Boston blog postings

Boston Postings

Earliest: March 16, 2003Latest: December 14, 2017Total: 201

December 14, 2017

Phillips Brooks Statue

Next to the Trinity Church, in Copley Square, is a statue of Phillips Brooks.

Phillips Brooks

Things that I learned about Phillips Brooks and the Statue

  • Phillips Brooks was born on December 13, 1835, in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Attended Boston Latin School and then went to Harvard University in the Fall of 1851, graduated in the class of 1855.
  • Rector of Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, 1862 - 1869
  • In April 23, 1865, he read a sermon at President's Lincoln Funeral near Philadelphia's Independence Hall. Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, DC eight days earlier.
  • In 1865 he took a trip to the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve he took a horseback trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It was this trip that inspired him to think about a song called "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
  • He officially wrote the "O Little Town of Bethlehem" song in 1868 when he was at the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia.
  • Phillips Brooks introduced Christianity to Helen Keller and then introduced her to Anne Sullivan.
  • One of the few Americans that preached at London's West Minister Abbey
  • Rector of Trinity Church (Copley Square), Boston, 1869 - 1891
  • Was the rector of the Old Trinity Church when it was on Summer Street in 1872. The Church burn down in the Great Boston Fire of 1872.
  • Some people regard the new Trinity Church as a memorial to Bishop Phillips Brooks.
  • Bishop of Massachusetts, 1891 - 1893
  • Died January 23, 1893.
  • The Hall of Fame for Great Americans has a replica of the Daniel Chester French statue of Phillips Brooks. The original can still be seen inside the Trinity Church.

Things that I learned about Phillips Brooks Statue

  • The bronze on marble base statue was unveiled on January 22, 1910
  • The Statue was done by Augustus Saint-Gaudens using Tennessee marble in Vermont.
  • Augustus Saint-Gaudens died before the work started and it was completed by his assistants
  • A committee of thirty-one people were in charge of fundraising and statue design.
  • More than $95,000 was raised for the statue, which was more than needed to build the statue.
  • A case was heard before the State Supreme Court on January 21, 1919, Charles W. Eliot & Others vs Trinity Church, about authorizing to move the statue to the Theological School in Cambridge, as there were some people that didn't like the statue created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
  • In court, Charles Eliot argued that a better statue was suited for the location. Bela Pratt created a different statue of Phillips Brooks and many people thought Pratt's statue had a better resemblance to the former preacher.
  • The Massachusetts State Supreme Court sided with the Trinity Church saying that it didn't have any power to force the Trinity Church to move the statue. The court said, "When charitable gifts can be administered according to the directions of the donors, the court "is not at liberty to modify it upon considerations of policy or convenience."
  • The statue done by Bela L. Pratt was placed in the North Andover common in 1925.
  • Today you can't see the statue because of construction going on around the Trinity Church

December 7, 2017

Map of the Boston Marathon Finish Line Locations

Last year I blogged about all the finish line locations for the Boston Marathon. It was a fun project to research the locations and the history of each site.

I looked at the blog content again and thought having a map would be a nice visual enhancement to the content.

Classic Boston Map

Back bay has changed a little over the past few years. So using a standard Google maps isn't going to help in this situation. Fortunately, there is a map in the Back Bay MBTA station that is about 20 years old. So I'll use that to show where the finish lines were located.

I took a picture of the map on the Commuter rail platform and then used Super Vectorizer 2 to convert it to an SVG image. I did this to allow the lines and shapes to be more define and make the map a bit clearer to read.

Finish Line Location Map

MarathonMap25.jpg
Click on image for a larger version of the map.

  1. 1897- 1898 - The Early Years
  2. 1899 - 1964 - Exeter Street Years
  3. 1965 - 1985 - The Prudential Years
  4. 1985 - Present - The John Hancock Years

November 30, 2017

Governor John Brooks

John Brooks was a well-admired doctor, respected military officer, and politician from Massachusetts. He served as the 11th Governor of Massachusetts from 1816 to 1823 and was one of the last Federalist officials elected in the United States.

There is no statue or monument in Boston for John Brooks. There is just a simple painting that is hanging at the Massachusetts State House a few feet from where he once held office. In Medford, there is a tablet honoring her famous resident.

John Brooks
Picture of John Brooks hanging in the Massachusetts State House.

Fourteen things I learned about John Brooks

There's a lot to tell about John Brooks, here are a few things that I found interesting.

  • There is no record on when John Brooks was born. He was baptized on May 4, 1752. In the 18th century, parents usually baptized their children within 5 days of being born.
  • At the age of 14 he studied medicine under Dr. Simon Tufts in his practice in Medford.
  • He was a very active in the local militia. His military experience was basically watching the British army conduct military operations and practiced various military exercises on Dr. Simon Tufts yard.
  • When he turned 21, he left Medford to his own practice in nearby Reading, Massachusetts.
  • While in Reading he married Miss Lucy Smith. They had three children; Lucy, Alexander Scammella and John.
  • On April 19, 1775, he was alerted about the British marching to Concord from Paul Revere and lead a company of minute-men to Concord and Lexington. He arrived in Concord as the British were retreating back to Boston. His team of minute-men chased the British back to Charlestown. His calm courage was seen by many revolutionary leaders and he received the commission of a major in the newly formed Continental army.
  • He also fought at Bunker Hill and at the Heights of Dorchester, which victory caused the British to evacuate Boston.
  • He was praised for his loyalty to the Continental Army and promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment.
  • Served under George Washington in the New York and New Jersey campaigns of 1776 - including the Battle of Saratoga.
  • Was praised by George Washington and by Gen. Lafayette
  • After the war he went back to his practice as a hero to his fellow Medford citizens.
  • On January 13, 1800, he gave the eulogy for George Washington to Medford saying, "Thus was our much-loved friend, the Father of His Country, great in war, great in peace, great in life, and great in the moment of his defoliation."
  • Served as the 11th Governor of Massachusetts 1816 to 1823.
  • His biggest accomplishment as Governor was selling off 30,000 square miles of Maine became a state. The Government of Massachusetts sold off the land to help pay off the War debt.
  • He was the president of the Washington Monument Association, the Bunker-hill Monument Association.

Rev. Mr. Foster says of John Brook services of April 19, 1775,:

"On the morning of the 19th of April, just at sunrise, alarm-guns were fired. The regulars had gone to Concord. I ran directly to Major Brooks and asked if he were going to Concord, and when. 'Immediately,' was the answer."

"As the enemy passed the road from Bedford, they met a body of minute-men, commanded by Major John Brooks. A little below Bedford Road there was a sharp action, and several of the British were killed."

General Lafayette says of John Brooks in a letter dated September 20, 1824,:

My dear Friend, Col. Huger, my noble deliverer from the Olmutz prison, whose enterprise and sufferings you well know, is going to Boston. I am sure you will be glad to see him (John Brooks), and I take this opportunity to let you hear from me Receive, my dear Friend, the affectionate and grateful wishes of your old brother soldier. Remember me to family and friends, and believe me forever most tenderly attached to you.

November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1817

It?s a tradition for a state governor to have a proclamation for Thanksgiving. It?s a special way to give thanks and encourage people to spend time with their families.

Every President has given a Thanksgiving Proclamation - with the exception of William Henry Harrison as he only served office for 32 days in 1841.

Governor John Brooks was the 11th Governor of Massachusetts. He served from 1816?1823.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Proclamation

This is part of the Thanksgiving Proclamation that John Brook gave back on October 29, 1817 (200 Years ago!):

A Proclamation

For a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.

The innumerable mercies and blessing which the great Ruler of the world and Disposer of events, has been pleased to vouchsafe, in the course of his providence, to the people of this State, the past year, demand their best tribute of praise and gratitude.

I have therefore, in conformity to ancient usage, thought fit to appoint and, by with the advice and consent of the Council, I do hereby appoint THURSDAY, the Fourth Day of December next, to be observed throughout this Commonwealth, as a Day of Praise and Thanksgiving to God, the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift. And the people of all religious denominations, are requested to assemble in their respective places of public worship, on that day, that with United and devout affection, we may acknowledge our dependence upon the Divine favor, and present a willing offering to the Lord, the source of all our mercies; more especially that, when the hearts, not only of this people but of a large proportion of the civilized world, were sinking within them, from an apprehension of scarcity and want. He has been graciously pleased to manifest his great benignity, in granting us a favorable seed time ; in blessing and rewarding the labors and toils of the husbandman, in causing the earth to yield its increase, and giving us occasion to rejoice in the fulness of the former, and of the latter harvest: That He has been please to grant signal success to our fisheries, and permitted us to partake largely of the abundance of the seas: That our navigation and commerce has experienced so great a degree of safety and success: That He has been pleased to preserve us from wasting sickness, and all other desolating judgements: That our Nation has been preserved in peace and internal tranquillity, and in the enjoyment of a high degree of social happiness; and that the year has been richly crowned with the goodness of God: But above all, that, in infinity compassion to us as sinners, He has seen fit to continue to cheer, to animate, and bless us with the light, the influences, and the homes of the Gospel.

Download the Entire Speech

When this speech was given, there were only 19 states in the United States! The State of Maine was still part of Massachusetts, it wasn?t until March 15, 1820, when Maine became an independent state.

Thanksgiving in December

Thanksgiving wasn't moved to November until 1942. On December 26, 1941, a joint resolution of Congress designated the fourth Thursday in November to be the new Thanksgiving Day.

November 16, 2017

Frog Pond

Frog pond is a small man-made pond in the Boston Public Commons. The pond is a perfect place for kids to cool off in the summer, and a great place for winter skating.

The pond is very shallow as it roughly a foot deep.

A description from a map near the Park Street Station:

Frog Pond, curbed 1826, is the sole survivor of three ponds on the Commons. The Frog Pond was the scene in 1848 of an extravagant "Water Celebration" inaugurating the city's public water system.

Frog Pond

Ten things I learned about Frog Pond.

  • When Boston Common was founded in 1634, the frog pond area was simply a watering hole for cows that were roaming around the Commons.
  • In 1848, the city installed a water fountain inside the pond to commemorate clean water flowing to Boston. This was a big event and hundreds of residents turned out to the opening ceremony.
  • July 7, 1859, An elephant, owned by Sam Rice, bathed in Frog Pond. Many years when the Circus came to town they let the Elephants play in the water.
  • In 1898, the pond officially became a swimming area. (This is probably when Elephants were no longer allowed into the Pond.)
  • According to the Friends of Boston Commons, this year was the earliest that the Frog Pond skating rink opened.
  • Each year there is a Frog Pond Skating Spectacular during the Boston Common Tree Lighting ceremony.
  • For many years, the Park Commission would just fill the pond with water and let it freeze. There was no enclosure
  • There was no skating on the pond during much of the 1980s. On January 5, 1989, skating returned to the Commons with a more formal skating area.
  • Cost $6 for adults to skate on the pond, and skates may be rented for $9. At Rockefeller Plaza, in New York City, it cost $25 to skate on the ice and rentals cost $12.
  • Bobby the skating Seal is available to help kids build confidence to skate. Kids simply push the Seal while they skate on the ice.

November 9, 2017

State House Great Hall Clock

In the center hall of the Massachusetts State House is the ?Hall of Flags? in the center ceiling is a clock. Many people may not know about the history around this clock.

Hallof Flags Clock

Nine Things about the Great Hall Clock

  • New York artist Ronald Fischer was selected from 480 applicants in 1988.
  • The clock was designed by R.M. Fischer a New York artist, to serve as a functional piece of artwork. Fischer was inspired by the clocks that grace the town halls, churches and other meeting halls of New England.
  • In an attempt to relate to the space surrounding the clock, he has employed many arcs and circles that echo the architectural elements of the building such as the arched doorways and circular patterns of the marbled floor.
  • The lantern-like shape clock weighs in at 1-tons and is 15 foot around.
  • Massachusetts raised $100,000 for the clock in 1986. It wasn?t installed until 1990.
  • Some people not only complained about the cost of the artwork but that it was done by a New Yorker.
  • The clock was requires when any new building or renovation with public money to allocate 1 percent or a maximum of $100,000 to art.
  • 27 states or territories have a "Percent for Art? program, currently Massachusetts is the only state in New England without a program.
  • Currently there is An Act to establish a Massachusetts percent for arts program By Representatives Walsh of Framingham and Atkins of Concord. This particular legislation would reinstate the ?Percent for Art? program back to Massachusetts.

November 2, 2017

Ames-Webster Mansion

On the corner of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Ave is the Ames-Webster Mansion.

Ames Webster View

Nine Things I learned about the Ames-Webster Mansion

  • Orginal Mansion was built in 1872 for Stephen Van Rensselaer Thayer by Peabody and Stearns.
  • September 9, 1880 - Frederick Lothrop Ames purchased the house. The house was remodeled and expanded.
  • June 7, 1923 - Edwin S. Webster purchased the property from the Ames family - He co-founded Stone Webster, Ince. died in 1950
  • March 15, 2013 - Sold to FAL Boston LLC for $14,500,000. (It was originally listed for $23,000,000 in 2011.
  • The Ames-Webster Mansion has one of the largest private halls in the Back Bay (63 x18-ft). The property is 26,000-square-foot -- with 50 rooms and 28 fireplaces and parking for up to six cars
  • The property is currently being transformed into three two to four bedroom luxury condominiums by Sheikh Fahad M.S. Al Athel through his company FAL Boston LLC. The company is investing $35 million into the renovation. The project is expected to be completed by 2019. (About the same time as One Dalton Street)
  • Each unit is expected to list for $20 million.
  • The Ames-Webster Mansion was once considered to be the Massachusetts Governor's residence. Massachusetts still doesn't have a residence for the sitting Governor and is one of only 5 states that don't offer to house to the sitting Governor.

Locating The Mansion

Ames Outside

The Mansion is located at the corner of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Ave. The building isn't open to the public but worth walking by to see the outside architecture.

October 26, 2017

Ghost Encounter at the Boston Athenaeum

Weird ghost stories that get told don't usually have much weight. Usually, it's told by people that want the attention.

However, the ghost story at the Boston Athenaeum is not only scary but the person who encountered the ghost was a pretty famous author.

Characters Background Information

Reverend Thaddeus Mason Harris was a Harvard librarian, Unitarian minister and was a lifetime member of the Boston Athenaeum.

Nathaniel Hawthorne is a well-established author famous for many books including The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Ghost Encounter

In early spring 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne was in the library doing some research for his book "The New Adam and Eve".

He visited the library on and off for several months and encounter other authors in the Athenaeum readings rooms. He even saw Reverend Harris sitting in his favorite chair reading the Boston Post.

One day, As he was leaving the reading room a librarian informed him that Reverand Harris had passed on. Nathaniel Hawthorne was sad to hear the news as he wanted to introduce himself to him but never got a chance.

The next day he returned to the library and sat down and looked over to the Reverand chair by the fireplace and spotted Reverend Harris reading the newspaper by the window. He was probably reading his own obituary.

This went on for weeks, as every time Nathaniel Hawthorne visited the library he would see Reverend Harris sitting in the chair reading a newspaper.

Nathaniel Hawthorne never saw Reverend Harris enter the room or leave. No one else appeared to see the Reverend.

Nathaniel Hawthorne has claimed that it appeared like the Reverend wanted to talk to him but remained silent waiting to be spoken to first. After a few weeks, Reverend Harris stopped showing up in his chair.

About ten years later, while visiting friends in Europe they convinced him to put the story in writing. It would eventually get published in the Living Age magazine on February 10, 1900. (The Ghost of Doctor Harris, page 345

Read The Ghost of Doctor Harris

The Ghost of Doctor Harris

Download The Ghost of Doctor Harris and read the story of the encounter by Nathaniel Hawthorne by the author.

About the Boston Athenaem

The Boston Athenaeum is a private library and the oldest library in Boston. In order to access the reading rooms mentioned in the story, you need to take a tour of the library. Currently tours start at $10.

Individual Membership to the library is $315 a year.

October 19, 2017

Gilbert Stuart

In the Boston Common's Graveyard is a gravestone that stands out among all the other ones. It belongs to Gilbert Stuart.

Gibert Stuart has quite a story

Gilbert Stuart Grave

Thirteen things I learned about Gilbert Stuart

  • Born in 1755 in North Kingston County Rhode Island. Stuart's birthplace in Saunderstown, Rhode Island is open to the public as the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum. The museum consists of the original house Stuart was born in, with copies of some of his popular paintings from throughout his career hanging throughout the house.
  • In 1786, he married Charlotte Coates of Reading, Berkshire. They had 12 children together.
  • No one knows how many pictures that Stuart painted in his lifetime. Frick Art Reference Library has attempted to list Stuart's complete work.
  • He painted many famous Americans including President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, General Henry Lee, Robert Paine, Paul Revere and much more.
  • He is most known for various George Washington paintings. He did three separate seatings with the first American President. A replica painted by Stuart is on display in the East Room of the White House
  • One of Stuart's portrait of Washington, called the "Unfinished Portrait," was also the model used on the dollar bill. You can see the original painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It's located in the Americans Collection.It's currently jointly owned by the Museum of Fine Arts and National Portrait Gallery. When you're at the museum, take out a dollar bill and compare it to the painting.
  • If you go to the Massachusetts State House and to the Governor's waiting room, You'll see an unfinished copy of the George Washington painting. It was copied by Francis Alexander from an original painted by Gilbert Stuart.
  • On November 17, 1988 - A copy of "A Portrait of George Washington" was sold at Sotheby's in London for $495,000. Some experts question whether this was an original or just a copy.
  • He died on July 9, 1828, and was buried the next day at Central Burying Ground in the Boston Commons. He died a poor man and the family couldn't afford a gravestone. Once the family got their finances settled they couldn't remember where he was buried. Thus, the current gravestone marker is not likely where Gilbert Stuart is actually located.
  • In 1898, a bronze plaque was placed on the gate of the Central Burying Grounds by "The Paint and Clay club"
  • Special gravestone was placed in 1975. Didn't find any specific reason for the gravestone change. You can see the 1975 date on the gravestone.
  • In 1851, the United States issued a George Washington 12 cent stamp based on Gilbert Stuart.
  • United States Post Office honored Gilbert Stuart with a 1 cent stamp on September 5, 1940.

You can learn more about Gilbert Stuart history at the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum.

Finding the Gravestone

The Gilbert Stuart gravestone is located in Central Burying Grounds in the Boston Commons. Directly across from the GrubStreet. You can read more about Central Burial Grounds from my post last year.

October 12, 2017

John Smibert

John Smibert (Also known as John Smybert) was a Scottish American artist. You can find John Smibert paintings in various art museums:

The painting at Yale University was John Smibert favorite painting as it hung in his Boston office for everyone to see.

Bronze 20" x 20" Monument

Next to the entrance to the Granary Burying Ground is this monument:

John Simbert

Here lies John Smibert
Painter 1688 - 1751
Cherish A Man Such As This
Erected by the City of Boston
John B. Hynes, Mayor

In tiny print you can see: "Ca Ascieri Adi Biccari." I wasn't able to find the date that the Bronze monument was placed, but I suspect it was in 1951 which would have been the 200 anniversary of John Smibert death.

Five things I learned about John Smybert

  • Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1688 and died in Boston in 1751.
  • Considered to be America's First Portrait Painter.
  • Organized Boston's first painting exhibition in 1730.
  • In 1742, John Smybert designed Faneuil Hall. Faneuil Hall was destroyed in a fire in March 1761, it was rebuilt shortly after keeping many of the original designs.
  • He is buried in an unmarked grave at the Granary Burying Ground, Boston, MA.
  • In Colonial times people that couldn't afford their gravestones were buried in unmarked graves. It's possible that John Smibert was a poor man when he died.