During the early 1950s, Dorchester was the home of clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929-68), whilst he attended Boston University (see photo, right).

Dorchester is Boston’s largest and most populous neighborhood and has at least 18 recognised sub-neighborhoods.  The main business district is at the intersection of Dorchester Avenue (“Dot Ave”) and Adams Street.  Dorchester Avenue is the major neighborhood spine, running south-north dividing the community into west and east.  The southern part of Dorchester is primarily a residential area, with established neighbourhoods, many that have been occupied by the same families for generations.  The northern part of Dorchester is more urban and transient, with a greater amount of apartment housing and industrial estates.  The neighborhoods of Dorchester have distinct ethnic, racial and social compositions, and over time Dorchester has become both more diverse and more segregated.

Mid-Dorchester: This is between Dorchester proper and South Boston; Roxbury is to the west and the neighborhood fronts Boston Harbor on the east.  Mid-Dorchester  has only been recognised as recently as 2012 by the City as a separate neighborhood.  However, this has not been readily accepted by the inhabitants, and there is the suspicion that it is an artificial creation to prevent the de facto separation of Dorchester along racial lines which divide along the north-south axis, with the western side being predominantly black, and the eastern predominantly white and Asian.

Dorchester Avenue connects this neighborhood with the commercial districts and the rest of the city, and the architecture reflects its history.  There is an interesting mix of houses and buildings from every era of the city in the neighborhood, including many Victorian mansions.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the University of Massachusetts in Boston are in the sub neighborhood of Harbor Point in Mid-Dorchester.

Downtown/Financial District: To the east of Boston Common, between the North End and Chinatown, Downtown encompasses the crossroads of Washington and Summer streets and extends from Boston Common to the Financial District.  Washington Street has historically been Boston’s major thoroughfare; in the late 19th century, its commercial importance was undisputed.  

The Downtown Crossing area is a small part of Downtown, but is the major shopping centre.  By the 1970s the area was in decline because the auto traffic had increased at the expense of pedestrian space for shoppers.  The city initiated plans in 1977 to redevelop Downtown Crossing as a car-free marketplace, and in 1979 the new Downtown Crossing was unveiled. It boasted wide brick sidewalks, all sorts of pedestrian amenities, and no cars. However, it has to be admitted that this has not proved as attractive to the consumer as had been hoped.  The Ladder District lies within Downtown Crossing. This tiny central section gets its name from Tremont Street to the west and Washington Street to the east that form two rails of a ladder; the mass of little streets stretching between the rails, from Boylston Street in the south to School Street in the north, are its rungs.  In the 18th century, this was a residential area of homes, taverns, churches and shops.

Just to the east of Downtown there is the Financial District.  Like many areas within Boston, the Financial District has no official definition.  It is roughly bounded by Atlantic Avenue, State Street, and Devonshire Street.  This area was once tidal flats known as Great Cove which was subject to landfill from 1823 which continued through to 1874, gaining 112 acres for the city.  It is here that the headquarters of many nationally and internationally famous companies and corporations are located.  The 13 storey Ames Building on Court Street in the Financial District is considered to be Boston’s first skyscraper.  At 188 feet it was often thought to be the tallest building in Boston from its completion in 1893 until 1915, when the Custom House Tower was built.  However, the building was never the tallest structure in Boston. The steeple of the Church of the Covenant, completed in 1867, was much taller than the Ames Building (see Back Bay, above).

On McKinlay Square is the Custom House Tower.  The Custom House (now a Marriott hotel) was a neoclassical structure in the design of a Greek temple with Doric columns, built in 1847.  Before land reclamation, Boston’s waterfront had extended right up to this building.  In 1913 a twenty-six floor tower was added which was completed in 1915.  Although Boston at that time had a 125 ft height restriction, the Custom House was federally owned and exempt from it.  The new tower’s 496 ft made it the city’s tallest building until 1964.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 was Boston’s largest urban fire, and still ranks as one of the most costly fire-related property losses in American history.  The fire began on 9 November 1872 in the basement of a commercial warehouse on the corner of Kingston and Summer Streets and quickly spread north.  The fire was finally contained 15 hours later, after it had cons
umed about 65 acres, 776 buildings and much of the financial district, and caused $73.5 million in damage (see photograph, right, of the charred centre where much of Boston’s Financial District had been).  At least 30 people are known to have died in the fire.  Hundreds of businesses were destroyed, and dozens of insurance companies went bankrupt.  However, the burnt district was quickly rebuilt in just under two years.  

The exact cause of what started the fire was never determined.  However, there were a number of contributory causes to its widespread effect.  Boston’s building regulations were only recommended practice and not enforceable.  Buildings were often insured at full value or above value which meant owners had no incentive to build fire-safe buildings.  Fire alarm boxes were locked to prevent false alarms.  Fire hydrant couplings were not standardised, had inadequate water pressure to pump from, and were in short supply.  Gas supply lines connected to street lamps and used for lighting in buildings could not be shut off promptly.  The streets were narrow and did not allow the firefighters to reach the upper floors with fire ladders and hoses.  City planning during the post-fire reconstruction caused several streets in downtown Boston to be widened, and building codes became legally enforceable. 

East Boston: Separated from the rest of the city by Boston Harbor, East Boston was created by connecting five islands using landfill: Noddle’s, Hog, also known as Breed’s (now Orient Heights), Governor’s, Bird, and Apple.  Noddle’s Island and Hog Island, the two largest of the group, form the basis of the current residential and commercial sections of East Boston.  The three smaller islands were connected with the expansion of Logan International Airport during the 1940s.

All five were originally granted to Plymouth Colony in November 1620, but came within the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Boston in the 1630s.  In 1622 the Plymouth Colony granted the larger two islands to Capt. Robert Gorges, and in 1629 his heirs sold them to Sir William Brereton who named the larger one Brereton Island, and the smaller, Susanna Island, after himself and his daughter.  However, the larger island soon came to be called Noddle’s Island after William Noddle who was sent out by Brereton to settle the island in 1629.  William Noddle sold his rights to Samuel Maverick in 1630.  Samuel Maverick arrived in New England in 1622, and first settled in the area of Boston at Winnissimet in 1624 (see Chelsea, above).  He erected a small fortified mansion just north of where Maverick Square is located in East Boston today.  The arrival of the Puritans in 1630 complicated the matter of ownership since Samuel Maverick had been in occupation long before them.  
   
In April 1632 the outermost island, then named Conant’s Island (after Roger Conant, the first governor of Plymouth Colony), was granted to John Winthrop and henceforth was known as Governor’s Island.  In April 1633 the General Court recognised Maverick’s property rights to most of the area of modern-day Chelsea, including Noddle’s Island.  However, the relationship was uncomfortable because Maverick was an Episcopalian and a Royalist.  In March 1635 Hog Island (formerly Susanna Island) was placed under the jurisdiction of Boston.  Apple and Bird Islands also soon fell within the town’s jurisdiction, the latter island later being used as a place where criminals were executed.  In March 1637 Boston was formally granted jurisdiction over Noddle’s Island.  In 1638 Maverick bought black slaves, becoming one of the earliest slave-owners in Massachusetts.  Nevertheless, he continued to meet with persecution from the Boston authorities for allowing religious toleration on the island; he eventually gave up his possession of Noddle’s Island in 1645 and moved to New York.

For the next 190 years, the five islands that now make up East Boston were mostly privately owned and used for farming and grazing livestock.  Hog Island was renamed Belle Isle in the late 1700s by the then owner, Joseph Russell.  The name is preserved today in Belle Isle Marsh Reservation (see below).  Joseph Russell also built the first bridge connecting any of the islands to the mainland when he constructed one across the narrow creek in 1807.  On his death in 1813 the island was bought by John Breed who built a stone mansion there.  His ownership gave rise to the alternative name of Breed’s Island, although to the locals it was always known as Hog Island.  In 1808 the United States government acquired Governor’s Island from the Winthrop family, who had owned it since 1632.  This was in order to build a fortress there.  This was later named Fort Winthrop; it was abandoned in 1905.  Bird Island actually disappeared in the early 19th century, and only shoals and mudflats were left.

In 1833 William Hyslop Sumner acquired Noddle’s Island, and with other entrepreneurs he formed the East Boston Company to develop the island into one of the first planned communities in the city.  Sumner laid out the streets in a grid pattern and named the development “East Boston”.  Lots were sold for homes and industry.  East Boston became a prominent shipbuilding centre as soon as the neighborhood’s first ship was launched in 1839.  Shipbuilding and servicing industries came to line East Boston’s waterfront, helping to make Boston one of the leading ports in the country.  Some of the world’s finest clipper ships were built at the shipyards.  Even after the age of wooden sailing ships had passed, East Boston remained a centre for shipping and marine repair.  There was also a diversified base of non-marine industry producing everything from paint to pottery.

Up until the 1880s there had been little development of Hog (Breed’s) Island.  In 1890 the Boston Land Company intended to infill Belle Isle Inlet and develop this area, but the US government would not allow the inlet to be closed.  The company, therefore, looked elsewhere and decided to cut back the hills on the island and their development, named Orient Heights in recognition of the China Trade from which East Boston derived much of its prosperity, was ready for settlement in 1894.
 
Although infilling took place slowly on the surrounding mud flats during the 19th century, the islands were not actually joined until the 20th century.  Infilling the channel that separated Noddle’s Island and Hog (Breed’s) Island was begun in 1911 and completed by 1919.  Hog Island was joined to the Revere mainland in the 1930s when Belle Isle Inlet was infilled, allowing Suffolk Downs Racetrack to be built on the former marshland (see Suffolk Downs Station, below).
 
Filling happened much more rapidly with the expansion of the airport.  In June 1923 Boston’s first aircraft touched down on the tiny airfield known as Jeffery Field, built by the US Army on 189 acres of tidal flats in East Boston.  This was taken over by the city in 1929 and a further 200 acres of land were reclaimed and it became the Boston Municipal Airport.  It was in 1941 when further infilling of Boston Harbor expanded the airfield by 1,800 acres and encompassed Bird, Apple, and Governor’s Islands, joining them all to Noddle’s Island.  In 1956 the airport was renamed Logan International Airport after Lt. General Edward Lawrence Logan from South Boston.  He was an officer in the Spanish-American War; he became one of Boston’s leading citizens and was nationally known for his role in veterans and military affairs.  Further infilling occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, and by 1976, Logan Airport represented two-thirds of the land in East Boston.  Logan is the largest airport in New England; it covers 2,384 acres, has six runways (some partly extending into the maritime area of Winthrop), and employs an estimated 16,000 people.

The East Boston Company believed the neighborhood could not become a valuable asset until people had a way to reach the area from the city centre on the mainland, thus the biggest problem was transportation.  For many years East Boston’s direct connections to the rest of Boston was only by way of a couple of bridges across the Chelsea River via Chelsea.  The ferries were the most important means of transportation between East Boston and the city until the construction of the streetcar tunnel - the East Boston Tunnel.  Opened in December 1904, this was the first subway in the world to run underneath a section of the ocean.  The advent of the automobile as the main means of travel subsequently led to the building of further tunnels: Sumner (1934), Callahan (1961) and the Ted Williams Tunnel (1995 for commercial vehicles, 2003 for general traffic).  Ferry services ceased in 1950.

From the mid-19th century, East Boston became a foothold for immigrants coming to America: the Irish came first, followed by Russian Jews and Italians, then Southeast Asians and, most recently, Hispanics from Central and South American countries.  However, East Boston became best known for its Italian community.  The Orient Heights section of East Boston was the first area in Massachusetts to which Italians came in the 1860s and 1870s.  By 1915 they constituted the major ethnic group in the neighborhood, and well into the 20th century, Italian and English were still spoken in roughly equal measure in Orient Heights.  Nevertheless, it is now over 30 years since the area was solidly Italian, with the influx of Hispanics and Asians over this period adding to the multi-ethnic nature of the neighborhood.

On Orient Heights stands the Madonna Shrine at the US headquarters of the Don Orione (or Orionine) order.  Sculpted by Arrigo Minerbi and completed in 1954, the 35 ft high statue is a full size replica of the statue at the Don Orione Centre in the Montemario district of Rome.

Patrick Kennedy (1823-1858) was an Irish farmer who moved to East Boston from County Wexford, Ireland, in 1849, and became the founder of the now famous Kennedy dynasty in America.  Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, was born at 151 Meridian Street in East Boston. (see The Kennedy Family section, below).

Fenway/Kenmore: This neighborhood is located to the west of Back Bay and South End, with the Charles River to the north and Mission Hill to the south.   It is adjacent to the town of Brookline on the west, and on the narrow strip of land that separates Brookline from the Charles River, Kenmore meets Allston.  The neighborhood includes four distinct geographic areas or sub-neighborhoods each with their own separate identity: Kenmore, West Fenway/Audubon Circle, East Fenway/Symphony, and Longwood.

Today’s West Fenway and its sub-neighborhoods of Kenmore and Audubon Circle, down to the Muddy River, were annexed by Boston from the town of Brookline in 1870.  This was in line with the project to infill Back Bay that had begun in 1857 and, at that time, these were tidal swamps and mudflats at the confluence of the Muddy River and Stony Brook.  These had become a health concern because of the city’s tremendous growth.  Under the direction of Frederick Law Olmsted this problem was tackled and the unsanitary fens were converted into a series of waterside parks (see The Emerald Necklace, below).  The name Fenway was chosen by the park commission in 1887 as the parkway that travelled through the Back Bay Fens.  The infilling was not completed until 1900.  The Fens parkland divided the area: Kenmore and West Fenway developed to the north and west; East Fenway and Longwood developed to the south and east.

Kenmore is generally considered to be bordered by Beacon Street, the Brookline town line, the Allston-Brighton community, the Charles River, and the Muddy River north of the Massachusetts Turnpike.  Kenmore started out as Sewall’s Point, a piece of land then in the town of Brookline that jutted out into the tidal flats of the Charles River before the waters were infilled in the 19th century.  By 1890 the land had been reclaimed and three major roads built that converged at what was then called the “Three Roads Junction”.   This was renamed Governor’s Square in 1910, and became the focus of the Back Bay’s two major boulevards: Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  In 1895 a small side street coming off Commonwealth Avenue was built and given the name Kenmore Street.  In 1916 a Kenmore Hotel, which became the headquarters of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, was opened on the corner of that street.  In 1924 the Boston Elevated Railway completed a subway line that terminated at the junction of Kenmore Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  The stop was given the name “Kenmore Station”.  As early as 1926 the district was informally known as “Kenmore” and Governor Square was often referred to as “Kenmore Square”.  On 31 December 1931, Mayor James Michael Curley approved an order changing the name to “Kenmore Square”.  It is not known with any certainty why Kenmore Street was so named.  There is a belief that it is associated with the Scottish poet Robert Burns, and the Burns Memorial Association of Boston was actively promoting his image in the area at the time, commissioning a statue of the poet in Back Bay Fens park.*

*Kenmore is a small village in Perthshire, and the Kenmore Hotel is reputed to be Scotland’s oldest inn.  The Poet’s Bar is named to commemorate the visit of Robert Burns in 1787.  He left a handwritten poem, written in pencil on the chimney breast over 200 years ago.       
 
The neighborhood is perhaps most recognised as the home of Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox, the city’s Major League Baseball team.  Founded in 1901 as the Boston Americans, the name Red Sox was coined by owner John I. Taylor in 1907.  The club has played at Fenway Park since 1912, which makes it the oldest professional sports stadium continuously in use in the USA*.  The Red Sox were winners of the first World Series in 1903 and had won four more championships by 1918.  However, they then had to wait 86 years before their next triumph in 2004, followed by their seventh win in 2007.  Their latest World Series and eighth championship win came in October 2013, when they defeated the St Louis Cardinals by 4 games to 2.

* Older sport stadiums are: Rickwood Field, located in Birmingham, Alabama, and built in 1910, which is the oldest surviving professional baseball park in the United States, but since 1987 it has only been used once a season for the “Rickwood Classic”.  Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the Kentucky Derby, opened as a racetrack in 1875 and its grandstand was built in 1895, so it also has a claim to be the “oldest sports stadium in continuous use”.

Almost an unofficial extension of Fenway Park and an iconic Boston landmark, a large advertisement for an oil company overlooks Kenmore Square.  “London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Boston has the CITGO sign” is a well-known Boston quip.  This 60 foot square gasoline advertisement has become a famous landmark, mainly because of its appearance in the background of televised Red Sox baseball games, and it has become closely tied to baseball.  It has also stood above the Boston Marathon route and has had music composed about it. It was the subject of a 1968 film (Go, Go Citgo) and a 1983 Life magazine feature.  The irony is that there are no gas (petrol) stations in the direct vicinity of the Citgo sign.

The first illuminated sign, featuring the Cities Service logo, was built in 1940, and replaced with the present symbol in 1965.  It was turned off during the 1973 oil crisis, and in 1979 the Governor ordered it turned off again as a symbol of energy conservation.  In 1983 Citgo began to dismantle the sign.  There was an instant outcry, and it threatened to become a political issue.  The Boston Landmarks Commission announced it would consider designating it as a landmark, and placed a “cease and desist” order on it.  Public protests turned the demolition into a refurbishing project instead, and it was soon illuminating the square once again.  The lights had to go out in 2004 and 2010 while crews replaced the old ones with more energy efficient LEDs, but it has remained in situ and lit up ever since.

West of Kenmore Square, Commonwealth Avenue was slow to develop.  Boston University purchased the last unbuilt tract of land in 1920, but did not begin to build the campus for another 20 years.  Audubon Circle and Peterborough Street were designed in 1887 by Frederick Law Olmsted.  The buildings were built from 1888 to c.1915 and represent an extension of the fashionable Back Bay Residential District.  This sub-neighborhood stretches from the Turnpike to the Muddy River.

East Fenway is largely a student area centred around the Northeastern University.  It is also referred to as “Symphony” after Symphony Hall, located at 301 Massachusetts Avenue.  This concert hall was designed by McKim, Mead and White, and built in 1900 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which continues to make the hall its home.  The hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999.  The Boston Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1881 by Henry Lee Higginson (see also Allston, above, for Soldiers Field), and it is recognised as one of the country’s five major symphony orchestras.   

Also located in East Fenway is the Museum of Fine Arts.  One of the largest museums in the USA, it attracts more than a million visitors a year. (See Museums of Suffolk County section, below).   

Longwood or the Longwood Medical Area comprises the southern portion of East Fenway.  It is a medical campus centred on Longwood Avenue and straddles the Fenway-Kenmore and Mission Hill neighborhoods.  It is most strongly associated with the Harvard Medical School, which moved here from Back Bay in 1906, and other medical facilities such as Harvard’s teaching hospitals, but prominent non-medical institutions are located here as well, such as museums, colleges and research centres.  The residential community mostly comprises employees and students in medical research and teaching.  

The Boston Latin School has been located on Avenue Louis Pasteur in the Longwood area since 1922.  The school was established on 23 April 1635.  It is the oldest existing school in the United States.  However, the Roxbury Latin School, founded in 1645, claims to be the oldest school in continuous existence, since it did not close down during the Revolutionary War.

Hyde Park: This is a dissolved municipality and currently the southernmost neighborhood of Boston.  Hyde Park was the last town to be annexed by the city in 1912, having been a separate municipality in Norfolk County for only 43 years.  Until the 1850s the major part of the present neighborhood was an area of woodland and a few isolated farms, except in the southernmost portion where the settlement of Readville, a district of Dedham, was located.  

Dedham was first settled in 1635.  The settlers needed a mill where corn could be ground.  Although Dedham was adjacent to the Charles River, this river was slow-moving with little elevation that could provide power for a water wheel.  However, in 1639 a diversion canal was constructed that connected the Charles River to the Neponset River and provided sufficient water flow for a mill.  This is known as the Mother Brook and flows through Readville where it joins the Neponset River.  The canal utilised an existing stream, but the man-made portion of Mother Brook is considered to be the first canal in America dug by English settlers.  The waters of the Mother Brook and Neponset River provided power for mills to be built, around which a settlement grew.  In 1677 this was known as “Low Plains”.  Prior to 1846 the Dedham Manufacturing Company cotton mill was taken over by James Read, a Boston merchant and entrepreneur.  In 1847 the people of “Dedham Low Plains” renamed their neighborhood “Readville” after him.

The Boston and Providence Railroad was built through this area in 1832-34, but there was no station as the region was still largely unsettled.  It was in 1850 when three men realised that the railroad made the area a convenient place to live for anyone working in Boston.  Charles H White and the Rev. Henry Lyman were the instigators of a company to develop the land.  Henry Lyman is credited with naming the “Hyde Park Land Company” after Hyde Park of London because he wanted the community to be of a certain type of people that he associated with the English aristocracy living around that location in England.  In 1852, 216 acres were purchased and building commenced around a small unofficial passenger stop on the railroad called “Kennys Bridge”.  In 1858 the developers built their own station which was opposite the present Hyde Park station.  This development was within the boundaries of Dorchester on the other side of the Mother Brook and Neponset River from Readville.
 
Meanwhile, another group of men in 1855 formed the “Fairmount Land Company and Twenty Associates” to build a second commuter town on the opposite side of the Neponset River from the Hyde Park development.  Led by Alpheus Perley Blake (who is usually considered the founder of the later town), they bought 100 acres of land in the Fairmount section of the town of Milton.  By 1859 the Fairmount Village had made rapid progress, but the Hyde Park development had stalled, so discussions began on merging the two companies.  This was achieved in 1861 and growth accelerated thereafter.  By 1867 the settlements had grown to the point that there were six railroad stations in the area.  Since the settlements were all connected to each other, and each of them suffered from indifference by the towns in which they were actually located, it seemed sensible that they should merge.  Dorchester did not object since this little bit of territory was too far away to be of concern, but both Dedham and Milton vociferously opposed the suggestion on the grounds that communities, however small, had existed in their parts well before the new estates had been built.  Nevertheless, after some adjustments to the proposed boundaries, on 22 April 1868 the town of Hyde Park was incorporated in Norfolk County from parts of Dorchester (the Hyde Park Land Company development), Milton (Fairmount) and Dedham (Readville).

Another fact that deserves mention is that in 1870 Hyde Park became one of the first communities in the USA that allowed women to vote in an election for its town officers.

Jamaica Plain: The neighborhood of Jamaica Plain is situated to the south of Mission Hill and adjacent to Brookline in the west.  Shortly after the founding of Boston and Roxbury in 1632, William Heath and three other families settled on land that is now Jamaica Plain.  The earliest record of the name is found in a deed of 1677 which terms it “Jamaica End”.  The exact reason for this name is unknown.  One theory suggests that it originates from the trade in Jamaican cane sugar.  Another suggestion is that the word is a corruption of the Native American name Kuchamakin, who was regent to Chickatawbut, the young sachem (chief) of the Massachusetts tribe, or even an Indian woman named Jamaco who wove baskets.  Another possibility is that it derives from a Native American word meaning “abundance of beavers”.

It was originally part of the town of Roxbury. The community seceded from Roxbury as a part of the new town of West Roxbury in 1851, but in 1874 West Roxbury was itself annexed to Boston.  In 1873 it was officially recognised as a separate neighborhood when West Roxbury High School became Jamaica Plain High School.

Jamaica Plain is considered one of the greenest neighborhoods in the city of Boston since it contains a number of jewels of The Emerald Necklace (see below), the park system designed in the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted, as well as  Jamaica Pond, the largest and deepest body of fresh water in Boston.

Mattapan: This is the original Native American name for the Dorchester area.  This was not the present neighborhood of Mattapan, but rather Dorchester and Dorchester Neck in general (see Dorchester, above).  When Mattapan was renamed Dorchester in 1630, the original name was retained generally for the southern part of the town, and specifically became the name of the village that grew up around the upper falls of the Neponset River.  In 1874 the name was given to the neighborhood in the southwest corner of Dorchester.  There is no consensus as to what the original Native American name means.  The original spelling of “Mattapanock” would seem to indicate a meaning of “evil spread about the place”, referring to a pestilence in 1617 that killed so many of the native inhabitants that they lay around unburied.  Alternatively, in contradiction, it is also said to mean “a good place to be”, or “a good place to sit”.  

It has remained predominantly residential.  However, in the period from 1968 to 1970 Mattapan went through a major change in the makeup of its population. It shifted from a predominantly white Jewish neighborhood to one that is now 77% African and Caribbean American. This is said (controversially) to have arisen from a practice known as “blockbusting”.  This was a business practice of U.S. real estate agents meant to encourage white property owners to sell their houses at a loss, by implying that racial minorities were moving into their neighborhood, thus depressing property values.  This allegedly brought about panic selling and white flight.  The banks are said to have colluded since the white community bought property owned by the banks in the suburbs, and the houses subject to “blockbusting” were sold to black families at inflated prices with federally guaranteed loans from the banks.  Such practices are now illegal.

Mission Hill:  Like the adjacent neighborhood of Jamaica Plain to the south, Mission Hill was once part of Roxbury which is to the east.  It is located on one of the drumlins left behind by a glacier.  The hill was early on covered with apple orchards owned by the Ruggles family.  John Ruggles arrived in Roxbury in 1635, originally coming from Nazeing, Essex, and Sudbury, Suffolk, in England.  In the early 1750s, a man named Peter Parker married Sarah Ruggles, thereby assuming her family’s assets.  Their son, John Parker (1757-1840), became a wealthy merchant and the entire area was then named Parker Hill.  He divided his property into large country estates and, by 1790, about 25 mansions had been built on the hill by wealthy Boston families.

The area of Parker Hill was developed in the years after Roxbury was annexed to Boston in 1868.  The area was subdivided into 190 house lots which were soon developed, primarily with single-family, two-storey brick row houses built between 1872 and 1892.  Huntington Avenue was cut through the area in 1882, spurring the construction of three-storey, multi-family residences, and of four-storey single family houses.  In 1989 the area became an architectural landmark district, now known as the Mission Hill Triangle Historic District.

 Irish immigrants began moving into Parker Hill following jobs on the railway, in the breweries and local mills by Stony Brook at the bottom of the hill.   The area slowly took on a distinctive character, and by 1900 had come to be considered a separate neighborhood in its own right.  The name change from Parker Hill to Mission Hill had taken hold colloquially by the early 1900s.  This came about because of the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Roman Catholic church, colloquially known as Mission Church.  The Redemptorist Fathers built a modest wooden mission church on the location in 1870.  The current church structure was first built in 1878, located almost at the centre of the hill.  The Mission Church ran a high school that had a very successful athletics team in the 1920s, and this prompted an official change to Mission Hill.

North End: North End, along with South End and West End, are misleading neighborhood names in modern day Boston, as they no longer mark the geographic boundaries of the city.  The names derive, in fact, from their positions on the Shawmut Peninsula, and this neighborhood is indeed on the “north end”.  The North End is Boston’s oldest residential community; having been continuously inhabited since the 1630s.  In 1649 the area became a distinct neighborhood of Boston, since it had a large enough population to support its own church, called the North Meeting House.  The minister of the North Meeting House, Increase Mather, was an influential and powerful figure in early Massachusetts who attracted residents to the North End.  The Paul Revere House (see Boston National Historical Park, below) was later constructed on the site of the Mather House.

In colonial days, the one-square-mile area was known as the “Island of North Boston”, surrounded on three sides by water, a narrow peninsula reaching out into the harbor.  It became a highly desirable residential area comprised of a few grand estates and a hub of commercial, social and intellectual activity.  For Bostonians of English descent, it was the fashionable place to live, but at the end of the War of Independence many of the residents who remained loyal to Britain left the area, either returning to England, or moving to Canada.  

Within a few decades, the area went into decline as wave after wave of poor immigrants crowded into the neighborhood.  By 1800 the large mansions had become run down tenements and lodging houses, and the neighborhood became known as the “North End”.  The first Italians arrived in the 1860s and by 1930 the North End was almost 100% Italian.  Although they presently make up less than half of the population of the North End, there is still a decidedly Italian feel in the neighborhood with its reputation for fine Italian cuisine in over a hundred restaurants.

The North End neighborhood was the scene of the “Boston Molasses Flood” in January 1919.  A large storage tank burst, sending a 40-foot wave of molasses through the streets, killing 21 people and injuring many more.  It buckled the elevated railroad tracks, crushed buildings and inundated the neighborhood to a depth of 2 to 3 feet.  The clean up took weeks, and for months afterwards everything touched was sticky.  The event has entered local folklore, and for many years residents claimed that on hot summer days, the area still smelled of molasses.

Roslindale: This is primarily a residential neighborhood to the south of Jamaica Plain, originally settled in 1662 as a part of the town of Roxbury.  In 1834 the railroad first reached the area, and the intersection with South Street led to the district being known as “South Street Crossing”.  However, when the community applied for a post office district of its own, this name proved to be unacceptable to the authorities.  The name Roslindale was suggested by a resident, John Pierce, who said that the area reminded him of the historic town of Roslin in Scotland, outside Edinburgh, and the area was like a dale because of the hills surrounding it.  Thus this community became “Roslindale” in March 1870 when the name was accepted by the U.S. Postal Service.

Roxbury: This was one of the six original settlements in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.  The principal founder of the town was William Pynchon (1589-1661), who was one of the assistant magistrates that came over with the first Puritan settlers.  The town was incorporated on 28 September 1630, only three weeks after Boston and Dorchester.  The area they chose was littered with rocks, hence the settlers originally named it “Rocksberry” or “Rocksbury”.  Pynchon became dissatisfied with the town’s notoriously rocky soil, and in 1635 he led the initial settlement expedition to Springfield,  Massachusetts (see The Ones That Got Away page).

Although the rocks in its soil made early farming a challenge, the land Roxbury was built on was perfect for a settlement in many other ways.  The town was built about three miles south of Boston.  At this time, before all the development and land fill in and around Boston, that city was on a peninsular which was accessible only from the south.  There was one town situated so that any traveller going to Boston had to pass through it, and that town was Roxbury.  If you were travelling to Boston and needed to stop for the night, you had to stay in Roxbury, and if you needed provisions, they had to be acquired in Roxbury.  It was close enough to Boston so the inhabitants could take advantage of what Boston had to offer, and yet it was far enough away so that it could be a separate thriving agricultural community.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, farming was the basis of Roxbury’s economy. However, in the 19th century, as Boston grew and industries developed, instead of living near their place of work in the city, people wanted to live in free-standing houses with gardens.  Changes in transportation made it possible for many families to pursue this suburban ideal, and Roxbury was close enough to Boston to be a good choice.  The first developments took place in the 1820s, when a horsedrawn bus line was established along Washington Street, linking Roxbury to Boston for commuters, and in 1835, when the railroad from Boston to Providence was constructed.  Soon farmlands began to be subdivided for single-family dwellings.

The original town of Roxbury once included the current Boston neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, the South End and much of Back Bay.  These latter two neighborhoods were established on land reclaimed from the tidal flats surrounding Boston in the early 19th century.  Although Roxbury had good claims to the areas, each time the matter came up, the courts found in favour of Boston so that all of Back Bay and South End eventually passed to that city.  The other three neighborhoods were split off from Roxbury as an independent municipality in 1851.  This was because they were still agricultural areas with little in common with the part of Roxbury immediately adjacent to Boston, which was now really an urban suburb of the city.  Further growth created the need for more municipal services, so the citizens of Roxbury voted first to incorporate as a city in 1846, and then to become annexed to Boston in January 1868.

Even in colonial days, Lower Roxbury, located along Roxbury’s border with the South End, had an industrial character with mills and tanneries.  As the marshes were filled in, factories and warehouses took their place, interspersed with wooden tenements and terraced houses built for the workers.  The Lower Roxbury Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Roxbury asserts that it “serves as the heart of Black culture in Boston”.  Following a massive migration from the South to northern cities in the 1940s and 1950s, Roxbury became the centre of the African-American community in Boston.  Nation of Islam minister and human rights activist Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X (1925- 65), lived in Roxbury with his half-sister, and held a variety of jobs there, during the period 1939-1946.  The two-floor house in Dale Street still stands, and has been declared a historical landmark.   

The settlement of Roxbury gave its name to the many large outcroppings of Roxbury Puddingstone (see separate section, below), which was quarried for many years and used in the foundations of a large number of houses and churches in Boston.

South Boston:  A densely populated neighborhood with the waters of Boston Harbor on three sides.  It is located east of Fort Point Channel with the entrance of Boston Harbor to its north and east, and Dorchester Bay lying to the southeast.  Its land connections are with the South End to the west and Mid-Dorchester to the south. 

South Boston was originally a peninsula dominated by two prominent hills (hence it was known as Dorchester Heights), and separated from the Boston peninsula by South Boston Bay and the tidal Dorchester Flats.  The narrow isthmus connecting the peninsula to the mainland was known as “Mattapannock” by the Native Americans (see also Mattapan neighborhood, above), but was called “Dorchester Neck” by the English colonists. Until 1637 all the inhabitants of Dorchester were allowed to graze their cattle at Dorchester Neck.  In that year, however, exclusive pasture rights were limited to only 100 citizens.  The formal division of the Neck was not made until 1642, and the first actual occupation did not come until 1673 when Captain James Foster built his residence at Leek Hill.  In 1700 three families were living on Dorchester Neck, rising to 12 by 1774.

In 1804 property speculators arranged the annexation of Dorchester Neck from the town of Dorchester.  After annexation, the area’s name was changed to South Boston since it was located south of Boston’s downtown area.  It was not actually connected to the city since it was separated by South Boston Bay, and it was only in 1805 that the first direct link with Boston was made when a footbridge was built across that bay on the site of the Dover Street Bridge.  Since 1836, landfill operations have altered the original shoreline to such an extent that South Boston is no longer seen as separate from the city.  The hills have been cut down, the western side of the historical neck has been reclaimed, the connection to the mainland has been widened in all directions, and the Fort Point Channel is only a vestigial remnant of the original South Boston Bay.  In 1855 the present Andrew Square section of South Boston was annexed from Dorchester.  It was earlier known as Little Neck and had provided the only road (Dorchester Street) onto the peninsula.   However, it was not until Dorchester itself was annexed to Boston in 1870 that it could be truly said that South Boston had finally achieved a direct land connection to the rest of the city.  Even then, it was not until South Boston Bay was finally reclaimed in its entirety in 1882 that South Boston was fully accessible by land.  The only hint that there once existed an expanse of sea is in the name of the large shopping plaza in Dorchester that sits on top of the fill, known as the South Bay Shopping Center.

South Boston contains Dorchester Heights, where George Washington placed a cannon, thus forcing the British troops to evacuate Boston on 17 March 1776 during the American Revolutionary War.  The Dorchester Heights monument was listed on the National Historic Register in 1966 (see Boston National Historical Park section, below).

Evacuation Day (17 March) is an annual holiday observed in Suffolk County.  This also happens to be St Patrick’s Day.  Although its ethnic background is rapidly changing, South Boston is still popularly known for being a working class Irish-American neighborhood, and the large, annual St Patrick’s Day parade held in South Boston has become world renowned.  St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston pre date the Revolutionary War, but the annual parade has been official since 1901.  It is officially designated the Saint Patrick’s and Evacuation Day Parade, and has re enactments of the Revolutionary War, but it is clearly dominated by celebrations of Irish culture.

The part of South Boston north of First Street has been targeted for massive redevelopment by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).  Initially referred to as the “Seaport District” by the BRA, this area was officially restyled the “South Boston Waterfront” in 1999 after protests from local politicians and residents.  It is also referred to as the “Innovation District”.  This is the aspirational name Mayor Thomas Menino gave to the area in January 2010.  The name reflects the project to invigorate the industrial South Boston Waterfront. Innovation Districts are areas where active stakeholders, institutions, companies and organisations collaborate with new businesses to accelerate growth in the area.  Boston’s Innovation District was the first in the USA.   Today the South Boston Waterfront is emerging as Boston’s newest neighborhood.  Already home to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Seaport World Trade Center, and Boston’s Marine Industrial Park, planned development for the Waterfront includes residential, office, retail, and hotel use.  These are rapidly transforming the area from historic warehouses and heavy industry into a high-tech, cultural, leisure and residential hub for the city.

A favourite recreational spot is Castle Island (see separate section, below). In 1634 this site was selected for a fort to protect the city.  The island was originally some distance offshore, but land reclamation for the expansion of port facilities in the 19th century extended the mainland towards it.  The fort gradually fell out of use, and it was ceded by the federal government to the city of Boston in 1908.  Today Castle Island is preserved as a state park.

South End: The original “South End” in colonial days was the area around Summer Street just south of Downtown Crossing.  However, the present neighborhood today lies south of Back Bay and Bay Village, west of South Boston, and north of Mid-Dorchester.  It was originally a narrow strip of land, the “Boston Neck”, connecting Boston to Roxbury, adjacent to a large bay and tidal flats called South Cove (south and east of today’s Washington Street).  The area included a few mansions, but was mostly open fields.  The South Cove Company began filling the marshlands in 1833 and achieved 73 acres of new land in three years to create the new South End.  The area was planned by Charles Bulfinch and the South End became the fashionable place for well-to-do young families to live.

In the 1870s those families began moving out and the private homes became tenements and lodging-houses.  The South End quickly became a melting pot for various minorities and immigrants.  Those who stayed contributed to the diversity that still characterises the South End today.  In particular, the music of the growing number of African-American residents helped to make the area famous for its jazz clubs.  In 1973 the South End was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “the largest urban Victorian neighborhood in the country” and named a Boston Landmark District in 1983.

West End: The West End occupies the northwest portion of the Shawmut Peninsula.  Much of the land on which the neighborhood lies is the product of land reclamation.  

By 1775 the city had built a dam across the North Cove, creating an expanse of water named Mill Pond.  The dam was used to power grist mills and sawmills in the area.  However, Mill Pond became dirty and stagnant and the mills there were no longer needed so, between 1807 and 1829, the city allowed soil from Beacon Hill to be used to fill in the mill pond and lay out new streets in the reclaimed area.  Charles Bulfinch designed the pattern of streets for the new land which became known as the Bulfinch Triangle neighborhood because of the triangle of streets surrounding it, and its distinctive architecture of large brick buildings with gardens.  The Bulfinch Triangle Historic District is bounded by Causeway Street, which sits on the exact location of the dam’s original wall, and Canal, Market and Merrimac Streets.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Infilling of the adjacent West Cove along the Charles River also began in 1803 and continued until 1865, by which time 203 acres had been added to the city, creating 40% more land.  At first the newer large brick buildings with gardens attracted many of Boston’s wealthier citizens.  By 1810, the West End was inhabited by rich business men, merchants, and lawyers.  However, many soon moved to the nearby Beacon Hill, and in the latter part of the 19th century, after the Civil War, the West End became an important centre of Boston’s African-American community.  It was one of the few locations in the United States at the time where African-Americans had a political voice.  At least one black resident from the West End sat on Boston’s community council during every year between 1876 and 1895.  Once a thriving neighborhood, Boston’s West End was significantly impacted by “urban renewal” in the 1960s.  Before 1960 the West End was a densely populated urban neighborhood but most of it was demolished in that decade to make way for new high-rises, which eventually became luxury housing, and the construction of government and commercial buildings.

The West End is also notable for its sporting arenas.  The Boston Garden was designed by boxing promoter Tex Rickard, who also built the third Madison Square Garden in New York.  It opened on November 1928 as “Boston Madison Square Garden” (soon shortened to just “Boston Garden”).  Located near by North Station, the Garden was the home venue for the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics (see below), as well as a venue for rock concerts, amateur sports, boxing, wrestling, circuses, and ice shows.  By the early 1970s, Boston Garden was deteriorating.  The building had no air conditioning, seats were obstructed by pillars, and the arena lacked luxury suites. With a capacity of less than 15,000, it was one of the smallest major league sports arenas in the country.  It closed in 1995 and was demolished in 1998, three years after the completion of its new successor arena, the TD Garden.

In 1985 the Boston Garden owner was awarded the rights to construct a new arena by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Poor economic conditions and arguments over investment partners delayed the project for several years. Construction began in 1993.  Plans for the new arena stated that it would be slightly north of the old facility.  The term “slightly north” meant that there was only nine inches (23 cm) of space between the two buildings when construction was completed.  The naming rights for the new arena were purchased by the Shawmut Bank with the intent of calling it the Shawmut Center.  However, the Shawmut Bank was taken over by the Fleet Bank before the stadium opened in September 1995, hence its first name was the Fleet Center. With subsequent bank acquisitions it became the TD Banknorth Garden, before becoming simply TD Garden in 2009.  Its sponsor, TD Bank, is a subsidiary of Canada’s Toronto-Dominion Bank.  The arena has a capacity of 19,000.  It is home to the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association and the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League.  It was also home to the Boston Blazers indoor lacrosse team from 2009 to 2011.

The Boston Celtics were formed in 1946 and joined the National Basketball Association at its inception in 1949. The Celtics, who play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, have won the NBA championship a record 17 times; the first in 1957, the latest in 2008.

Formed in 1924, the Boston Bruins ice hockey team play in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League.  Like the Celtics, the Bruins previously played at the Boston Garden prior to 1995.  They have won the Stanley Cup on six occasions; the latest being in 2011.

The Boston Blazers indoor lacrosse team were only formed in 2009, although a team with the same name existed from 1992-97; having originally been known as the New England Blazers from their formation in 1989.  In August 2011 the team suspended operations.  If the team resumes play, it will be at a new venue.

TD Garden is also a major concert venue; playing host to such acts as U2, Genesis, David Bowie, The Who, and Fleetwood Mac.  The venue also houses the Sports Museum of New England (see Museums of Suffolk County section, below).

West Roxbury: This suburban neighborhood is located in the southwest corner of Boston.  West Roxbury is often confused with Roxbury, but the two are not connected, being separated by Jamaica Plain and Roslindale.  This area was originally part of the town of Roxbury and was mainly used as farmland.  The first settler is regarded as Joseph Weld from Sudbury, Suffolk, England.  In 1643 he was granted a large tract of land by the Massachusetts Bay Company as a reward for negotiating a treaty with the Pequot Indians, part of which is today’s West Roxbury Park.  By 1710 the community there was known as West Roxbury Village.  It remained an agricultural area and, in an attempt to retain its rural character, in 1851 West Roxbury (including Jamaica Plain and Roslindale) was set off as a separate municipality from Roxbury, which by then had become absorbed by the urban spread of Boston.  The separate existence of West Roxbury was short-lived as it was annexed to Boston in 1874.

The Roxbury Latin School, founded in 1645 by the Rev. John Eliot, is considered by some to be oldest school in continuous existence in the United States, (for, unlike the Boston Latin School, which was founded in 1635, it stayed open during the Revolutionary War).  It moved to West Roxbury in 1922.

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Roxbury Puddingstone

The neighborhood of Roxbury gives its name to Roxbury Puddingstone (sometimes called Roxbury Conglomerate).  This is the underlying bedrock of not only Roxbury, but also several other Boston suburbs and neighbouring towns, and stretches as far as Maine in the north to North Carolina in the south.  Although the puddingstone covers a large area it only comes to the surface in Roxbury.  Puddingstone is a popular name applied to a distinctly rounded conglomerate that consists of a mixture of different, irregular sized grains and pebbles held together by soft sedimentary rock.  The colours of the pebbles are in sharp contrast to the colour of the finer-grained, sandy matrix surrounding them.  It was called puddingstone due to its resemblance to an old fashioned pudding filled with fruit and raisins.  Roxbury, first called Rocksbury, is named after this stone.


                                       Roxbury puddingstone at Munroe Park

The Roxbury Puddingstone comprises the lower part of a 5,000 meter thick (3 miles) sequence of sedimentary rocks that fill the Boston Basin in eastern Massachusetts.  This was a deep marine basin in which sediments associated with volcanic activity accumulated.  This type of stone forms when fast moving water carries rocks and mud along and then suddenly deposits the material.  Faster water carries bigger rocks.  Puddingstone with the largest rocks are located to the east, while puddingstone with smaller rocks are in the west.  These facts suggest that the floods depositing the rocks came from the east, a fact that puzzled geologists for years since there are no mountains to the east to create fast moving water, only the Atlantic Ocean.  However, with the modern theory of tectonic plate movements it is now believed that Roxbury Puddingstone accumulated between 570 to 595 million years ago on what is now the west coast of Africa.  Similar formations are found there today, and the big rocks are to the east and the smaller ones to the west.  In the Cambrian period, when the puddingstone was formed, the Atlantic Ocean did not exist.  As the plates moved, the Atlantic Ocean was formed, and Roxbury Puddingstone was carried along with the North American plate.  This natural concrete was slowly unearthed in the Roxbury area by surface erosion, mainly by the glaciers that existed as recently as 12,000 years ago.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was frequently used to construct walls and house foundations in the Boston area.  The most extensive quarry workings were those in Roxbury, and the stone was used to build churches in the Boston area, most notably the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Mission Hill.  Roxbury Puddingstone is the official rock of Massachusetts.

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Suffolk Downs Racetrack

Suffolk Downs is the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in Massachusetts & is located in East Boston.  It consists of a one mile oval dirt track, with a seven furlong inner turf track.

Suffolk Downs opened in 1935, a year after the Commonwealth of Massachusetts created the State Racing Commission & legalized pari-mutuel wagering. The track was constructed by the Eastern Racing Association on 200 acres of land straddling the boundary between the cities of Boston & Revere. The track took just 62 days to build & at the time boasted the first & largest concrete grandstand in the country, as well as what may have been the biggest clubhouse in the world; the former seating 16,000 people, the latter able to accommodate 5,000. During the early 1960s the clubhouse & grandstand were renovated & a new paddock & walking ring constructed.

The first race meeting took place on 10th July 1935 & attracted upwards of 35,000 people to the eight race event. Later that same year, the track held the inaugural Massachusetts Handicap, or MassCap as it became known. This race, with its substantial prize money, soon began to attract some of racings biggest names, including the legendary Seabiscuit, which, ridden by Johnny “Red” Pollard, won the race in 1937. Apart from the years 1990-1994, 2003 & 2005-2006, the race has been run annually ever since.

As well as horse racing, the track has also staged concerts, including, in August 1966, the Beatles; attended by more than 25,000.

At the close of the 1989 racing season, Suffolk Downs closed for two years, reopening in 1992, under the ownership of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC. Since 2007 Suffolk Downs has been owned by Coastal Development Massachusetts, LLC.

Suffolk Downs holds race meetings on most Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays from May through to early November.

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Suffolk Downs Station

The district of Suffolk Downs Station is an unincorporated populated place recognised by the US Board of Geographical Names since 1974 as the residential areas south of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Blue Line station of the same name, and adjacent to Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, on land that has been reclaimed from Belle Isle Inlet. 

In the 1890s the Boston Land Company received permission from the State to infill Belle Isle Inlet and develop the marshland, thus uniting Winthrop with East Boston. However, the US government would not allow the inlet to be closed.  The Company was allowed to build dykes along the banks of the inlet, thus stabilising the waters.  The low-lying land between Bennington Street and Orient Heights was allowed to be developed but not the land east of the railway track.  Later the marshalling yard and a few streets to the south of the yard were allowed as they were essential to the harbour area.  

Without being able to develop its land, in 1911 the Boston Land Company sold 8.3 acres of marsh and salt flats to the city of Boston for recreational use.  The city’s parks department took over the infilling in the 1920s and 1930s in such a way that the land could be used for such purposes.  This is when the Suffolk Downs Race Track was built on former marshland.  The remaining land was left as marshland.  

When the Suffolk Downs Station was built in 1952 (
on the site of a former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad depot called Belle Isle), material was dumped to its east where the small residential area around Leverett Avenue was to be later developed.  In 1957 a new Saratoga Road bridge connecting Winthrop and East Boston was built, and material was used as infill on both sides of Belle Isle Inlet for the foundations of the highways and ancillary construction areas; after completion these were later developed as the residential areas around Pleasant Park Road in Winthrop, and Annavoy Street in East Boston.  Thus, these districts reclaimed from the Inlet have a common history, recognised in 1974 as the “unincorporated populated place” known as Suffolk Downs Station. 

The station itself was rebuilt in 1983 and reopened in January 1984. It closed for approximately one year from June 1994, whilst it was once more rebuilt; services temporarily ending at Orient Heights until the station was re-opened on 24th June 1995. The station is on the surface section of the Blue Line, & is the only part of MBTAs heavy rail network that uses overhead lines instead of third rail.

In 1986 the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation was created to ensure that there would be no further encroachment on this natural habitat.  (For further details
see the Other Parks & Reservations of Suffolk County section below). 

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Boston National Historical Park

Designated a national park in October 1974, the Boston National Historical Park consists of eight sites connected to Bostons role in the American Revolution. Seven of the eight sites can be found by following the Freedom Trail; a two & a half mile walking trail that also takes the visitor to other historic landmarks around the city. The park has two visitor centres; next to the Old State House in State Street & at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The eight sites within the park are:

Bunker Hill Monument:  This 221 ft granite obelisk commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place during the Siege of Boston.  The monument is actually on Breed’s Hill, where most of the fighting took place, although taking the adjacent Bunker Hill was the aim of both the British & American troops. The obelisk was built between 1827 and 1843 & has 294 steps to its summit. The monument was renovated in 2007 & the nearby Bunker Hill Museum opened in that same year. The statue in front of the obelisk is that of Col. William Prescott, a hero of the battle, thought by some to have been the first to coin the phrase Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes.

Charlestown Navy Yard (including the USS Constitution): One of the oldest shipyards in the country, Charlestown Navy Yard later became known as Boston Naval Shipyard; although the National Park Service & the local people still refer to it by its former name. Although it closed as an active naval yard in 1974, parts of the yard still remain in operation to support the USS Constitution (see photo, left). This wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate was named by George Washington & launched in 1797. She is the worlds oldest floating commissioned naval ship* & is today used to promote understanding of the Navy’s role through education, historic demonstration & public events. The yard is also home to the USS Cassin Young; a Fletcher-class destroyer from the Second World War that is now a museum ship.

* HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship, is the oldest naval ship still in commission, dating from 1778; however, she is not afloat, being in dry dock at Portsmouth, England.

Dorchester Heights: The Dorchester Heights Monument is a 115 ft tall tower built of Georgia white marble topped with an octagonal cupola & weather vane. Completed in 1902, it commemorates the Fortification of Dorchester Heights, which took place on 4th March 1776 when American troops, under cover of darkness,  manoeuvred a vast amount of artillery onto this strategically important point overlooking  Boston & Boston Harbor.    

Faneuil Hall: Sometimes referred to as the Cradle of Liberty, Faneuil Hall dates back to 1742 & was funded by the wealthy Boston merchant, Peter Faneuil. It was the location for a number of speeches advocating independence from Great Britain in the period leading up to the American Revolutionary War. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 & was later added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Old North Church: Officially named Christ Church in the City of Boston, it was built in 1723 & is the oldest active church building in Boston. It became famous on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, when lanterns were displayed in the steeple to warn the patriots in Charlestown about the movement of the British troops.  One lantern was to be placed there if the British were advancing by land over Boston Neck and the Great Bridge, two if they were coming by boat on the Charles River; “One if by land, and two if by sea” as Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere's Ride puts it.  

Old South Meeting House: Situated in the Downtown Crossing area, this church was built in 1729. It is famous as the site of the meeting that took place in December 1773 that resulted in the raiding of the three tea ships Dartmouth, Eleanor & Beaver that became known as the Boston Tea Party.

Old State House: Now a history museum operated by the Bostonian Society, the Old State House was built in 1713 & is the oldest surviving public building in Boston (see photo, right). It was from this building that the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed by Col. Thomas Crafts on 18th July 1776. Prior to this it served as the seat of colonial government, before becoming the seat of the Massachusetts state government until 1798. For a brief period from 1830 to 1841 it became Boston’s city hall, then was rented out for commercial use until 1881, when it was acquired by the Bostonian Society.

Paul Revere House: Originally built around 1680 & located at 19 North Square, the Paul Revere House was, as the name suggests, the home of the famous American patriot during the period 1770 - 1800. Although a great deal of renovation & alteration work has taken place since, much of the original structure still remains & it is a typical example of a colonial residence from the period. It is now operated as a museum by the Paul Revere Memorial Association.

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The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail in downtown Boston connects 16 important historic sites. It is highlighted by a red line along the road, mostly of bricks, that signposts the route. It is run by The Freedom Trail Foundation.  The attractions include seven of the eight sites of the Boston National Historical Park; the exception being Dorchester Heights. See the section above for details of these.

The other sites on the Freedom Trail are:-

Boston Common: Boston Common is a public park in central Boston that dates from 1634, making it the oldest city park in the United States. Originally owned by the first European settler of Boston, William Blaxton, it was subsequently bought by the Massachusetts Bay Colony & was later used as a camp by the British prior to the American Revolutionary War. It became a park around 1830, when the grazing of cattle was abolished.

Today, as well as a public park, it is used as a venue for concerts & other events. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II made speeches here. In 1987 Boston Common was designated a National Historic Landmark.  Also on the common is the Central Burying Ground, which was established in 1756 & is where such famous people as composer William Billings, artist Gilbert Stuart & poet Charles Sprague are buried.

Benjamin Franklin Statue & Site of the Boston Latin School (Old City Hall): The Boston Latin School was founded in April 1635 & is the oldest public school in America. The first schoolhouse was built on School Street in 1645; classes being held in the headmaster’s home prior to its completion. Since then it has moved locations several times & is now situated in the Fenway neighbourhood. The school was attended by four signers of the Declaration of Independence; Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine & Benjamin Franklin. The latter’s statue, sculpted by Richard Saltonstall Greenough in 1856, stands in front of the site of the original wooden building, which was demolished in 1745 (see also Benjamin Franklin section, below).

The building that now occupies the site is the Old City Hall, which was built during the period 1862 -65 & is one of the first buildings in America to be built in the French Second Empire style (which originated in the reign of Emperor Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870). It was Boston’s third city hall & was in use as the offices of the city council from 1865 to 1969. After the Latin School had been torn down, the Suffolk County Courthouse was built on the site in 1810. In 1841 this building was converted into Boston’s second city hall, until the current building was completed 24 years later. 

Since the move to new premises in 1969, the Old City Hall has been redeveloped by the Architectural Heritage Foundation. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places & was designated a US National Historic Landmark in 1970. It is now used by a number of businesses & organisations.

Boston Massacre Site: Situated on what is now State Street, the incident known as the Boston Massacre took place on 5th March 1770 & was sparked by Private Hugh White, a British sentry outside the Custom’s House, striking Edward Gerrish (or Garrick) with the butt of his musket, after the latter had insulted White’s commanding officer. An angry mob soon assembled, with British reinforcements from the 29th Regiment being called to the scene. The crowd began to throw rocks at the soldiers & one of their number, Private Hugh Montgomery, was hit in the face with a club.

Montgomery retaliated by firing his musket into the crowd, as did some of the other soldiers, killing five protesters & wounding six others. The Massacre is seen as a key incident in the lead up to the American Revolution.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground: Originally named North Burying Ground, Copp’s Hill was founded in February 1659 & is the second oldest cemetery in Boston. It is named after shoemaker William Copp, who once owned the land. In 1974 the site was added to the National Historic Register. Famous people buried here include Robert John Newman, one of the patriots who placed the lanterns in the Old North Church on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, & Prince Hall (1735 -1807) who is regarded as the father of Black Freemasonry in the United States.

Granary Burying Ground: Situated adjacent to Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground was founded in 1660 & is the third oldest cemetery in Boston. It is the burial place of Paul Revere, three signers of the Declaration of Independence; Samuel Adams, John Hancock & Robert Treat Paine, the first mayor of Boston; John Phillips, plus victims of the Boston Massacre.

King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground: King’s Chapel was founded by Royal Governor Sir Edmund Andros in 1686 & was the first Anglican Church in New England. Since none of the Puritan settlers would sell land for an Anglican Church, the governor seized a corner of the burying ground for the Church of England. The original church was built of wood; the stone structure seen today being designed by Peter Harrison & completed in 1754. The chapel’s interior is considered the finest example of Georgian church architecture in the country. The chapel’s bell, originally from England, was hung in 1772. After it cracked in 1814, it was recast by Paul Revere & is the largest bell cast by Revere’s foundry. After American independence it was difficult for Anglican communities to continue in association with the Church of England, and in 1785 the congregation at King’s Chapel adopted the Unitarian doctrine.

Next to the chapel is the King’s Chapel Burying Ground, which is the oldest cemetery in Boston, established in 1630. It is the burial place of John Winthrop & the first European woman to set foot in New England from the Mayflower, Mary Chilton, then aged thirteen.

Massachusetts State House: Located in the Beacon Hill district, the Massachusett
s State House is the state capitol and house of government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The house was designed by Charles Bulfinch & completed in 1798; prior to which the government’s house had been the Old State House. The dome, which had originally been made of wood, was covered in copper in 1802 by Paul Revere’s company. It was gilded with gold leaf  in 1874. The building was expanded in 1898, then again in 1917 with the completion of the east & west wings. In 1997, the dome was once more gilded in gold, having been painted over in black during the Second World War. Statues outside the building include General Joseph Hooker & President John F Kennedy.

Old Corner Bookstore: Constructed in 1712 by Thomas Crease as a house & apothecary shop, the Old Corner Bookshop is located at the junction of Washington and School Streets. The building’s first use as a bookstore dates to 1828. From 1832 the building was acquired by Ticknor & Fields; one the most important publishing companies in the US. It thereafter became a popular meeting place for such notable literary figures as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson (see below), Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. & Charles Dickens (see also Charles Dickens - the Suffolk Connection on the Suffolk, England page). After Ticknor & Fields relocated, the building played host to other publishing companies & booksellers. The building was rescued from demolition in 1960 by Historic Boston Inc. & is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 2002 the retail area has no longer been used by the book or publishing trade; it is now a Mexican grill restaurant.

Park Street Church: Built in 1809, Park Street Church is located on the site of the old town granary. It was established by former members of the Old South Meeting House. It stands on what is now called Brimstone Corner; partly named for the nature of the preaching & partly because gunpowder was stored here during the War of 1812. Its white steeple soars 217 feet, which made the church the tallest building in the United States from 1810 to 1846.

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Boston African American National Historic Site & Black Heritage Trail

The Boston African American National Historic Site takes in 14 locations of importance to African American history in the vicinity of the Beacon Hill neighbourhood of Boston. The sites are linked together by a route known as the Black Heritage Trail. As Massachusetts was one of the first states to declare slavery illegal, a substantial black community developed here. The sites on the Black Heritage Trail were the homes, businesses, schools, and churches of this growing community.

Abiel Smith School: The Abiel Smith School on Joy Street is the first building in the USA built for the sole purpose of serving as a public school for black pupils. Constructed in 1834, the school was named after a white businessman who left an endowment to the city of Boston for the education of black children. After the school closed, the building became the headquarters for black Civil War veterans from 1887. It is now a museum commemorating the quest for educational equality. It is open all year around from Monday to Saturday.

African Meeting House: Adjacent to the Abiel Smith School on Joy Street, the African Meeting House was built in 1806 in what once was the heart of Boston's nineteenth century African American community, & is today the oldest black church building still standing in the USA. In 1832 it was the location of the founding of the New England Anti-Slavery Society by William Lloyd Garrison. At the end of the nineteenth century it became a synagogue, which it remained until 1972, when it was acquired by the Museum of African American History. It has been restored to resemble its appearance in the 1850s & is now a National Historic Landmark.

Charles Street Meeting House: Located on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Charles Street, this meeting house was built in 1807 for the Third Baptist Church of Boston.  Up to the mid 1830s segregationist seating patterns prevailed, until Timothy Gilbert invited some black friends to sit with him. He was promptly expelled, but went on to found the First Baptist Free Church, known as the first integrated church in America”. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) purchased this building in 1876 & remained here until 1939.  Since then the building has been used by several different Christian denominations, but has now been converted into offices.

 

 

 

George Middleton House: Situated on Pinckney Street, this is the oldest remaining house built by African Americans on Beacon Hill. The house was built in the late eighteenth century (1787 or 1797, the sources differ) and is named after its original owner, George Middleton (1735 - 1815), who was a veteran of the American Revolution & led the all-black company, the Bucks of America. He was also a member of the African Lodge of Masons.

John Coburn House: Located on Phillips Street, this house was built for John P Coburn (c1811 - 73) & his family around 1843. Coburn became treasurer of the New England Freedom Association, a petitioner in the Boston desegregation campaign, and a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee. In 1851 he was arrested & tried for the rescue of a fugitive slave, but was later acquitted.  He was also co-founder and captain of the black military company, the Massasoit Guards.

John J. Smith House: This house on Pinckney Street commemorates John J Smith (1820 - 1906) who, during the Civil War, became a recruiting officer for the all-black 5th Cavalry. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1868, 1869 & 1872, as well as being appointed to the Boston Common Council in 1878. He lived in this house from 1878 until his death.

Lewis and Harriet Hayden House: This house on Phillips Street was built in 1833 & was lived in by Lewis Hayden & his wife Harriet from 1849 onwards. Born a slave in Kentucky, some time between 1811 & 1816, Lewis Hayden escaped to Boston via Detroit, & became a leader of the abolitionist movement. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed Southern slave owners to retrieve their runaway slaves, the Haydens’ house became a haven for escaped slaves. During the Civil War, Hayden became a recruiting agent for the 54th Regiment. From 1859 until his death in 1889, Lewis Hayden held the position of Messenger to the Secretary of State, the first black government employee in Massachusetts. In her will, Harriet Hayden, who survived her husband, left a scholarship fund for needy and worthy colored students in the Harvard Medical School”.

Phillips School: The Phillips School on the corner of Anderson and Pinckney Streets was one of the first schools in Boston with an interracial student body, after segregated schools were abolished in 1855.

Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial: The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was the first black regiment to be formed in the north, after President Abraham Lincoln admitted black soldiers into the Union forces in 1863. The regiment became famous in July 1863 for leading the assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina, in which 62 soldiers of the regiment lost their lives, including their white commander Robert Gould Shaw.

The memorial consists of a sculpture by August Saint-Gaudens, & was dedicated in 1897 (see photo, right). The names of those who died at Fort Wagner are listed on the monument. It is situated at Beacon and Park Streets on Boston Common.


Smith Court Residences: This site includes five buildings situated between 3 & 10 Smith Court.

No. 3 was built in 1799 &, between 1851 & 1865, was lived in by William C. Nell, who was America's first published black historian.

No. 5 was the home of George Washington & his family from 1849. Washington was deacon of the African Meeting House.

No. 7, together with No. 7a behind it, were owned during the 1860s by entrepreneur Joseph Scarlett as rental properties. They are typical examples of African American housing in Beacon Hill during this period.

No. 10 was built in 1853 for the aforementioned Joseph Scarlett. At the time of his death Scarlett owned 15 properties, & left bequests to The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church & The Home for Aged Colored Women.

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Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area & Boston Harbor Island State Park

The 34 islands that make up the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area span the borders of Suffolk, Norfolk & Plymouth counties. The national park is run by the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership. The area includes the 13 island Boston Harbor Island State Park, which is managed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In the early days of the colony, the General Court granted the islands of Boston Harbor to different towns, but all of these were then in Suffolk County.  Over time some of the towns passed to other counties, and the islands within their jurisdiction passed with them.  By the end of the 19th century, of the 34 islands, 10 were in Suffolk County, 16 in Plymouth County and 8 in Norfolk County.  The islands in Suffolk County were: Deer Island, Gallops Island, Georges Island, Long Island, Lovells Island, Nixes Mate, Rainsford Island, Snake Island, Spectacle Island, and Thompson Island.  All of these, except Snake Island, are within the jurisdiction of the City of Boston; Snake Island is in the town of Winthrop.
 
Suffolk County has no land boundary with Plymouth County to its southeast, but the two counties share a water boundary in the middle of Boston Harbor. The nine Outer Harbor islands (Calf Island, Great Brewster Island, Green Island, Little Brewster Island, Little Calf Island, Middle Brewster Island, Outer Brewster Island, Shag Rocks, and The Graves) were granted to Nantasket (later renamed Hull) in June 1641.  The General Court confirmed that they were within the jurisdiction of Hull in May 1662, and when that town went to Plymouth County in 1803 the county boundary henceforth ran along the Black Rock Channel in Boston Bay.  The other seven islands in Plymouth County are in Hingham Bay: Bumpkin Island and Peddocks Island (belonging to the town of Hull), Button Island, Langlee Island, Ragged Island, Sarah Island and a peninsula, World’s End (all belonging to the town of Hingham).  

The eight islands in Norfolk County belong to Quincy (Hangman Island, Moon Island Nut Island and Racoon Island), and Weymouth (Grape Island, Sheep Island, Slate Island and another peninsula - Weymouth Neck).    

It is explicit in the 1996 law establishing the national park that the political subdivisions and ownership of the islands remain unchanged. To some extent the importance of the county boundaries has lapsed since Massachusetts abolished Suffolk County in 1999, although both Norfolk and Plymouth counties, and the islands within their jurisdiction, still exist for certain judicial purposes.  However, the management of 19 of the islands (the 10 formerly in Suffolk County and the nine Outer Harbor islands) rests with the City of Boston, although in fact Boston only owns four islands outright, and shares ownership of two others. Management of the other islands remains with the municipality to which they are attached.

Several of the islands are drumlins, which are elongated masses of till formed into smooth-sloped hills by glaciers.  Many of the islands have more than one drumlin each connected by a narrower isthmus formed by longshore drift material.  In addition, the Outer Harbor islands are typical bedrock outcrops (Calf Island, the Brewsters, and small islands near Hingham), deposited on the ocean floor some 570 million years ago.  As the climate warmed and the glaciers receded from the Boston area some 15,000 years ago, the sea level rose creating this basin and isolating the islands. 

Many of the islands offer facilities for walking, fishing, boating, swimming, camping, picnicking & wildlife watching. Some of the islands serve as nesting colonies for a variety of species of seabirds.

Ferry services are only available to Georges, Lovells, Spectacle & Thompson Islands; the latter only during the summer. Some of the other islands are accessible by private boat.

Great Brewster Island, Little Brewster Island, Middle Brewster Island & Outer Brewster Island are named after William Brewster (c1560-1643), a Pilgrim colonist who arrived with his family on the Mayflower in 1620. Brewster was granted these islands, as well as Calf Island & Green Island; the latter also being known as North Brewster Island. Little Brewster Island is the location of the Boston Light. Originally built in 1716, it was the first lighthouse to be built in what was to become the USA.  The current structure dates from 1783 & is the second oldest working lighthouse in the country & has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

                       Great Brewster Island

Although still called an island, Deer Island has been connected to the mainland due to beach erosion since the New England Hurricane of 1938. Today it is the location of the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, but still has areas of recreational parkland.

Gallops Island, along with nearby Nixes Mate, were formerly Boston’s execution grounds. The island is named after John Gallop, one of Boston Harbors first pilots. 

Georges Island is the location of Fort Warren. Built during the period 1833–1861, it is named after Dr Joseph Warren (see below), who was a hero of the American Revolution. It was decommissioned in 1947 & is now a National Historic Landmark  & is open to the public.

Long Island can be reached by a bridge called the Long Island Viaduct, which connects it to Moon Island (Norfolk County), which is itself connected by a causeway to North Quincy. The island is the location of Fort Strong, which was operational from 1870 until 1961 & is named after Civil War hero Maj. Gen. George Crockett Strong. The island has many historic buildings & cemeteries dating back to the Civil War, as well as Long Island Head Light. Access to the causeway leading to Moon Island and Long Island is controlled by police at a guardhouse at its southern end, and permission to enter the islands must be obtained in advance since it is a restricted area.

The rocky outcrop known as The Graves is the location of The Graves Light, which at 113 ft is the tallest lighthouse in Boston Harbor.

Thompson Island is managed by the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, & is only open to visitors on Sundays during summer months.

Five other former islands in Boston Harbor - Apple Island, Bird Island, Governors Island, Hog (or Breeds) Island & Noddle’s Island - disappeared due to land reclamation; initially during the nineteenth century, then for the expansion of Logan International Airport during the 1940s.

Governors Island was named after Governor John Winthrop, whose family owned the land from 1632 until 1808; after which Fort Warren was built. This was renamed Fort Winthrop in 1833 because the larger Fort Warren on Georges Island was then built further out in the harbour.  Fort Winthrop was reduced to caretaker status in the 1890s, but it was severely damaged by a magazine explosion in 1902, and it was finally abandoned in 1905.

Noddle’s Island was named after William Noddle, who settled there in 1629. In 1775 it was the site of the Battle of Chelsea Creek; the second battle fought in the American Revolutionary War.

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The Emerald Necklace

Straddling the boundary between Boston & Brookline, & therefore the counties of Suffolk & Norfolk, the Emerald Necklace is a chain of parks linked by parkways & waterways. Its name derives from the way the planned chain links the “jewels” or parks that appear to hang from the neck of the Boston peninsula, although the chain was never fully completed.  It was the brainchild of landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 - 1903). His plan was to connect Boston Common & the adjacent Boston Public Gardens, to Boston Harbor’s Dorchester Bay. The last section, to have been called the Dorchesterway, was never completed however, & the Emerald Necklace therefore terminates at Franklin Park. Work on the plan began in 1878, with the clearing of the marshy area which became the Back Bay & the Fens.  Several features along the seven mile route pre-date the plan to link them.

The route is as follows:-

Boston Common: The Emerald Necklace begins near the Downtown Crossing, close to Boston Common. (For details of Boston Common see The Freedom Trail section, above).

Boston Public Garden:  Opened in 1837 as the first public botanical garden in the USA,  & often simply called The Public Garden, this 24 acre site lies adjacent to Boston Common. Whereas the Common is more of a natural open space, the Public Garden consists of a four acre lake & a series of formally structured landscapes.  The lake is famous for its Swan Boats (see photo, right); pedal driven boats that can seat around 20 people with a white swan at the rear of each, which have been a tourist attraction here since 1877. The Garden also contains many statues, including George Washington on horseback; nineteenth century orator & abolitionist Wendell Phillips; & John Quincy Adams Ward's Ether Monument, also known as the Good Samaritan.

 

Commonwealth Avenue Mall:  Linking the Public Garden with Back Bay Fens is a strip of parkway that runs westwards  down the centre of Commonwealth Avenue. Designed in the French boulevard style by Arthur Delevan Gilman (1821 –  82) along with Frederick Law Olmsted, many statues now line the route, including Alexander Hamilton, co-author of the Federalist Papers; revolutionary war hero John Glover; abolitionist and journalist William Lloyd Garrison; the Norse explorer Leif Ericson, who is thought to have discovered America almost 500 years before Columbus; & former president of Argentina, Domingo Sarmiento (a gift from the Argentine government).  The avenue is lined with many species of tree including sweetgum, green ash, maple, linden & elm.  At Charlesgate, the Emerald Necklace takes a right angled turn into....

Back Bay Fens:  Often simply called The Fens, this area consists of an ancient site of saltwater marshland, including the Muddy River, which has been surrounded by dry land & cut off from the tides due to nineteenth century land reclamation projects. It was landscaped into a park by Frederick Law Olmsted, who was faced with the task of turning what had become a tidal creek and swamp into an ecologically healthy area that could be used for recreation. This was achieved through allowing the Fens to be flushed by the tides twice daily. In 1910, however, with the building of the dam at Craigie's Bridge, the Fens were cut off from the Charles River; thus turning them into a freshwater lagoon.

Within the Fens there is an athletic field, plus formal gardens such as the Fenway/Richard D. Parker Victory Gardens & the Kelleher Rose Garden. There are also a number of monuments & memorials such as the John Endecott Monument, the Katharine Lee Bates America the Beautiful Monument, & the Robert Burns Statue. Several bridges cross the Muddy River in the Back Bay Fens, including the Agassiz Road Bridge which is built of Roxbury Puddingstone; the Boylston Street Richardson Bridge, & the Higginson Circle Fens Bridge.

Riverway:  The Emerald Necklace follows the course of the meandering Muddy River through a section of parkway known as Riverway, which links Back Bay Fens with Olmsted Park.  The road forms the boundary between Boston & the town of Brookline.

Olmsted Park: Situated at the southern end of Riverway, Olmsted Park was originally known as Leverett Park, but was renamed in 1900 in honour of the creator of the Emerald Necklace. The park contains three ponds; Ward’s Pond, Willow Pond & Leverett Pond.

Jamaica Pond: Directly to the south of Olmsted Park is the 68 acre, glacier formed, Jamaica Pond; the source of the Muddy River & the largest body of freshwater in Boston. Once used as a reservoir & source of ice, the pond today is a popular site for fishing & sailing, & is in places more than 50 ft deep. The boathouse & bandstand were built in 1912.

Arnold Arboretum: Further south still, Arnold Arboretum was founded in 1872, & is named after James Arnold (1781–1868). When Harvard University acquired part of his estate in 1872, this land was combined with 120 acres that had belonged to merchant & farmer Benjamin Bussey (1757–1842), whose estate had also been donated to Harvard. From this Arnold Arboretum was created. The aim was to create an environment for all trees & shrubs “either indigenous or exotic, which can be raised in the open air of West Roxbury”. The site was developed by Frederick Law Olmsted along with botanist Charles Sprague Sargent (1841 - 1927). The Arboretum now covers 265 acres & includes a visitor centre in the Hunnewell Building; built in 1892 & named after Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, one of the most prominent American horticulturists of the nineteenth century. The site has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Franklin Park: To the east of Arnold Arboretum is the 485 acre, partially wooded, Franklin Park; the final “jewel” in the Emerald Necklace, named after Boston born Benjamin Franklin. Established from 1890 to 1895, it is Boston’s largest park & contains 15 miles of pedestrian & bridal paths, Scarboro Pond, & the William J. Devine golf course, which is the second oldest course in the USA. There are also facilities for a number of other sports including baseball, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer & cricket. The park also contains the 72 acre Franklin Park Zoo, which was established in 1912 & is the second largest zoo in New England.  Also within the park is an area now known as Schoolmaster Hill; where essayist, lecturer, poet & leading figure in the Transcendentalist movement of the nineteenth century Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -82) lived in a cabin prior to the park’s creation.

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Other Parks & Reservations of Suffolk County

Belle Isle Marsh Reservation: Belle Isle Marsh Reservation is located in East Boston. This 152 acre park was originally an actual island also known as Hog (or Breed's) Island, until land reclamation joined it to the mainland.  In 1952, a drive-in theater was opened on the site, which operated until 1971. It is now the last remaining salt marsh in the city of Boston & is home to numerous species of fish, shellfish & plants. The reservation, which opened in 1986, includes 28 acres of landscaped park with trails, plus an observation tower.

 

Charles River Reservation: The Charles River Reservation incorporates the Charles River Basin & the Upper Charles River Reservation, & covers a stretch of river approximately 20 miles in length, beginning & ending in Suffolk County, but also extending into the neighbouring towns of Cambridge, Needham, Newton, Watertown & Weston in Norfolk & Middlesex counties.

The lower section of the reservation is known as the Charles River Basin & stretches from downtown Boston to the Watertown Dam. It includes the Charles River Dam, built in 1978, as well as an earlier dam (known as the Charles River Dam Bridge or the Craigie Bridge) dating from 1910, which created the Charles River Basin and Esplanade  from what had been tidal marshes and mud flats.

Further upstream, above the Watertown Dam, the Upper Charles River Reservation at first follows the river on a meandering course traversed by many dams & bridges through a landscape of lush vegetation, before entering an expanse of broader, placid waters known as the “Lake District”, characterised by undulating forested shorelines, coves & small islands. The reservation finally terminates back in Suffolk County at Riverdale Park in West Roxbury.

Chestnut Hill Reservation:  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Chestnut Hill Reservation surrounds the Chestnut Hill Reservoir in the Allston/Brighton neighbourhood of Boston. The reservoir was created in 1870 & the reservation is now a popular recreational area.

Dorchester Shores Reservation: This reservation covers an area of more than 41 acres at the mouth of the Neponset River in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. It comprises Malibu Beach, Tenean Beach & Victory Road Park. Both beaches are popular with swimmers.

Lower Neponset River Trail:  Completed in 2003, this trail follows an old railroad for 2.4 miles along the Neponset River, from Port Norfolk  in Dorchester, through Pope John Paul  II Park, across the Neponset Marshes & on into the town of Milton in Norfolk County.

Neponset River Reservation:  With extensive tidal marshes at its estuary & significant freshwater wetlands along much of its length, the Neponset River is a haven for wildlife, including some rare species. The Neponset River Reservation was created in the 1880s &, with later land acquisition, now covers approximately 750 acres.  It is a popular location for bird watching, hiking, fishing & boating.

Pope John Paul II Park Reservation: Often simply known as Pope Park, this 66 acre site by the Neponset River was opened in 2001, on land that was formerly a drive-in theatre & landfill site. The park offers fishing, wildlife watching & hiking, as well as picnic & play areas. The Lower Neponset River Trail runs through the park.

Roxbury Heritage State Park:  Located in the oldest part of the neighbourhood of Roxbury, this state park is centred around the Dillaway-Thomas House. Built in 1750, this large Georgian style house was the headquarters of General John Thomas & the Continental Army during the siege of Boston in 1775. The house has been restored &, since 1992, has been open to the public. It includes exhibits showing Roxbury from early colonial times through to the present day. Next to the house is a one acre landscaped park which offers views of the Boston skyline.

Rumney Marsh Reservation: Straddling the border between the city of Revere in Suffolk County & the town of Saugus in Essex, this reserve of more than 600 acres is situated on the Saugus and Pines River estuary. As an important site for migratory birds, the reservation is a prime spot for wildlife watching, as well as boating, fishing & walking.

Southwest Corridor Park: This linear park in Boston covers 52 acres & stretches for 4.7 miles from the South End & Back Bay neighbourhoods through Roxbury to Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain. Originally destined to become part of Interstate Highway 95, mass public protests resulted in this project being cancelled in 1969, & funds were instead made available to create an open space with recreational facilities. As well as six miles of walking & biking trails, the park also boasts facilities for a number of sports including basketball, tennis & street hockey.  

Stony Brook Reservation: Mainly located in the Boston neighbourhoods of West Roxbury & Hyde Park, with a small section over the Norfolk County line in the town of Dedham, Stony Brook Reservation is a 475 acre park established in 1894 as one of the five original reservations created by the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston. It includes the 338 ft high Bellevue Hill, which is the highest point in Boston. The reservation boasts more than ten miles of walking & cycling trails, as well as offering fishing in Turtle Pond, from which Stony Brook flows.

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Castle Island

Castle Island is the one Suffolk County island not part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area or Boston Harbor Island State Park. Once a true island, in 1890 the Federal Government gave permission for Boston to use Castle Island as a park, & in 1892 the city built a wooden footbridge from the mainland to the island.  In the 1920s the Federal Government decided to expand the naval port facilities & infilled the South Boston mudflats, & by 1934 the island was completely connected to the mainland, thus allowing vehicular access. 

The 22 acre island has been the site of fortifications since 1634, when the English built what was then called Castle William; making it the oldest fortified site of British origin in North America. It was the British base during the Siege of Boston at the start of the American Revolution. After the British left in 1776, it was rebuilt & firstly renamed Fort Adams, before becoming Fort Independence in 1797; at which time it served as the first state prison in Massachusetts. The fortifications in evidence today were built between 1833 & 1851, & the fort is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being operated as a state park by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in partnership with the Castle Island Association.

Castle Island is open to the public all year round, with Fort Independence being open from May through to October.

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Boston Athenæum

Boston Athenæum, one of the oldest independent libraries in the US, was founded in 1807 by members of the Anthology Society; itself established two years earlier by contributors to The Monthly Anthology and Boston Review magazine. Initially planned as a reading room, under the first librarian William Smith Shaw, the member’s vision expanded to include a library & a gallery of sculptures & paintings, plus collections of coins &  curiosities. In 1809 the Athenæum acquired its first premises at Rufus Amory House, adjacent to the Kings Chapel Burying Ground, before moving to Pearl Street in 1822, where a lecture hall & gallery were added. In 1823 the King’s Chapel Library & the Theological Library were deposited in the Athenæum. Four years later an art gallery was established & the first annual exhibition was held.

In 1849 the Athenæum moved into its current premises on Beacon Street; built specifically for its purposes & designed by architect Edward Clarke Cabot. Originally the first floor held the sculpture gallery, the second housed the library, with the third being taken up by the paintings gallery. However, after 1876, when annual exhibitions ceased, the library took over the whole building. In 1914 two further floors were added, & between 1999 & 2002 the building underwent major renovation work.

Boston Athenæum was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Its collection currently includes more than half a million volumes, & today the Athenæum functions as a member’s library, as well as providing, amongst other things, a newspaper & magazine reading room, a children’s library & exhibition galleries. The building also houses many old & rare maps, books, manuscripts & archival materials as part of its Special Collections. It also hosts lectures, readings, musical performances & other events. The first floor & exhibition galleries are open to the public. All other floors are open to members only, although pre-booked Art and Architecture Tours are conducted for the public.

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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Located close to the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Archives in the Dorchester neighbourhood, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the nation’s official memorial to the 35th President of the United States.

The original site proposed for the building, facing the Charles River, was chosen by Kennedy himself in October 1963; only one month before his assassination. After Kennedy’s death, architect Ieoh Ming Pei was chosen by the Kennedy family to design the building.  Many years of setbacks due to funding issues, disagreements & local opposition followed, however, before building work would commence, & by then a new 9 ½  acre site had been chosen at Columbia Point in Dorchester. 

Construction work finally began in August 1977. The main body of the building consists of a 125 ft tall triangular tower alongside a large cube shaped glass & steel pavilion. On 20th October 1979, the library & museum was officially dedicated by President Jimmy Carter & members of the Kennedy family.

As well as being the official repository for original papers & correspondence from the era of the Kennedy Administration, the archives contain more than 400,000 still photographs, films & audio recordings dating from the nineteenth century up until the 1980s. The museum includes many gifts to John & Jackie Kennedy from visiting heads of state, other dignitaries & private citizens, as well as a display highlighting Jacqueline Kennedy which includes many items of clothing. Other exhibits focus on various aspects of the Kennedy regime, including the Space Programme, the Campaign Trail, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Oval Office & the Attorney General’s Office.

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Museums of Suffolk County

Museum of African American History: Located on Joy Street in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood of Boston, both the African Meeting House & the adjacent Abiel Smith School form the Museum of African American History. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the contributions of African Americans in New England from the colonial period through to the nineteenth century. For further details see the Boston African American National Historic Site & Black Heritage Trail section, above.

Boston Childrens Museum: Situated at Childrens Wharf on the Fort Point Channel, Boston Childrens Museum is the second oldest children’s museum in the USA. The aim of the Museum has always been the education of children through activities & interaction. Opened in 1913 & originally located at the Pinebank Mansion in Jamaica Plains, the museum moved to Burroughs Street in 1936, where it remained until relocation to its present site in a former wool warehouse in 1979. During the early days, various other branches of the museum opened in the city, mainly in schools. A branch of the museum was open at the Barnard Memorial Building on Warrenton Street between 1919 & 1926.

Permanent exhibits today include the Art Studio, the Gallery, Construction Zone & the Science Playground, plus a climbing structure known as New Balance Climb. The museum also includes an authentic Japanese house where visitors can learn about Japanese life, culture & art, plus Johnny's Workbench where children are able to work with hand tools & natural materials.

In front of the museum stands the Hood Milk Bottle (see photo, right); a 40 ft tall replica bottle that serves as an ice cream stand and snack bar.  Built by Arthur Gagner in 1934 as an ice cream stand.  It originally stood on the banks of the Three Mile River on Winthrop Street, & became one of the first fast-food drive-in restaurants in the United States.  Gagner sold his giant bottle in 1943 because the shape of milk bottles in the USA had changed to a square squat style, dating the large round bottle, & by 1967, like glass milk bottles themselves, the giant bottle was abandoned by the then owners.  It stood empty & neglected for a decade when Hood and Sons was persuaded to buy the rotting structure, renovate it & give it to the Children’s Museum.  Hood is the biggest dairy in New England & was founded in 1846.  In 1977 it was cut into three sections & moved by barge to the museum.  If it were real, it would hold 58,000 gallons of milk.

Boston Fire Museum: Established in 1983, the Boston Fire Museum can be found in the old firehouse at 344 Congress Street in Boston. Run by volunteers, the museum is dedicated to the history of fire fighting. Antique fire apparatus include a hand-drawn, hand-operated Ephraim Thayer pumper dating from 1793 & an American LaFrance Ladder Truck from the 1860s. The museum also houses many other items of fire fighting equipment & fire alarms.

Built in 1891, the building known as Congress Street Fire Station is of unique architectural design. It closed as a firehouse in 1977 & has since been granted National Historic Landmark status & has been included in the National Register of Historic Places. Boston Fire Museum is open on Saturdays only.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum: Located on Congress Street Bridge, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum takes in the Old South Meeting House, Griffin Wharf & two restored ships - the Eleanor & the Beaver - to tell the story of the events of December 1773. The museum includes a tour with live actors & interactive exhibits. The museum has on display the Robinson Half Chest; one of only two known surviving tea chests from the Tea Party.

Bunker Hill Museum: Located on Monument Square, across the street from the Bunker Hill Monument (see Boston National Historical Park section, above), this museum tells the story of the battle of Bunker Hill & the history of Charlestown. Included is a 360 degree mural depicting the battle.

Captain Lemuel Clap House: Situated at 199 Boston Street in Dorchester, a house is known to have existed on the original site since 1633, although the house in existence today was rebuilt & enlarged by Lemuel Clap in 1767. The house was purchased by the Dorchester Historical Society in 1945 & moved to its current location from Willow Court in 1957. The house contains items from the Society’s historical collection & is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (See also William Clapp House, below)

Commonwealth Museum: Situated in the State Archives Building on Morrissey Boulevard, this museum tells the story of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts & its people. On display in the Treasure Gallery can be found one of the 14 original copies of both the Declaration of Independence & the Bill of Rights,  plus the 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay, the 1691 Charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, & the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1780, as well as other unique royal charters, all housed in climate controlled cases.

Deane Winthrop House: Located on Shirley Street in the town of Winthrop, the house is open to visitors by appointment (see also Winthrop section, above).

Dillaway-Thomas House: See Roxbury Heritage State Park in the Other Parks & Reservations of Suffolk County section, above.

Gibson House Museum: Built in 1860, this house is situated on Beacon Street in the Back Bay district of Boston. Designed by Edward Clarke Cabot, the house is in the Italian Renaissance style, with an exterior of brownstone & red brick. The house passed through three generations of the Gibson family before opening as a museum in 1957. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.  The museum serves as a record of upper-middle-class American life during the decades from the Civil War up until the First World War.

Governor Bellingham-Cary House: Situated on Parker Street in Chelsea. (See Chelsea section, above)

Harrison Gray Otis House: There are three houses in Boston that all bear this name. For convenience they are known as the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Harrison Gray Otis House.  All were built by architect Charles Bulfinch for the businessman, lawyer & politician of that name (1765-1848). Born in Boston, Otis served  as US Attorney for the District of  Massachusetts in 1796, Member of the US House of Representatives (1797-1801), President of the Massachusetts Senate (1805-06 & 1808-11), US Senator for Massachusetts (1817-22) & Mayor of Boston (1829-32).

It is the 1st Harrison Gray Otis House, built in 1796 & located on Cambridge Street, that is now owned by the Historic New England organization & open as a museum.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places & has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The 2nd Harrison Gray Otis House, a Federal-style mansion on Mount Vernon Street, Beacon Hill, is also on the National Register of Historic Places.  The 3rd & largest Harrison Gray Otis House was built in 1806 & is situated on Beacon Street. It is now occupied by the American Meteorological Society. 

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Located in the Fenway/Kenmore neighbourhood of Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum houses a collection of paintings, sculptures tapestries, furniture & decorative art from around the world. It was established by art collector & philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840 -1924) & opened in 1903. Designed by Gardner & architect Willard T. Sears, the museum is modelled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice & was originally known as Fenway Court. The building surrounds a glass-covered garden courtyard, the first of its kind in America, which is today used for displays (see photo, left).

As well as art exhibitions, both historic & contemporary, the museum also hosts family & community programmes, concerts & lectures.

James Blake House: Owned by the Dorchester Historical Society.  See Dorchester in the Neighbourhoods of Boston section, above.

Longyear Museum: Founded by philanthropist Mary Beecher Longyear (1851-1931), Longyear Museum is located on Boylston Street in Chestnut Hill, around five miles from central Boston. The museum is dedicated to the work of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of the Christian Science movement. The museum opened in 1937 & was initially housed in Mrs. Longyear’s former home in nearby Brookline, before relocating to its present location in 1999.

Loring-Greenough House: Designated a Massachusetts Landmark and a Boston Landmark, Loring-Greenough House is the last surviving eighteenth century residence in Sumner Hill, in the Jamaica Plain neighbourhood. It can be found on South Street. It was built in 1760 as a country residence & farmstead for British naval officer Commodore Joshua Loring. Loring (1716-1781), abandoned the house just prior to the American Revolution. After serving as a hospital following the Battle of Bunker Hill, the house was eventually acquired by Ann Doane in 1783, who married David Stoddard Greenough, & whose family lived here until 1924. It was then bought by the Tuesday Club (until 1993 a ladies only club & now a community group), who offer tours of the house. Exhibits include an extensive collection of decorative & fine art from both America & Europe.  The two acres of landscaped grounds are also open to the public.

Mary Baker Eddy Library: The Mary Baker Eddy Library is a library, museum & repository of the papers of author, poet, & religious leader Mary Baker Eddy. It is one of several buildings in Christian Science Plaza on Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. The museum is housed in a section of the building originally built for The Christian Science Publishing Society, of which Mary Baker Eddy was the founder. (See also Longyear Museum, above)

One of the main attractions of the museum is the Mapparium (see photo, right); a three-story tall, inverted globe consisting of 608 stained-glass panels depicting a political map of the world as it was in 1935. Visitors can walk via a glass bridge to the centre of the globe, from where the entire world can be viewed. LED lights have now been installed inside, which, together with a composition of words & music entitled A World of Ideas, illustrates how the world has altered since the globe’s creation.

McMullen Museum of Art: Officially named The Charles S. & Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art, this museum opened in 1993 & is located in Devlin Hall, part of Boston College’s main campus in the Chestnut Hill area of the city. The Museum holds an extensive permanent collection of works from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, & has a significant collection of Gothic and Baroque tapestries.  Amedeo Modigliani, Françoise Gilot, John LaFarge  & Frank Stella are among the well known artists represented at the Museum.

Metropolitan Waterworks Museum: Situated on Beacon Street, the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is on the site of the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Pumping Station. The museum opened in 2009 & tells the story of Boston’s water system.  It comprises the Great Engines Hall, which houses three historic, steam-powered pumping engines, plus a two storey glass enclosed pavilion which features the Overlook Gallery. A walking tour can also be made of Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

The Chestnut Hill Pumping Station supplied Boston with water from 1894 until 1978, when the supply shifted to the Quabbin Reservoir. Chestnut Hill Reservoir is still a backup source of water for the city today, however.

Museum of Fine Arts: Located on Huntington Avenue in the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood is the Museum of Fine Arts; one of the nation’s largest museums. Founded in 1870, the museum moved to its present location in 1909 & houses works by impressionist & post impressionist artists Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Renoir & Van Gogh, as well as works by American artists such as Church, Copley, Homer & Sargent.  There is also an extensive collection of Chinese paintings, plus the largest collection of Japanese art in the world outside Japan.

Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists: The High Victorian Gothic style house on Walnut Avenue in Boston known as Abbotsford was built in 1872. Designed by architect Alden Frink for the prominent industrialist Aaron Davis Williams, the house is built entirely of Roxbury puddingstone & was later purchased by the City of Boston for use as a school, before being bought by the National Center for Afro-American Artists in 1976. The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is dedicated to black visual arts heritage from around the world, through such media as painting, sculpture, graphics, photography & decorative arts. In the museum grounds can be found the sculpture Eternal Presence created by John Wilson (see photo, left).

Museum of Science: The Museum of Science is located on a plot of land that spans the Charles River known as Science Park. Originally known as the Boston Society of Natural History from its founding in 1830, the museum used temporary premises for its exhibits until the opening of the New England Museum of Natural History in Bostons Back Bay area in 1864. After the Second World War, the Society acquired the lease of the land now known as Science Park, with the new museum opening in 1951. There have been many expansions since that time. When theThe Computer Museum in Boston closed in 1999, some of the exhibits were transferred to the Museum of Science. Some of the other numerous exhibition halls to be found at the museum today include: The Charles Hayden Planetarium, established in 1951; Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond; Seeing is Deceiving, an exhibit on optical illusions; New England Habitats; Energize! - featuring displays on renewable energy technology; Modeling the Mesozoic; The Mugar Omni Theater - which uses state-of-the-art film technology to project larger-than-life images onto a five-storey-high domed screen;
a walk through Butterfly Garden.

All together, the museum boasts more than 700 interactive exhibits. Today the museum attracts more than 1.5 million visitors annually.

Nichols House Museum: Designed by the architect Charles Bulfinch & built by politician Jonathan Mason in 1804, the Nichols House Museum on Mount Vernon Street in Boston is named after landscape architect, writer & suffragist Rose Standish Nichols (1872–1960), who lived here from 1885 until 1960. After her death, the house was converted into a museum, with the turn-of-the-century period rooms offering a glimpse into domestic life in Boston during the late nineteenth & early twentieth centuries.

Old South Meeting House: Located at the junction of Washington and Milk Streets in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston, the  Old South Meeting House is a church that has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The museum, which opened in 1877, relates the story of the church since its construction in 1729. (See also Boston National Historical Park section, above, & Samuel Adams section, below)

Old State House Museum: This historic building at the junction of Washington and State Streets is now part of Boston National Historical Park (see above).

Paul Revere House: Operated by the Paul Revere Memorial Association, the house is part of the Boston National Historical Park (see above). It stands on North Square & was built in 1680 on the site of the Second Church of Boston’s parsonage. The museum contains several pieces of furniture believed to have belonged to the Revere family. (See also Paul Revere section, below)
 
Pierce-Hichborn House: Situated adjacent to the Paul Revere House is the three storey Georgian style house known as the Pierce-Hichborn House. Also run by the Paul Revere Memorial Association, the name of the building derives from the builder, Moses Pierce, & Nathaniel Hichborn, a later owner who was Revere’s cousin. Dating from around 1711, the house is one of the earliest surviving brick structures in Boston.

Pierce House: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, the Pierce House is a First Period building on Oakton Avenue in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. Built around 1683, the house was home to ten generations of the Pierce family, & tells the story of a New England family over a period of more than three centuries. One member of the family, Colonel Samuel Pierce, was involved in the fortification of Dorchester Heights during the American Revolution. The house is open to visitors on selected dates only.

The Paul S Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation: Located on the Massachusetts General Hospital main campus at North Grove Street in Boston, the Paul S Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation opened in April 2012. With 8,000 square feet of floor space, the museum’s  exhibits  cover a wide range of subjects relating to medical history, healthcare, & laboratory & clinical research. Also open to visitors is the rooftop garden with views over Boston, plus the Ether Dome; a surgical amphitheatre which was the site of the first successful public surgery using ether as an anaesthetic. (See also Warren Anatomical Museum, below)

Shirley-Eustis House: Built between 1747 and 1751 as the summer home of William Shirley (1694–1771), Royal Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the Shirley-Eustis House is situated in Shirley Street in the Roxbury neighbourhood of Boston. The Georgian mansion is the only remaining house in America built by a British Royal Colonial Governor (see photo, right). After being used by the Massachusetts Sixth Foot Regiment during the Siege of Boston in 1775, the house passed through a succession of owners, before being acquired by Congressman William Eustis, Secretary of War under President James Madison during the War of 1812, & the first Democratic-Republican Governor of Massachusetts from 1823-25. After his death in 1865 the house was sold & subdivided into lots, before finally being abandoned around 1911. Two years later, however, the Shirley-Eustis House Association was formed by William Sumner Appleton. The house was awarded National Historic Landmark status in 1960. After extensive restoration work during the 1980s, the house opened to the public in 1991, with the Association receiving the Boston Preservation Alliance Award for “The best small-scale historic restoration in the city of Boston” in that same year.

The house is open to visitors from Thursday to Sunday during the summer.

The Sports Museum of New England: Founded in 1977, the Sports Museum of New England (often simply referred to as the Sports Museum) is now located in the TD Garden in Boston’s West End, having moved from its original location in Cambridge. The museum celebrates sports teams in Boston, such as the Boston Bruins (ice hockey), Boston Celtics (basketball), Boston Red Sox (baseball) &  New England Patriots (football), as well as events such as the Boston Marathon. Also featured are several life-sized sculptures of local sporting heroes, plus a collection of sports memorabilia & curiosities. (See also Neighbourhoods of Boston section, above)

USS Constitution Museum: Housed in a restored shipyard building at the foot of Pier 2 at Charlestown Navy Yard is the non-profit, privately run USS Constitution Museum. The museum relates the history of the ship nicknamed “Old Ironsides” and the people associated with her. (See also Boston National Historical Park section, above)

Warren Anatomical Museum: Now located at the Countway Librarys Center for the History of Medicine, in Shattuck Street, Boston, the Warren Anatomical Museum is named after one of the most renowned American surgeons of the nineteenth century, John Collins Warren (1778-1856). A founding member of Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as being a surgeon there, Warren was one of the pioneers of using ether as an anaesthetic. He also taught Anatomy & Surgery at Harvard Medical School from 1809-47; firstly as an adjunct professor, before becoming a full professor, professor emeritus & dean. He was also a founder of the New England Journal of Medicine, the first issue of which appeared in 1812.

When Warren resigned from Harvard in 1847, he donated much of his personal teaching and research collection to the University, which gave rise to the establishment of the Warren Anatomical Museum. Many other eminent surgeons & physicians have since contributed items to the collection.

The museum was originally situated in North Grove Street, Boston; opening for study in 1847, then to the public in 1861. It moved with the Medical School to Boylston Street in 1883, then to the Longwood Campus in 1906, where it remained until 1998. Curatorial responsibility passed to the Countway Librarys Center for the History of Medicine in 2000; the collection now being exhibited on the library’s fifth floor.

The museum collection today numbers more than 15,000 items & artifacts including medical instruments & machines, anatomical & pathological preparations, anatomical models & other medical memorabilia.

West End Museum: As the name suggests, this museum is located in the West End neighbourhood of Boston, on Staniford Street. Established by the The Old West End Housing Corporation (OWEHC), the museum opened in 2010. It is dedicated to the collection, preservation & interpretation of the history & culture of the West End.

William Clapp House: The William Clapp House dates from 1806. The house is named after the son of Captain Lemuel Clap*, whose house is also in Boston Street, Dorchester (see above). William Clapp House is now the headquarters of the Dorchester Historical Society & contains items from their collection, including nineteenth century furniture.

A keen horticulturalist, William Clapp (1779-1860) is known to have developed several varieties of pear, including Clapp’s Favorite; developed in 1820 & still produced to this day.

*Please note, the above spellings are correct. Lemuel Clap is spelt with one ‘p’, William Clapp with two

William Hickling Prescott House: An historic house located at 55 Beacon Street in the Beacon Hill area of Boston, William Hickling Prescott House is also sometimes known as Headquarters House. Designed by architect Asher Benjamin, the house is a one half of a double townhouse built in 1808. It is named after William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859) an American historian and Hispanist (a scholar specialising in Hispanic culture) who resided here from 1845-59. During this time English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, famous for his novel Vanity Fair, is known to have been a house guest.

Although severely visually impaired, Prescott became one of the most eminent historians of the nineteenth century. His published works include The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (1837), The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843) & A History of the Conquest of Peru (1847).

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the house was added to the National Historic Register in 1966. The museum is run by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, an organization of women who are descended from an ancestor “who came to reside in an American Colony before 1750, and whose services were rendered during the Colonial Period.

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Ye Olde Union Oyster House

Ye Olde Union Oyster House is situated in Union Street, Boston & is one of the oldest restaurants in continuous service in the United States, having been established in 1826. It serves traditional New England food with the emphasis being on seafood.

The building is known to have been built before 1714, & had at one time been occupied by Hopestill Capen's dress goods business, as well as being where printer Isaiah Thomas published his newspaper The Massachusetts Spy from 1771. Exiled future king of France Louis Philippe I (1773 – 1850) is known to have lived on the second floor of the building in 1796.

As a restaurant, it opened as Atwood & Bacon Oyster House on 3rd August 1826. It is said that the toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House; the first picks being imported here from South America. John F Kennedy, as well as other members of the Kennedy family, frequented the restaurant. The Kennedy Booth”, JFKs favourite booth, has been dedicated in his honour.

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Cheers Beacon Hill (The Bull & Finch Pub)

Formerly known as the Bull & Finch Pub, Cheers Beacon Hill is a bar & restaurant located on Beacon Street in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood close to the Boston Public Garden.  Shots of the exterior were used by the NBC television comedy sitcom Cheers, which ran from 1982 to 1993. The interior was not used, however, & the inside bears no resemblance to the bar seen in the series.

The Bull & Finch Pub opened in 1969 on the “garden level” (i.e. with the windows at ground level) of the Hampshire House Hotel. It was officially renamed Cheers Beacon Hill in 2002.

Cheers was created by James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles & ran for 270 episodes over 11 seasons from 1982. It was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions, in association with Paramount Network Television for NBC.  The show is set in the Cheers bar in Boston & revolves around the staff & a group of locals who frequent the bar. It starred, amongst others, Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Woody Harrelson, Rhea Perlman, Norm Peterson & Kelsey Grammer (The latter, as his Cheers character Frasier Crane, would later star in the spin off series Frasier, which ran from 1993 to 2004).

Although almost cancelled due to low ratings during its first series, Cheers eventually achieved national success; earning a top-ten rating in the US during 8 of its 11 seasons.  It has now been successfully syndicated worldwide. Altogether, Cheers earned 28 Emmy Awards & 5 Golden Globes, as well as being ranked 18th on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002.

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Benjamin Franklin

One of the founding Fathers of the USA, Benjamin Franklin was born to Puritan parents in Milk Street, Boston in January 1706. Sometimes referred to as “The First American” due to his tireless campaigning for colonial unity, Franklin is today famous as a printer, writer, inventor, scientist, politician & statesman. The young Benjamin attended school only until he was ten, then became an apprentice in his brother James’s printing business. At the age of seventeen he left his apprenticeship ran & away to Philadelphia. After working for a printing house there for a while, Franklin spent some time in London, England, before returning to Philadelphia in 1726. In 1728 he became publisher of the The Pennsylvania Gazette.

In 1730, Franklin entered into a common-law marriage with Deborah Read (the bigamy laws preventing them getting married, even though her husband had deserted her). They had two children, as well as bringing up Franklin’s illegitimate son.

In 1733, Franklin began writing & publishing Poor Richard's Almanack, under the pseudonym Richard Saunders; a yearly publication that ran until 1758, with as many as 10,000 copies of each issue being printed. The Almanack contained a calendar, weather & poetry, as well as astronomical & astrological information.

As an inventor Franklin was responsible for many innovations still used today; such as swim fins or flippers & bifocal glasses. He also produced a metal-lined fireplace named the Franklin Stove & developed a new version of the musical instrument known as the glass armonica (or harmonica), which uses a series of glass bowls of differing sizes to produce musical tones by means of friction.
Franklin was fascinated by ocean currents &, along with his cousin Timothy Folger, was responsible for naming & charting the Gulf Stream. He was also intrigued by electricity, & in 1750 proposed an experiment in which he theorised that flying a kite in a storm would produce lightning, thus proving that it was electrical. This led to him inventing the lightning rod.

As a politician, Franklin was first elected as a councilman in Philadelphia in 1748, then to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751. In 1753 he was awarded honorary degrees by both Yale & Harvard.
From 1757 onwards, Franklin spent much of his time in Great Britain, representing the Pennsylvania Assembly as a colonial agent; during which time he was awarded honorary doctorates from both Oxford & the University of St Andrews.

In May 1775, with the American Revolution having just started, Franklin returned to Philadelphia, where the Pennsylvania Assembly chose him as their delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Three months later, after the establishment of the United States Post Office, he was named as the first Postmaster General. The following June he was appointed as a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the American Declaration of Independence.

From December 1776, Franklin became United States minister to France; a position he held until 1785. He also held the post of United States Minister to Sweden for the years 1782-83. Upon his return to America, he was unanimously elected as the 6th President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin died on 17th April 1790 in Philadelphia & was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground. 

More than 20 counties in the USA, as well as many towns & municipalities, are named after him, as are Mount Franklin in New Hampshire & two mountains ranges in Texas & Alaska. Several landmarks around his adopted home city of Philadelphia are named in his honour, such as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge & the Franklin Institute, as well as numerous schools, colleges & institutes around the country.  There is even a Franklin crater on the Moon.

In Suffolk
County, Massachusetts, his statue stands on the site of the first Boston Latin School; America’s oldest public school (see photo, right). Also in Boston is the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.

William Franklin (c.1730 -1814), the only surviving and acknowledged illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, was the last Colonial Governor of New Jersey (1763 - 76).  Unlike his father, William Franklin was a steadfast Loyalist throughout the American War of Independence.  Following imprisonment during the war, in 1782 William went into exile in Britain, and lived in London until his death.  He was never reconciled with his father. 

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Samuel Adams

Born in Boston in September 1722, Samuel Adams was a statesman & political philosopher who became a leader of the American Revolution & one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Born into a Puritan family, Adams attended Boston Latin School before entering Harvard in 1736; graduating in 1740 & obtaining a master’s degree three years later. He then became a businessman, but soon decided to concentrate on a career in politics. He became tax collector to the Boston Town Meeting in 1756 & was elected clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1766; becoming  an influential figure in opposing the taxes that the British Government were trying to impose on the colonies through such measures as the Sugar Act of 1764 & the Stamp Act of 1765. The latter resulted in riots in Boston, which some historians have blamed Adams for inciting, whilst others dispute this. Although the Stamp Act was repealed, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Act in 1767, which established taxes on certain goods entering the colonies. Once again, Adams played a central role in the resistance to these measures; organising, through the Boston Town Meeting, an economic boycott & writing the
Massachusetts Circular Letter urging the other colonies to do the same. The British Colonial Secretary, Lord Hillsborough, retaliated by instructing colonial governors to dissolve any assemblies that supported the boycott. When the Massachusetts House refused to comply, the Customs Board found that they were unable to enforce trade regulations, which resulted in the sending in of British troops to Boston in October 1768.

From then on Adams worked tirelessly to end the occupation of Boston by the troops; publicising the colonists opposition in numerous letters and essays in journals & newspapers, during a period that saw much unrest & culminated in the Boston Massacre of March 1770.

With the repeal of theTownshend Act in 1770, a period of relative economic improvement brought about a period of calm.  This “quiet period” as it is known, came to an end in 1773 with the passing of the Tea Act; brought in by the British Government to help the struggling East India Company. This sparked protests across the colonies, with Adams at the forefront of the movement. On 29th November, Adams called a mass meeting (initially scheduled to be held in the Faneuil Hall, but moved to the larger Old South Meeting House due to the high turnout) at which he introduced a resolution urging the captain of the Dartmouth (which was anchored in Boston Harbor waiting to unload its cargo of tea)  to send the ship back without paying the import duty. The Governor of the Province of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to allow the ship to leave Boston without paying the duty. After two more ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, had arrived in Boston, a further meeting of up to 7,000 people in the Old South Meeting House on 16th December resulted in the ships being stormed in the famous Boston Tea Party. Adams’ role in this is uncertain, with some commentators alleging that he prearranged the whole event, whilst others claim that it was a more spontaneous reaction.  Whichever is true, afterwards Adams is known to have publicised & defended the actions; arguing that this was the only option the people had open to them to defend their constitutional rights. The British responded with what became known as the “Intolerable Acts” or “Coercive Acts”; a series of punitive measures designed to punish the colonists.  When Parliament also passed the Massachusetts Government Act in 1774, which rewrote the Massachusetts Charter, Adams again urged a boycott of all British goods. 

Adams & four other delegates were chosen by the Massachusetts House to attend the First Continental Congress; an inter-colonial congress held in Philadelphia in September 1774, which Adams himself had been instrumental in organising, & at which unity among the thirteen colonies was promoted.  It was during this congress, on 16th September, that Paul Revere brought the Suffolk Resolves to Philadelphia (see Suffolk Resolves section, above), which were endorsed the following day. Adams was to serve on the Congress from its inception until 1781.

Whilst attending the Provincial Congress in Concord, Massachusetts in April 1775, Adams & fellow delegate John Hancock realised that it was too dangerous to return to Boston prior to journeying to Philadelphia again for the Second Continental Congress, & decided to stay in Lexington. On the night of 18th April, with the British forces approaching, Paul Revere made his famous ride through the night to warn Adams & Hancock of the troops approach. The pair escaped, but the ensuing Battles of Lexington & Concord the following day signaled the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Adams served on many military committees during the War, & was instrumental in guiding the Continental Congress towards the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was also the Massachusetts delegate appointed to the committee to draft the 1777 Articles of Confederation; an agreement among the thirteen colonies that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states, which was finally ratified in 1781.

Adams retired from the Continental Congress in 1781 & returned to Massachusetts, where he continued to be involved in politics & served on the Boston Town Board &, from 1782 - 1788, in the State Senate; serving as its president for much of this time. He was instrumental in getting Boston to provide free public education for children, as well as promoting Puritan values & ideals. In 1789 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He became acting Governor in 1793 after the death of John Hancock, & was elected Governor for four consecutive terms of office from 1794 onwards. In the 1796 US presidential elections he was put forward as by the Republicans as Thomas Jefferson’s prospective vice president, although, ironically, his cousin John Adams was to win the election & become second President of the USA.  In the following year, 1797, Samuel Adams retired from politics.

Twice married, with six children by this first wife (although only two survived to adulthood), Samuel Adams died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October 1803 & was interred at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. His statue today stands outside Faneuil Hall in Boston (see photo, left).

In 1985, The Boston Brewing Company established the Samuel Adams brand of beers in his honour.  Products include Samuel Adams Boston Lager & Sam Adams Light, as well as many seasonal beers such as Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale & Samuel Adams Bonfire Rauchbier.

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Dr Joseph Warren

Joseph Warren was born in 1741 in Roxbury, Boston. He attended  Roxbury Latin School, before enrolling at Harvard. After graduating in 1759 he taught for a while at Roxbury Latin School, before going on to study medicine, which he began practising in 1764. He also married in 1764, & had four children with his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1773.

In the 1760s he joined the Freemasons, eventually becoming Grand Master of the Lodge of St. Andrew. During this period he also became involved in politics; associating with future leading figures of the American War of Independence, such as Samuel Adams (see above) & John Hancock.  In the late 1760s, he wrote several articles for the Boston Gazette under the pseudonym “ A True Patriot”.  These angered the governor, Francis Bernard, who attempted, unsuccessfully, to charge Warren & the publishers with libel. After the Boston Massacre of March 1770, Warren was a member of the Boston committee that assembled a report on the incident.  In 1774 he wrote the poem “Free America” set to the traditional British tune, “The British Grenadiers”.

During the build up to the war, Warren was appointed to the Boston Committee of Correspondence; the shadow government organized by the Patriot leaders of the on the eve of the American Revolution. He wrote the first draft of the Suffolk Resolves (see above) in 1774, & was subsequently appointed President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress; the highest position in the revolutionary government.

On 18th April 1775, on the eve of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Warren received information that the British troops were setting out to destroy munitions that the Patriots had stored in Concord, & to arrest Adams & Hancock. Warren, one of only two Patriot leaders left in Boston, enlisted Paul Revere (see below) & William Dawes to ride from Boston & raise the alarm. The following day, 19th April, he left Boston to coordinate & lead the militia in the first skirmishes of the American Revolutionary War.

During the Siege of Boston, Warren helped to recruit & organise American soldiers. Although he insisted as serving as a private, he was appointed a Major General by the Provincial Congress on 14th June 1775. He was killed by the British 3 days later, on 17th June, during the Battle of Bunker Hill, when British troops stormed Breeds Hill. He was initially buried where he had fallen, but his body was exhumed ten months later & reburied in the Granary Burying Ground. His remains would be relocated twice more during the nineteenth century; firstly to St. Pauls Church in 1825, then finally to Forest Hills Cemetery in 1855, where his grave can be seen to this day.

Warren’s death is immortalised in the oil painting The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775 by John Trumbull (see left). There are two statues of him in Boston; one in the exhibit lodge adjacent to the Bunker Hill Monument, the other in the grounds of the Roxbury Latin School.

Many places across the USA have been named in Warren’s honour, with counties in at least fourteen states bearing his name, together with many towns & townships. He has also given his name to Fort Warren on Georges Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor. Five US navy ships have been named after him; the first a schooner in the year of his death, the latest a World War II transport ship.

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Paul Revere

Paul Revere, famous for his midnight ride to warn the American patriots of the advancing British troops at the beginning of the American War of Independence, was born in Boston in December 1734. His father, a French Huguenot whose original surname was Rivoire before he anglicized it, passed on his trade of silversmith to Paul, his eldest surviving son. After serving as a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment during the Seven Years War (1756-63), Paul returned to Boston & his silver shop, where he became renowned as a skilled engraver. From around 1768 he also practiced as a dentist. Around this time he became friends with many political activists; producing a number of political engravings, including one of the Boston Massacre of March 1770. He also became a member of the Sons of Liberty; a pre-independence group of American patriots who formed to protect the rights of the colonists. After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Revere began working for the Boston Committee of Public Safety as a messenger, which took him to such places as New York & Philadelphia.

Revere’s fame came about on the night of 18th -19th April 1775, the day before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Instructed by Dr Joseph Warren (see above), one of the patriot leaders, he & William Dawes rode separate routes through the night from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, two other prominent patriots, of the approach of the British troops. Along his route, Revere warned others, who themselves spread the message throughout the towns & settlements. After reaching Lexington, Revere & Dawes, together with a third man, Samuel Prescott, joined up to ride to Concord, where the patriot’s store of weapons & ammunition was stashed.  These warnings helped the patriots successfully fend off the British army in the battles that followed.

During the war years, Revere was stationed in Boston & became a Major of infantry in the Massachusetts militia, later rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of artillery. After the war, he opened a hardware store & later established an iron & brass foundry in North Boston; casting many church bells & supplying fittings for the Boston shipyards. In 1801 he opened America’s first copper mill at Canton.

Twice married, with 16 children, Paul Revere died in May 1818 at the age of 83 & is buried in the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston.

It wasn’t until more than 40 years after his death that Revere’s role in the American Revolution became well known.  Then, in 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his poem Paul Revere's Ride, which has since become one of the most famous poems in American history. Although based on known events, Longfellow’s poem does contain many inaccuracies, some of which are now accepted as fact; one example being that Revere is given sole credit for the night’s ride, with no mention of Dawes or Prescott.

Many places today bear Revere’s name, including the city named after him in Suffolk County.  Paul Revere House, which he owned from around 1770 -1800, is located at 19 North Square, Boston, & is nowadays operated as a museum by the Paul Revere Memorial Association.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Born in Boston, Suffolk County in May 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist, lecturer & poet, as well as being a leading figure in the Transcendentalist philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s in New England.  

Emerson’s father, a Unitarian minister, died when he was eight years old, after which he was raised by his mother & his aunt Mary Moody Emerson; the latter exerting a powerful influence on him. He attended Boston Latin School, before going to Harvard in 1817. After graduation, he moved for health reasons briefly to South Carolina then Florida, before returning to Massachusetts & working as a schoolmaster in a school established by his brother William. Following this he enrolled at Harvard Divinity School. In 1827 he married his first wife, Ellen, & two years later he was ordained & took up the post as a junior pastor in Boston’s Second Church. By the time his wife died from tuberculosis in 1831, however, Emerson was beginning to doubt his own beliefs, & after disagreements with church officials, he resigned in 1832. 

Emerson toured Europe in 1833 where he visited Italy, Switzerland & France, before moving on to England. There he met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge & the Scottish writer & historian Thomas Carlyle; the latter having a strong influence on him. After returning to Massachusetts, he became a lecturer; giving the first of around 1,500 lectures – “The Uses of Natural History” - in Boston in November 1833.  Thereafter he lectured on a variety of different subjects, developing ideas such as individuality, freedom, & the relationship between the soul & the surrounding world.

In 1835, Emerson married his second wife, Lydia, by whom he had four children. They lived in what is now known as Ralph Waldo Emerson House in Concord, Massachusetts. It is now a National Historic Landmark & museum.

Emerson’s essay Nature, his first published work, appeared in 1836. In this he formulated the concept of the Over-Soul; a supreme mind shared by all humanity, which allows an individual to disregard external authority & to rely on direct experience. Around this time he, together with Henry Hedge, George Putnam & George Ripley, established the Transcendental Club, a meeting place for those frustrated  with the general state of American culture & society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University & in the Unitarian church. The key belief of Transcendentalism is that society & its institutions, especially organised religion & politics, are corrupting influences on an individual, & that a person can only truly flourish when self-reliant & independent.

 The Transcendental Club organized official meetings until 1840, after which the members continued to correspond & attend each other's lectures. Finding a lack of publications willing to publish their essays, the club began publishing its own periodical The Dial in 1840, with the first issue containing an introduction by Emerson. The Dial ran until 1844.

In 1837 Emerson delivered his speech “The American Scholar” to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in which he declared literary independence in the United States & urged Americans to create a writing style of their own, free from European influence. In the following year he gave what became known as his “Divinity School Address” at Harvard Divinity School, which questioned Biblical miracles, & for which he was denounced as an atheist.

From 1844 onwards, Emerson began lecturing for the abolition of slavery, & is known to have entertained revolutionary abolitionist John Brown at his house during the latter’s visit to Concord. In 1862, during the Civil War, he spoke at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, & the following day was invited to meet Abraham Lincoln at the White House. He would later speak at a memorial service held for Lincoln in Concord in 1865.

During later life, Emerson’s health began to fail & he suffered from memory loss from the late 1860s onwards. In spite of this he visited Europe & Egypt with his daughter in 1872, although from then onwards his lectures & speeches became fewer, & by 1879 he had ceased making public appearances altogether. He died on 27th April 1882 & was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Emerson Hall at Harvard is named in his honour, & in 2006 the Harvard Divinity School established the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Professorship. In 1940, Emerson appeared on a US postage stamp in the Famous Americans series, which also included other authors, poets, inventors etc. such as Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Louisa May Alcott & Alexander Graham Bell.

Emerson published his first collection, Essays: First Series  in 1841, which included the famous essay “Self-Reliance”. Three years later Essays: Second Series came out, which included works such as “The Poet” & “Experience”. Other collections of his work would follow, such as Nature; Addresses and Lectures (1849), Representative Men (1850)  & The Conduct of Life (1860). Collections of his poetry were also published, including Poems (1847) & May Day and Other Poems (1867). Two of his best known poems are Concord Hymn, written in 1837, which concerns the Battle of Concord during the American War of Independence; & Brahma, dating from 1856. The latter was inspired by Emerson’s interest in Indian philosophy, & in particular the Vedas & the Bhagavad Gita, which Emerson discovered around 1845 after he began reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin.

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Edgar Allan Poe

Author, poet & literary theorist Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Suffolk County in 1809. At a young age, after his mother died, Poe was adopted by a family from Richmond, Virginia. He travelled to Britain with his adoptive family, the Allans, in 1815 & remained there for five years; attending school in Scotland & London. Upon the family’s return to America, he briefly attended the University of Virginia. During a short stint in the army, he produced his first published work in 1827, a collection of poems entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems; the authorship of which was credited simply “by a Bostonian”. The original poem Tamerlane was 403 lines long, but a shortened version of only 223 lines appeared in his second book Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, published in 1829. The poem Al Aaraaf is the longest of Poe’s published poems & is based on stories from the Qur'an. A third volume, simply entitled Poems, appeared in 1831.

After the latter’s publication Poe turned his attention to prose; writing his only play, The Politian, as well as having several short stories, poems & book reviews published. During this period he worked as an assistant editor for the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He married his cousin, Virginia Clemm in 1835, although she was only 13 years old at the time. In 1838, his only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was published. In 1842, Poe moved to New York, becoming editor, & later owner of the Broadway Journal. In 1845 his poem The Raven appeared in the New York Evening Mirror. This received much popular & critical acclaim & did as much as anything to make Poe’s name famous.  A book, The Raven and Other Poems, soon followed. His Broadway Journal, however, failed in 1846 & a year later his wife died of tuberculosis.

Poe himself died two years later, after being found wandering the streets of Baltimore in a delirious state. He was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he died on 7th October 1849.  There has been much debate about the cause of his death; theories ranging from cholera to rabies, syphilis to heart disease, alcoholism or even murder. He is buried in Old Westminster Burying Ground, Baltimore.

Poe’s work is generally regarded as part of the American Romantic Movement. Terms sometimes used to describe his writing include “gothic” & “dark romanticism”. He is considered in some quarters as the inventor of detective fiction & also as a leading light in the emergence of the science fiction genre. Other famous works include the short stories The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) & The Pit & the Pendulum (1842). He also wrote essays on literary theory such as The Philosophy of Composition (1846) & The Poetic Principle (1848).

A plaque now marks Poe’s birthplace on Carver Street, Boston (see photo, right).

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Robert Lowell

The Poet Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was born in Boston, Suffolk County in March 1917. A descendant of Mayflower passengers James Chilton & his daughter Mary, Lowell was born into one of Boston’s most prominent families, his ancestors including; William Samuel Johnson, a signer of the United States Constitution; Jonathan Edwards, the famed Calvinist theologian; Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan preacher and healer; Thomas Dudley, the second governor of Massachusetts, as well as the poets Amy Lowell and James Russell Lowell.

Lowell attended Harvard College for two years before moving to Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio where he studied under the poet & essayist John Crowe Ransom. He received an undergraduate degree in classics in 1940, after which he took a graduate course in English literature at Louisiana State University, where he studied under Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Lowell, as a conscientious objector, spent several months in prison; firstly in New York, then in Danbury, Connecticut. He would later become active in the civil rights movement & oppose the war in Vietnam.

Lowell is considered to be one of the founders of the confessional poetry movement; a genre in which the intimate, and sometimes unflattering, information about the writer’s life is highlighted. Lowells first book of poems, Land of Unlikeness, was published in 1944. It would be his second book of poetry, Lord Wearys Castle, however, which would see him receive wide acclaim, & for which he would be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1947 to 1948. Other collections of poems include The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951), Life Studies (1959), Near the Ocean (1967) & Notebook 1967-1968 (1969). In 1964 he also wrote a trilogy of plays entitled The Old Glory.  In 1973 he published a trilogy of books (History, For Lizzie and Harriet , & The Dolphin, the latter winning the 1974 Pulitzer Prize) which primarily dealt with world history from antiquity up to the mid-twentieth  century, although poems about his friends & family are also included. His last volume of poetry, Day by Day, appeared in 1977.

Lowell was married three times, all three of his wives being writers; Jean Stafford, Elizabeth Hardwick & Lady Caroline Blackwood.  He suffered for many years with manic depression & spent many periods of his adult life in mental hospitals. He died of a heart attack in New York City in September 1977.

Lowells Collected Prose & Collected Poems were published in 1987 & 2003 respectively, the latter featuring most of his major works. The Letters of Robert Lowell was published in 2005.

His best known poems include “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” (1946), “Waking Early Sunday Morning” (1967) & “Epilogue” (1977).

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Sylvia Plath

Poet & writer Sylvia Plath was born in Jamaica Plain, Suffolk County on 27th October 1932, with the family moving to Winthrop in 1936. At the age of eight, Plath had her first poem published in the Boston Herald’s children’s section. 

Plath attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts from 1950 to 1955, where she edited The Smith Review. The publication of her short story  “Sunday at the Mintons” in  Mademoiselle magazine led to her being awarded the position as guest editor of the magazine during the summer of 1953. During her time at Smith it is estimated that she wrote more than 400 poems.

In August 1953 Plath made her first suicide attempt, by taking an overdose of pills. After spending several months in psychiatric care, she had recovered sufficiently to graduate with honours from Smith College & won a place at Newnham College, Cambridge, England on a Fulbright scholarship.
It was whilst in England that Plath met the English poet Ted Hughes (1930-98), who would later become Poet Laureate. They married in June 1956 in London, before moving back to America the following year; at which time Plath began teaching at Smith College. In 1958 the couple moved to Boston, where Plath went to creative writing seminars given by poet Robert Lowell. After travelling around the USA & Canada, the couple returned to England in 1959, & the following year, after the birth of her daughter, Plath published her first collection of poems, entitled The Colossus. Her second child, a son, was born in January 1962, after which Plath & Hughes separated when she discovered that he was having an affair. 

There followed a spell of great creativity, in which she wrote much of the poetry that she was to become famous for posthumously. In 1963 her only novel, The Bell Jar, was published in the UK under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas”. (It was eventually published under her own name in 1967, & not published in the US until 1971). Plath described the book as an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.

Throughout her life Plath had suffered on & off with depression, which manifested itself in several suicide attempts. On the morning of 11th February 1963, Sylvia Plath was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in the kitchen of her London flat. She is buried in St. Thomas a Becketts churchyard in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire (closer to Ted Hughes’ birthplace). The headstone has been regularly vandalised over the years, by attempts to remove Hughes’ name; as some feel that he was responsible for her death.

In 1965, the collection of her poems entitled Ariel was published, which really established her reputation. Two further collections, Crossing the Water & Winter Trees, appeared in 1971. The Collected Poems was published in 1981. Other works include Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975) & The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982). She was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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Donna Summer

LaDonna Adrian Gaines, better known as singer, songwriter  & “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer, was born in Boston, Suffolk County, on the last day of 1948. One of seven children, she was raised in the Mission Hill neighbourhood of the city. Her first involvement in music was in church choirs, after which she sung in school musicals & became influenced by the Motown sound whilst attending Jeremiah E. Burke High School.  In Boston she joined a psychedelic band called Crow, who relocated to New York City in 1967 where they tried, unsuccessfully, to gain interest from record labels. After the band split, Donna auditioned for the musical Hair, & although she failed to get the part in New York, was offered the role in the Munich production. In Germany she starred in several musicals, before moving to Vienna, Austria, where she joined the Vienna Volksoper (Vienna People’s Opera) & toured with a vocal group named Family Tree. In 1968 her first single was released, a German version of Aquarius from the musical Hair, which appeared under the name Donna Gaines. Two further singles appeared in 1971 & 1972. In the following year she married Helmuth Sommer, & the couple had a daughter in that same year. Donna would thereafter use her husband’s surname, but would Anglicise it to “Summer”. The marriage, however, would only last until 1975.

In 1974, Summer met German-based producers Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte in Munich. This led to Donna’s first album Lady of the Night being released later that year. The album spawned two hit singles in Holland & Belgium.  Her big breakthrough came in the following year, however, with the release of the Love to Love You Baby single; a disco orientated song that included explicit lyrics & erotic moaning, which caused controversy in some quarters. Although shorter versions were produced for radio play, the full 17 minute version became the first disco hit to also be released in an extended form. The single, released on the Casablanca label, reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, although some radio stations refused to play it. An album of the same name was released in early 1976, which went on to sell over one million copies.

Further albums followed, under the guidance of the Moroder/Bellotte production team, including A Love Trilogy & Four Seasons of Love (both 1976), I Remember Yesterday (1977) & Bad Girls (1979). The compilation album On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II was also released in 1979. Her song Last Dance, from the Bad Girls album, won her the 1979 Grammy Award in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category. She would go on to win four more Grammys, as well as six American Music Awards throughout her career.

Although Summer had several minor hit singles after the success of Love to Love You Baby, her second US top ten hit didn’t come until 1977’s I Feel Love, from the I Remember Yesterday album. This ground-breaking  single, which also reached number one in the UK, is widely regarded as the start of Electronic Dance music. The following year, her version of the Jimmy Webb ballad, MacArthur Park became her first US No.1.  In 1978, Summer met singer-songwriter, producer & arranger Bruce Sudano. The couple married in 1981 & subsequently had two daughters.

After a move to Geffen Records, Summer continued to release albums throughout the 1980s, including The Wanderer (1980), She Works Hard for the Money (1983) & All Systems Go (1987).The partnership with Moroder & Bellotte, however, had ceased with the Quincy Jones produced Donna Summer album of 1982. During the 80s, Summer’s music moved away from the strict disco format of her earlier work to embrace other musical genres, such as pop, rock, R&B & gospel. 1989’s Stock Aitken & Waterman produced Another Place and Time album, released on Warner Bros. Records in Europe & Atlantic Records in North America, spawned the single This Time I Know Its for Real, which would be Summer’s last Top 40 US hit single, although future releases would continue to feature regularly in the dance charts. Although having a huge following within the gay community, Summer became embroiled in controversy during late 1980s, when she is alleged to have suggested that AIDS was a divine punishment from God. She always denied making any such comments, however.

Away from music, Summer began painting during the later 1980s; some of her work, in the Expressionist style, selling for several thousand dollars. In the mid 1990s, she made guest appearances in two episodes of the American sitcom Family Matters.

Apart from compilations, Summer only released two studio albums in the 1990s; Mistaken Identity (1991) & Christmas Spirit (1994). The latter would be her last album until the release of Crayons in 2008. In 1992, however, she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Despite the lack of albums, Summer still brought out the occasional single, such as Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved) (1995), Youre So Beautiful (2004) & I Got Your Love (2005). Her last release was the 2010 single To Paris With Love, although in interviews given that year she reported that two new albums were in the planning stages.

In 2004 she was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. In December 2009, backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Donna performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo in honour of US President Barack Obama.

Donna Summer died of lung cancer at her home in Englewood, Florida on 17th May 2012. She was buried in Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

Many covers versions of Summer’s songs have been recorded over the past four decades by such diverse acts as Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, Bronski Beat, David Soul, KC & the Sunshine Band, Jamiroquai, Curve, Emmylou Harris & Kylie Minogue.

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The Kennedy Family

East Boston was the original American home of the ancestors of the famous Kennedy family, who came to political prominence during the twentieth century; culminating in John F Kennedy’s election as the 35th President of the USA.      

Patrick & Bridget Kennedy, who had immigrated from New Ross, County Wexford in Ireland, set up the first family home on Meridian Street, East Boston; later moving to nearby Monmouth Street.
Their son Patrick Joseph Kennedy (1858-1929. See photo, right) bought three saloons in East Boston from money he’d saved working as a stevedore on Boston docks. As his wealth increased he diversified into other business ventures, which eventually allowed him to buy a house at Jeffries Point, East Boston for his son & two daughters. He also had a successful political career as a Democrat; representing 2nd Suffolk District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1884 to 1889, followed by three, two-year terms representing 4th Suffolk District in the Massachusetts State Senate from 1889 to 1895.  

Patrick’s son, Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy Sr. (1888-1969) was also a prominent member of the Democratic Party, as well as serving as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom between 1938 & 1940. He married Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the daughter of Mayor of Boston John Francis Fitzgerald; although by the time of the birth of their first child in 1915 (Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr.), the family had left Suffolk County & moved to the town of Brookline in neighbouring Norfolk County, where most of their nine children were born. Three of their sons would later become world famous politicians:

Best known is their second son, John Fitzgerald Jack Kennedy (1917-63), commonly known as “JFK”, who served as a  member of  the US House of Representatives & the US Senate for Massachusetts, before  becoming President of the USA in 1961. He was infamously assassinated in Dallas, Texas on 22nd November 1963. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (see separate feature, above) on Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston is named in his honour .

The seventh child of Joseph & Rose; Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (1925-68), served as the US Attorney General  between 1961-64, before becoming a U.S. Senator for New York from 1965. Whilst running for President, he too was assassinated; on 6th June 1968 in Los Angeles, California. His own son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy II (born 1952) was a member of the US House of Representatives for Massachusetts during the period 1987 to 1999.

Joseph & Rose’s youngest son, Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy (1932-2009), was born in Suffolk County (at St Margaret’s Hospital in the Dorchester Neighbourhood of Boston). He served for forty seven years as US Senator for Massachusetts, making him the fourth longest serving senator in United States history. He died of a brain tumour in August 2009.

One of Joseph & Rose’s daughters; Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009), was founder of the Special Olympics in 1968; the world's largest sports organization for children & adults with disabilities, with the Special Olympics World Games being held every two years & alternating between summer and winter.

Although neither raised nor resident in Suffolk County, this generation of Kennedys continued to have close links with Boston, & therefore by definition with Suffolk. Ted Kennedy, especially, often made reference to the family’s roots in East Boston.

There are also two connections between the Kennedy family & other Suffolks of the world:

During the Second World War, John, Robert & Edwards older brother, Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr., was killed whilst serving as an American bomber pilot in England, in an operation codenamed Aphrodite. On 12th August 1944, the US Navy BQ-8 in which he & Lt. Wilford J. Willy were flying, exploded & disintegrated over the Blyth estuary, Suffolk, killing both occupants. Wreckage landed near the village of Blythburgh, although their bodies were never recovered.

In September 1953, future President John F Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, who had been born in the town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York.  (See the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis section on the Suffolk County, New York page for a full biography).

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