Boston blog postings

Boston Postings

Earliest: March 16, 2003Latest: August 17, 2017Total: 184

August 17, 2017

The Ames Building

Between Faneuil Hall and the Old State House is the Ames Boston Hotel. This building is the first skyscraper in the city of Boston.

Things that I learned about the Ames Building.

  • Built in 1891. The first tenant moved in January 5, 1891. (Old Colony Trust Company)
  • The Ames Building is 196 feet high (14 stories) and occupies 93,000+ square foot. For a brief period of time it was the tallest masonry building in the United States. The Monadnock Building in Chicago is the tallest masonry building.
  • Tallest Building in the United States in 1893 was the Milwaukee City Hall at 354 ft.
  • The building was never the tallest structure in Boston, the steeple of the Church of the Covenant has held that honor (236-foot)
  • The Church of the Covenant lost the status in 1915. That's when the Custom House Tower was built in 1915. (The Custom House Tower is a few blocks away from the Ames Building.)
  • In 1889 the Ames Building was estimated to cost $625,000 prior to construction. ( worth $15,376,496.02 in 2015. )
  • Building architect was Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge - who also designed the South Station building and the Trinity Church in Copley Square.
  • Offically listed as a Boston Landmark on November 23, 1993 (Exterior Landmark)
  • Today the Ames Building is called the Ames Boston Hotel. There are 114 luxury rooms available. It's part of the Curio Collection by Hilton Hotels.

Ames Hotel Building 2017
View from the Old State House.

Thanksgiving Day Fire 1889

Four firemen lost their lives in the construction of the Ames Building during a massive "The Thanksgiving Day Fire" on November 28, 1889. The fire was started in the basement of a warehouse about 5 blocks from the Ames Building. The fire destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed fourteen people.

Following firefighters were found dead in the Ames Building:

  • John J. Brooks Jr., Hose Company 7, age 29.
  • Michael Murnan, Hose Company 7, age 34.
  • Daniel J. Buckley, Ladder Company 3, age 31.
  • Frank P. Loker, Ladder Company 3, age 33.
  • Edward E. Whiting

Time Ball

At one time there was a Time Ball on the top of the Ames Building. The ball was used to help mariners entering Boston harbor for the correction of their chronometers. Each day at exactly at noon the ball would be hoisted to the top of the pole on the Ames Building. The ball was put up on December 30, 1902 and taken down on September 7, 1923. It was removed since the invention of radio time signal the service was no longer needed

Sign at the Building

Ames Hotel Sign

The Bostonian Society placed the following marker on the building:

When the thirteen-story Ames Building was completed in 1889, it was the tallest building in Boston. Designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the building exhibits both Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles. The Ames Building was constructed before skyscrapers were built of steel, and instead is supported by nine-foot thick masonry walls. It is considered a great technical achievement of its day, and remains the tallest example of the type of construction in the United States. In 2009, the newly renovated Ames Building reopened as the Ames Hotel.

Location

The Ames Boston Hotel is located at 1 Court Street in Boston's Financial district. It's located directly across the street from the Old State House.

August 10, 2017

Democratic Donkey

In the courtyard of the Old City Hall is a statue of a Donkey and a pair of elephant footprints.

Boston Donkey3a

Interesting things that I learned about the Democratic Donkey

  • Placed in 1998.
  • Created by Antonio Frilli
  • Statue was purchased by Roger Webb while vacationing in Florence, Italy.
  • Roger Webb is the founder of the Architectural Heritage Foundation in Boston and help launch Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide nonprofit historic preservation organization.
  • Roger wanted the statue so that children had a place to play as they walked the Freedom Trail.
  • The City of Boston declined the initial request to install the statue along the Freedom Trail as they felt it wasn't appropriate to install an Italian Donkey.
  • Rodger was able to convince the City when he explained that the Donkey was the symbol of the Democratic Party since the 1840s. The twenty mayors of Old City Hall used the mascot and the Bronze Donkey would be a symbol of that time.
  • The Donkey is looking down at a pair of elephant footprints cast in bronze. (The Republican symbol is in the footprints.)
  • There is a message before the footprint which reads, "Stand in Opposition."
  • The bronze footprints were installed at the request of the Republican Party.
  • The footprints were installed in 2001.

Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant

They were the inventions of Thomas Nast, an illustrator who became America's preeminent political cartoonist. Nast's donkey first appeared as a Democratic party symbol in Harper's Weekly on Jan. 15, 1870. The elephant turned up in Harper's four years later.

August 3, 2017

William H. Sumner

Every day about 20,000 commuters travel through the Sumner tunnel from East Boston to Downtown Boston. Here's some information about the person that the tunnel is named after.

Five General Information Facts about William H. Sumner

  • William Hyslop Sumner was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on July 4, 1780, the
  • In 1789, when he was only 9 years old, William H. Sumner saw President Washington last visit to Boston.
  • He attended Harvard Law School and served as a member of the Great and General Court.
  • He was the Commander of the Massachusetts forces during the War of 1812
  • He was the Adjutant General of Massachusetts from 1818 - 1835 The Adjutant General is a member of the Massachusetts Governor's Cabinet and advises the Governor on military and emergency management matters.
  • He developed East Boston from marshland into a busy seaport.
  • In 1833 he established a ferry service from East Boston to Boston. The service was called "The Sumner Ferry"
  • Wrote several books including the Reminiscences of Lafayette's visit to Boston, History of East Boston, and Some Recollections of Washington's Visit to Boston as well as some others. All of his books are available at the Boston Public Library Central Delivery desk for in-library use only.
  • Died in Jamaica Plain in 1861

Mentioned in Edward M. Kennedy: "Chappaquiddick" speech (Top 100 American Speeches):

The people of this state, the state which sent John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner, and Henry Cabot Lodge, and John Kennedy to the United States Senate are entitled to representation in that body by men who inspire their utmost confidence. For this reason, I would understand full well why some might think it right for me to resign. For me, this will be a difficult decision to make.

July 27, 2017

Copley Outbound T Exit

If you're taking the Green Line from Park Street to Copley Square you end up exiting up the street at a different location than the inbound trains. The outbound trains end up under the intersection of Boylston Street and Dartmouth Street. The inbound train ends up near the Boston Public Library Main Entrance.

What?s tricky is that as you walk through the terminal, there?s no clear indicator on where you appear at street level. This is important because you don?t want to exit to street level and then find that you have to cross the street because you came out of the wrong door.

The exit are separated by Dartmouth Street, and the exits are on opposite sides of the street.

Check out this picture:

Coply Exit
There are no signs to indicate where the exits will take you!

Helpful Tip!

You should go left if you want to go to the Boston Public Library, visit the Boston Marathon Finish Line, Apple Store or the Old South Church. Exit right if you want to go to Copley Square, Trinity Church and CVS.

Perhaps someday the MBTA will put up a sign to help people navigate out of the station properly.

Note: Some people may think this is a silly blog post. But it can be frustrating when you arrive at the station and have no clue on which exit to take.

July 20, 2017

Boston Public Library Bronze Doors

When you enter the Boston Public Library from Copley square you may not have paid attention to the Bronze doors that you walk through.

These doors were created by Daniel Chester French in 1897, about 20 years before he did the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial.

BPLDoors_sm.jpg
Click on image for a larger version.

Five Things that I learned about the doors

  • Each door weighs 1500 pounds.
  • Daniel Chester French was chosen to create the doors by Charles Follen McKim, the Boston Public Library main architect since they worked on eight other projects together.
  • The figures on the doors represent Music and Poetry, Knowledge and Wisdom, and Truth and Romance.
  • The Center door, Knowlege and Wisdom, is the one that is always open.
  • The door sayings are written in old Latin, Old Latin used V for capitals and U for lower case.

It took a while for each door panel to be completed:

  • 1897 - Truth and Romance (Right)
  • 1898 - Knowledge and Wisdom (Center)
  • 1902 - Music and Poetry (Left)

Door Sayings

SVCG Sweet Compulsion Does in Music Lie To Lull the Daughters of Necessity and Keep Unsteady Nature to Her Law
True Poetry is Like the Loadstone Which Both Attracts the Needle and Supplies it With Magnetic Power

There is in Wisdom a spirit subtil, clear in utterance, loving what is good, pure, stedfast.
By Knowledge Shall, the Chambers Be Filled with all Precious and pleasant riches. (Proverbs 24:4)

Truth is The Strength and The Kingdom and The Power and the Majesty of all Ages A Romance to Rede and Drive the Night Away from me thought it Better Play than Either at Chesse or Tables

July 13, 2017

Bova's Bakery

Most people that visit the North End usually end up eating dessert at Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry. Both places are extremely popular and quite often you'll find long lines that overflow onto Hanover Street.

Next time you're in the North End and want a dessert to treat to try - Bova's Bakery. It's usually a lot less crowded and pretty much has the same food selection.

Bova's Bakery is a Family-owned bake shop, opened in 1932, offering up delicious loaves of bread, cookies & sandwiches 24 hours a day.

Description from their website:

Visit us and celebrate a family history made around the oven. North Enders will tell you, there's nothing quite so comforting as walking home in the early morning with a warm loaf of bread carefully cradled in the crook of your arm. Once home, you sit down at the kitchen table, sneak the butter from the fridge, and open a jar of jam. With mounting anticipation, you prepare for a delicious breakfast.

Photos

BovasBakeryOutsidesm.jpg
Click on image for a larger version.

Bovas Inside
Not always crowded like some of the popular bakeries on Hanover Street.

Misc Bova's Bakery Info

Anthony Martignetti, of the Prince Spaghetti Boy commercial from the 1970s, worked at Bova's Bakery at night

You can see Bova"s Bakery in the Fever Pitch Movie. The main character lived right upstairs.

Food Selection

I have found that they have a better selection of desserts than Mikes Pastry. I have enjoyed their homemade Italian cookies and fig bars.

I don't have a go-to item, I just browse around and see what looks good.

Bova`s Bakery has sandwiches and pizza too, which I keep thinking of having but the desert treats are a meal in themselves.

The Whoopie Pie is really good, kids will enjoy the character versions such as Cookie Monster.

Hours

Always Open - Open 24 hours!

According to Google, the most popular time is between 6 and 9, but the bakery does appear to get considerable amount of late night traffic.

Popular Times

Location

Bova's Bakery, located at the intersection of Prince Street and Salem Street. The Street address for Google/GPS is 134 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113

It's a quick 10-minute drive from Logan Airport via Taxi. Which is good to know if you have some layover time and want to grab some great Italian food.

July 6, 2017

Boston Museum of Science Notables

The Boston Museum of Science has a lot of fun and interesting exhibits. Many of them are interactive which makes it fun to learn.

With all various exhibits to see, there are a few which you may miss. Here are a couple that I think are pretty interesting :

Dinosaur Coprolite

Boston Coprolite

Have you ever touched Dinosaur Poop? Well you can at the Boston Museum of Science.

My six-year-old daughter always gets a kick out of the Dinosaur poop. We joke about it as we drive to the museum:

Poop Conversation

The "poop" is several million years old and is just a fossil remain. So touching it is just like touching any rock.

There is a sign next to fossilized remain to let you know what it is:

The photograph below is a magnified slice from the coprolite, fossilized dinosaur "poop". From the evidence, we can figure out the coprolite is from a plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period. You can observe the cell structure from some of the indigested plant material.

Every time we go she feels that she has to take a picture of me touching the poop.

You can find the Dinosaur poop along the back wall in the Dinosaur Area on the first floor,

Giant Sequoia Tree

Giant Sequoia

There is a large tree cross-section in the main exhibit area. This was once part of a 2000+-year-old tree.

There is a sign in front of the cross-section of the tree:

The cross-section is from a Giant Sequoia that was cut down in 1950 in Sequoia National Park, CA after being badly damaged. It was 240 feet tall and 2044 years old. The gap on the upper right was caused by a fire hundreds of years ago. Sequoias are well-adapted to withstand fire: they are covered by a thick, fibrous bark that has very little flammable resin. The tree survived and kept growing as the two sides curved around to protect the exposed wood.

Imagine all the winter storms and droughts that the tree had to live through over the past couple of centuries.

There are 9 points on the Giant Sequoia Tree that the museum highlights. You can press a button to see the year on the tree ring:

  • 95 BCE - Tree started to grow
  • 1 CE - The start of the Gregorian Calendar
  • 476 - End of the Roman Empire
  • 1000 - Leif Ericsson arrived in North America
  • 1495 - Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper
  • 1610 - Galileo discovered moons around Jupiter
  • 1775 - Industrial Revolution begins in Britain
  • 1833 - Giant Sequoia discovered by Europeans
  • 1940 - Research into the technology to develop the Nuclear bomb.

The Giant Sequoia is one of Michael Bloomberg favorite exhibits at the museum. Last year he donated $50 million to the Boston Science Museum.

Locating the Giant Sequoia

It's not hard to miss the Giant Sequoia tree, its located in the main hall between the bathrooms and the back staircase.

Did you know: If you're interested in starting your own giant sequoia tree, you can purchase a starter kit in the museum gift shop. Just ask someone in the store if you need help finding it.

June 29, 2017

Senator Charles Sumner Statue

In the Boston Public Gardens, along Boylston Street, are four bronze statues on granite pedestals that have stood as a group for more than eighty years.

The first statue to be placed on this path is simply labeled, 'Sumner.' This is a statue of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner.

Today's post is about Senator Charles Sumner.

Charles Sumner Statue

Five things that I learned about the Charles Sumner Statue

  • Statue was unveiled on December 23, 1878 (4 years, 9 months, 13 days after Charles Sumner died)
  • The face of the statue is faccing towards the Four Season Hotel on Boylston Street.
  • There is a small inscription "Tomas Bell Sc. 1877" near the right foot. (This is a typical artist signature)
  • There are No quotes or Inscriptions on the granite other than the last name on the Statue.
  • Charles Sumner is holding a scroll - which I assume characterize his devotion to his work in the Senate.
  • There are three lights around the statue, two in the front and one in the back. So the status will be visible at night.

Ten General Information Facts about Charles Sumner

  • Born in Boston on January 6, 1811 and lived on Irving Street on Beacon Hill
  • Attended Boston Latin School and graduated Harvard in 1830
  • Republican Senator from Massachusetts from April 24, 1851 to March 11, 1874
  • Had strong anti-slavery views.
  • On May 22, 1856, He was attacked with a cane in the Senate by Preston Brooks after Charles Sumner suggested that Kansas should enter the Union as a free state.
  • Introduced the the 13th Amendment to the Senate in 1864
  • Fought hard for the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, when the Senate Acquitted Johnson, Charles Sumner wanted to try again.
  • Died in Washington DC on March 11, 1874 (Age 63)
  • Buried at Mount Ardburn Cemetery
  • Papers of Charles Sumner can be found in Microfilm in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square

Controversy over the Charles Sumner Statue

In 1876, the Boston Art Committee put out a formal notice that they were looking for a statue design for Charles Sumner to be placed in the Boston Public Gardens. They held a contest at the Old State House with several prominent designers showcasing their statue idea.

After much consideration, the committee picked the design done by Anne Whitney in a blind competition. However, when she went to collect her reward they rejected the design since the sculptor was a woman. The committee didn't like the idea of women designing a man's leg.

The committee then selected Thomas Ball designed instead. (Anne Whitney still kept the prize money.)

In 1902, the version of the statue Anne Whitney's created was placed in a small park across from Harvard University in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Anne Whitney got the last laugh as her version of Charles Sumner statue is seen far more than Thomas Ball version.

Fighting for Civil Rights

Charles Sumner fought hard for Civil Rights. One of the last bills he introduced to the Senate was a civil rights bill to guarantee to all citizens, regardless of color, "equal and impartial enjoyment of any accommodation, advantage, facility, or privilege." On his death bed he asked Frederick Douglas - "Don't let the bill fail!" and "You must take care of [my] civil-rights bill."

The Civil Right Act of 1865 passed on March 1, 1865, almost a year to the day that Charles Sumner died. The act was also known as the Butler-Sumner Act.

However, seven years later the Supreme Court threw out the Civil Rights Act of 1875 in four rulings: United States v. Stanley; United States v. Ryan; United States v. Nichols; United States v. Singleton; Robinson et ux. v. Memphis & Charleston R.R. Co.

It would be another 80 years before Congress could pass a civil rights act.

East Boston Sumner Tunnel

The tunnel between East Boston and Boston is called the Sumner Tunnel. However, it's named after William H. Sumner and not Charles Sumner.

William H. Sumner was responsible for building up East Boston, that's why the Tunnel is named after him. Charles Sumner had nothing to do with East Boston.

Both men did live around the same time, but they are not related.

Locating The Statue

The statue is located in the Boston Public Gardens along Boylston Street.

At the corner of Arlington and Boylston take the right most path in the Public Gardens. It will be the first statue on your left.

Tip: You can get some nice pictures of the Swan Boats from this location.

June 25, 2017

Red Bear on David Ortiz Bridge

This summer, as you walk to Fenway Park from Kenmore Square, if you look down on the sidewalk you may see a strange red character:

Red Dancing Bear

This has nothing to do with the Boston Red Sox, it?s actually the Grateful Dead Dancing Bear. Apparently, a fan painted it on the sidewalk.

The Dancing Bear is as much a part of the Grateful Dead experience as the Steal Your Face logo or the Skull and Roses design. Artist Bob Thomas' Dancing Bear is on just about every Grateful Dead T-Shirt.

Fenway Park Summer Concert Series

Fenway Park has a very busy summer, aside from the usual baseball fun.

  • June 17,18 Dead & Company
  • July 8 - New Kids On The Block With Paula Abdul & Boyz II Men
  • August 11 - James Taylor with with special guest Bonnie Raitt
  • August 30 - Billy Joel
  • September 1, 2 - Lady Gaga

June 22, 2017

Elm Trees at the Shaw Memorial

Have you ever walked around in the Boston Commons near the Park Street station and looked over at the State House building. Have you wondered why you can't see the State House building? In the summer you can only see the top of the gold dome.

What are those ugly trees there? Why don't they just cut them down and let everyone see the beautiful State House building?

State House Trees

Oldest Elms Trees on the Commons

Those ugly trees are confirmed to be the Oldest Elms trees in the Northeast.

In 1780 John Hancock sought permission to plant trees in the park across his residence on Beacon Hill. The city of Boston agreed with his request

Yes, that John Hancock. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence and who later became the first governor of Massachusetts. Not to mention that he played a critical role in the revolutionary war. He planted those trees that you see at the Shaw Memorial.

Tree experts estimated that they were planted sometime between 1772 and 1812. I believe that the trees were planted someplace else and then transported to the Boston Gardens in 1780.

This year the set of trees will be at least 237 years old.

Elm Shaw

Great Elm of the Boston Commons vs The Elm at the Shaw Memorial

Last year I wrote about the famous Great Elms of the Boston Gardens. Nobody knows exactly when that tree was planted, and by whom. (Some say it was planted by Capt. Daniel Henchman in 1670)

When the Great Elm of the Boston Commons came down in 1875 it was estimated to be about 206 years old.

The Shaws Memorial Elms is currently at least 237 years old. (Based on being planted on 1780 ) This makes it the oldest Elm on the Boston Commons.

This means that the Oldest tree in the Boston Commons is the set of Elm Trees around the Shaw Memorial.

While researching about the trees in the Commons and Gardens, I did learn that there is another tree that is older in the Public Gardens. Public Gardens officials have not disclosed which tree it is so that no harm will come to that tree.

Elm Trees are in a Music Sheet from 1830

In a Illustrated music sheet cover from 1830, you can see the three Elm Trees right in front of the State House. This was done about 50 years after the trees were planted.

You can see the small trees growing up in front of the State House.

1830 Music Sheet

Special Care

Since the 1970s these trees have received the VIP treatment. The special tree experts check out the trees every couple of weeks and make sure that they are doing well.

Bricks were placed in one of the trees to keep the tree stable and to prevent any damage to the inside of the tree.

There was concern about the trees when the Shaw Memorial was built in xxx. The memorial has actually helped prolong the tree's life by protecting the tree from tree diseases that have killed many Elm trees in the Public Gardens.

Check Out the Trees

Summer Winter
View of the trees from Park Street Station in the Winter and the Summer.

The trees are located on Beacon Street directly across the Massachusetts State House.