Tag Archives: Boston history

Hey! It’s the World Series!


The World Series starts today in Fenway Park!  What do we know about Fenway?  Well, it’s David Ortiz’s favorite place to hit home runs.  Also, it first opened in 1912 and it’s the oldest Major League Baseball stadium, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of it to celebrate the Sox!

There's a plaque!  (That means it's historic)
There’s a plaque! (That means it’s historic)

Continue reading Hey! It’s the World Series!


Cheap Family Activity: Visiting the Haymarket

Welcome to the Haymarket.  Make sure you tell your kids there's not going to be any hay BEFORE you arrive.
Welcome to the Haymarket. Make sure you tell your kids there’s not going to be any hay BEFORE you arrive.

I am currently eating a pretty decent peach that I bought for next to nothing at the Haymarket last Saturday.  This fact may be influencing me as I report to you that the Haymarket is pretty awesome.  I mean, I’m in Boston, not Atlanta, so the peach isn’t mind-blowingly good or anything, but it’s got just the right level of juiciness and it tastes like a peach instead of like moist corn meal, so I’m declaring it a success. Continue reading Cheap Family Activity: Visiting the Haymarket

Touring the Boston Custom House

The clock on the Boston Custom House says it's time to look out over our fair city.  Apparently, 7:26 is good that way.
The clock on the Boston Custom House says it’s time to look out over our fair city. Apparently, 6:26 is good that way.

When you’ve got a bunch of tall buildings around, you may as well see what the world looks like from the top of them, right?  That was my thinking anyway.  So, today I packed up the kids and my handy dandy knapsack and set out for the Boston Custom House.  There’s a 360 degree observation deck wrapped around the 26th floor – above the clock.  Sure, the Prudential is taller, but the Custom House has a few things going for it.

Open Air Observation Deck:

The observation deck facilitates observing.
The observation deck facilitates observing.

First, it’s open air.  In fact, it’s the highest open air observation deck in Boston.  That’s got to count for something.  Specifically, it counts for some entertaining butterflies in your stomach when you press your face up against the bars and feel the wind swirling around you.

View of the Harbor:

View of Boston Harbor from the Custom House
View of Boston Harbor from the Custom House

Second, you get to look out over the Boston Harbor.  My daughter swears she saw a whale surface and spout through the binoculars.  We watched Codzilla and the New England Aquarium whale watch boat pulling out of the harbor and got to see the airplanes landing and taking off at Logan.

Peregrine Falcons:

Here is EVERYTHING you've ever needed to know about peregrine falcons.
Here is EVERYTHING you’ve ever needed to know about peregrine falcons.

Third, there’s a Peregrine Falcon Cam set up so that you can watch the most successful nesting pair of peregrine falcons in Massachusetts going about their pigeon-eating, chick hatching business in their nest at the very top of the tower.  I haven’t found the cam available on the internet, but you can watch them on a screen from the observation deck.  Apparently, the pair have been nesting in the tower since 1987 and have successfully reared over 70 chicks that have, in turn, settled themselves all over Massachusetts and as far away as New York state (traitors!).

History:

How is this historic?  The dome upon which the Great Seal of the United States is painted was the original roof.  Then they added a tower.  History!
How is this picture emblematic of history? The dome upon which the Great Seal of the United States is painted was the original roof. Then they added a tower. History!

Fourth, history!  What’s Boston without it’s history?  Well, it’s the greatest city in the world.  But the history is still cool.  For example, the Great Seal of the United States was painted on the dome in 1960, which was (may have been?) the year when America went apeshit for paintings of the Great Seal of the United States.

What’s that?  You say you want even more history?  Okay.  The building (minus tower) actually began the slow, lumbering stumble into existence in 1837 and was completed in 1849.  The architect was Ammi Burnham Young, of Lebanon, New Hampshire.  He won a contest to design it.  The tower wasn’t added until 1915 (and it was designed by Peabody & Stearns).  Upon completion, it was the tallest building in Boston, at 496 feet.  The clock has a diameter of 22 feet, which makes me want to recreate portions of at least 8 movies.  Apparently, the clock spent most of the last century out of order due to an embarrassingly undersized motor.  Glad they got that fixed.

Ahem.  Undersized.
Ahem. Undersized.

Cheap:

Fifth, it’s only $4/person.  Which sort of speaks for itself.  You’re not reading this to have me walk you through basic arithmetic problems.  $4 is less than $50.  I don’t have a picture of $4 being less than $50, so I’m just putting in these pictures of the view instead.  You’ll notice that there are 4 pictures.  Which is less than 50.

$4 for me, FREE for you!
$4 for me, FREE for you! You’re welcome!
75 State Street in the foreground, Exchange Place behind it, One Boston Place back to the right, and the John Hancock Tower and Prudential Building in the distance.
75 State Street in the foreground, Exchange Place behind it, One Boston Place back to the right, and the John Hancock Tower and Prudential Building in the distance.
One International Place:  A measly 104 feet taller than the Custom House.
One International Place: A measly 104 feet taller than the Custom House.
Looking out toward Cambridge and Somerville.
Looking out toward Somerville and Cambridge.  There!  In the distance!  It’s the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge!  Sure, it’s not the longest bridge on earth, but it is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world.  And maybe it has the longest name of any bridge?

Easter Egg:

Perhaps the most important benefit of ascending the Custom House is it’s easter egg!  For those who don’t know, an easter egg is a thing that programmers hide in video games for the sole purpose of amusing themselves and the few people who happen across them.  So, the easter egg of the Boston Custom House is [drum roll……..]

Can't see it?  Well, you should go to the top of the Custom House and find it.
Can’t see it? Well, you should go to the top of the Custom House and find it.

 

Liberty in Balance (+ a tangent about the remarkable story of the old Filene’s, Daniel Burnham, & the Millennium Tower!)

Liberty in Balance
Liberty in Balance: Down with oppressive parking restrictions of any kind!

I saw this at Downtown Crossing amidst the construction going on in the old Burnham building (Filene’s). I guess sometimes, when you’ve got a whole bunch of people living together, compromises must be made…

Anyway, more background on the construction: The Burnham (Filene’s) Building was designed by Daniel Burnham for Filene’s Department Store.  Burnham is the same guy that designed New York’s famous Flatiron building (near which uncouth men used to station themselves in order to watch ladies skirts lifting in the wind that whipped around it, a la Marilyn Monroe).  I haven’t read anything about impolite breezes caused by Burnham’s Boston work, but that is to be expected since Boston is a more genteel city than New York.

Source: Sgeulachdan http://www.flickr.com/photos/shywriter55/161651827 6 June 2006
Source: Sgeulachdan http://www.flickr.com/photos/shywriter55/161651827
6 June 2006

The Filene’s opened in 1913 to enormous crowds, but the building was actually built throughout 1911 and was completed in 1912, the same year that Burnham died.  Some might say Boston finished him off, but I prefer to think that once he’d designed a building in Boston he was able to look back at his life’s work with satisfaction and depart in peace.

Next to the currently-renovating old Burnham building, construction on the new Millennium Tower is slated to break ground on September 17, 2013.  Millennium Tower is going to be the tallest residential building in the city at 625 feet.  The builders, Millennium Partners, claim that it will be the 4th tallest building in Boston!  However, I’ve seen other sources say that it will supplant the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston as the city’s 3rd tallest.