I first walked the better part of the Freedom Trail in Boston with my Dad, in 1964. Back then, Quincy Market was called Durgin Park and the Old Corner Book Store was still selling books. We got as far as the Charles River, then went back to the car, so as to beat the afternoon traffic. It was my first real understanding that freedom came after considerable struggle.
I went back to the edge of the Trail last year, visiting Boston Common and Park Street Church, during a Copley Square excursion. This time, I was determined to walk the rest of the trail and see this beloved city through the eyes of struggle and endurance.
It was a cold, somewhat brisk day, with snow in the air, on my 62nd birthday. The first place I encountered was the newest point on the Freedom Trail: Holocaust Memorial. There is no more fitting place than here, to honour the memories of those lost in the second-worst war in human history. Jews have been an integral part of American society since the mid-seventeenth century, with sites like Newport, RI’s Touro Synagogue to prove it. Boston’s memorial is modern, and tasteful.
The message is clear, and only the ignorant will deny what happened. Freedom is an ongoing struggle- lest we forget.
The victims speak through these media.
The first freedom fighters here included men of means and paupers alike. They were of all the “races” who lived in Boston at the time: White, Black, Native American. Their common thread, which had a distant echo in England itself, was the cry for personal freedom. No one really was represented in government, save the upper classes and aristocracy. Women could only speak through their menfolk. In 1770, on a street corner in what was then the heart of Boston, push came to shove.
The story of the five year run-up to the War for Independence is superbly told in the Old State House. I spent an hour here, learning new details of the Tax Enactment Period and of the complex interplay between the British soldiers and Patriots, in the aftermath of the Boston “Massacre”, which actually cost five lives and six injuries.
From this site, I walked to the Old South Meeting House, so named because it was used primarily by Quakers and Mennonites. It was a safe haven for those meeting to discuss their grievances, in the early 1770’s. Below, are views of the exterior and interior of this vital building.
The morning segment of my wandering led next to the Old Corner Book Store (now a Chipotle). It is the red brick building just diagonal from the truck.
Next is Old City Hall, where there is a statue of Benjamin Franklin in the front yard, close to King’s Chapel.
King’s Chapel is important, as it was the site of the first school in Boston, and a Loyalist gathering spot. It is also the site where, ironically, the patriot William Dawes, among other notables of the colonial era, is buried.
I had reached the point where I had left off last summer. I n the interests of doing justice to the North End and Charlestown, as well as to my own birthday dinner later in the evening, I headed towards Fanueil Hall, Quincy Market and lunch.
En route, I saw living proof of our nation’s freedom- a group of carolers, spontaneously offering holiday cheer. Across the street from them was the famed Parker House.
Hot rolls aside, I was in the mood for a lobster salad and clam chowder. Hence, it was off to the great market place. Fanueil Hall itself serves as headquarters for Boston National Historical Park.
For serious eating, it’s Quincy Market.
There is a touch of kitsch at the end of the complex, as there is at all great city markets. But, hey, ya gotta love “Cheers”.
Next up: The North End, home of Paul Revere.