Boston blog postings

Boston Postings

Earliest: March 16, 2003Latest: November 16, 2017Total: 197

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.

October 5, 2017

Boston Neck 2017

The Boston Neck was a small strip of land connecting the mainland to the then-peninsular city of Boston. Over the years the area was filled in as the City of Boston popular grew.

The Boston Neck was an important part of the American Revolution as the British closed the access way into the City of Boston. This was part of the British Seize of Boston April 19, 1775 - March 17, 1776.

1775 Boston Neck Map

William Dawes Journey

On the night of April 18, 1775, William Dawes snuck pass the checkpoint and rode south to warn the British were coming. Paul Revere avoids the checkpoint by crossing the Charles River by rowboat. Both patriots would meet up in Lexington and continued their journey to Concord.

The Gallows

Nearby the Boston Neck is where criminals, religious rebels, and other Colonial-era offenders were publicly hanged. Many published reports that hangings were done at the Boston Commons. This is probably because the area where the hanging was done was called the "Commons Land."

The bodies were then dumped or buried nearby, reportedly leaving unhappy ghosts to haunt the surrounding neighborhood.

Boston Neck in 2017

There are no markers to indicate where the Boston Neck was. Historians that are looking for the exact location will find this overlay map very handy:

Old Map Gallows

The neck was located between Peter's Park and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The only thing that shows the history of the area is at the Union Park Street (Silver Line MBTA station). There's a couple of permanent wall posters of this history of the area.

Boston Neck Oct2017

There is a small park nearby, Peter's Park, where a statue or monument could be placed on the history of the location. Perhaps something to mark William Dawes contribution to the American Revolution.

What do you think? Should the city of Boston put a historical monument about the Boston Neck?

September 28, 2017

Massachusetts State House Library

The Boston State House is a great place for tourists to learn about the History of Massachusetts.

The State House tours are free and its a great way to learn about the historic building. One location not on the tour is the State House Library. (I suspect this is because people are asked to be quiet in the library.)

The library is open to the public, you don't need to be a researcher to visit the State House Library. If visiting Bates Hall at the Boston Public Library is on your agenda then I would recommend checking the State House Library.

State House Library

Six Things I Learned about the State House Library

  • Open in 1826. 40 years before the Smithsonian and 20 years after the Library of Congress opened.
  • In the current location since 1890
  • The Library is named after George Fingold who was the Attorney General of the Commonwealth from 1953 to 1956.
  • The official symbol is a half circle stain glass window. You can purchase unique souvenir items at the library desk. (You contribution helps support the library.)
  • You need a library card to use the computers. There are computers on the first and second floor.
  • To get a Library Card you need to be employed by the Legislative or Executive Branch. Unfortunately, the general public isn?t allowed to use the computers.

Stain Glass Ceiling

When you're in the library, look up at the stain glass ceiling. You will notice three distinct years on the glass:

Stain Glass Ceiling

  • 1620 - Plymouth Plantation is founded
  • 1775 - A New Nation is formed. The declaration of Independence is signed.
  • 1861 - The start of the Civil War.

I had to ask the Librarian on what the significance of 1861. I thought it might be when the State House was moved. She told me that it?s there to remember the start of the Civil War. (The State House was moved from the Old State House in 1798)

Temporary Exhibits

The State House Library has temporary exhibits to highlight some of its collection. They are now showcasing Massachusetts Symbols, such as the official State Cookie and the Official State Book.

Find out what the: Official Sport, Recreational and Team Sport, State Berry, State Bean, State Beverage, State Groundhog, State Cat and many more!

Some future Massachusetts State Symbols under consideration: Country Song, Seasoning, Shellfish, Textile, Cupcake, Patriotic Song and more.

Mass Symbol Displays

The exhibit will be on display until the end of the year.

Visiting the State House Library

The State House library is located in the back of the State House on the third floor. From Monument Court, go up the Grand Staircase and turn left. Keep walking until you see the State House door.

The Temporary Exhibits are outside of the State House Library.

September 21, 2017

Union Oyster House

The Union Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the second oldest in the United States. The restaurant opened in 1826 and continues to be a favorite for locals and tourists.

Union Oyster House

Ten Things I learned about the Union Oyster House

Some things that I learned about this historic establishment.

  1. Hawes Atwood founded the oyster house on October 7, 1826
  2. The establishment had various names over the years:
    • 1826 -1842 - Atwood's Oyster House
    • 1842 -1860 - Atwood & Hates
    • 1880 - 1916 - Atwood & Bacon
    • 1916 - 2018 - Union Oyster House
  3. The Atwood family were the original owners and owned the place for 87 years. Other Owners over the years:
    • 1826 - 1913 - ( 87 Years ) Atwood Family
    • 1913 - 1927 - Fitzgerald Family
    • 1927 - 1970 - ( 57 Years ) Fred L. Greaves
    • 1970 - current (47+ Years) Mr. Joseph A. Milano, Jr., and Ms. Mary Ann Milano Picardi.
  4. Formed as a corporation in March 9, 1914 by Fred L. Greaves, Charles A. Ross and John D. Marks for $5,000.
  5. The "Old Oyster Bar" inside the restaurant is the orginal one which was built in 1826.
  6. James Farren was one of the original Oyster openers. He was a champion long-distance oyster opener over the 55 years he opened approximately 6,000,000 oysters.
  7. In 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression, the Union Oyster House expanded by opening a second-floor dining room capable of seating an additional 50 customers. In 1941, the oyster house opened three new dining rooms on the second floor and installed a new kitchen and bakery with all new cooking and dishwashing equipment
  8. The large sign on the top of the Union Oyster House has been there since 1957. The street level sign outside of the building has been there since 1956.
  9. Kennedy Booth - Upstairs is where you'll find Booth 18. That is where John F. Kennedy ate at the Union Oyster House. (It was his favorite restaurant) Senator Edward Kennedy would also eat at the same booth.

    Sign reads:

    Kennedy Sign

  10. Listed as part of the National Historical Landmark in 2003. Only the main building is considered a landmark, the expansion done in 1941 doesn't count as part of the National Historical Landmark. The Landmark sign outside is on the building that is designated as a landmark.
  11. On November 28, 191, Frank Kelleher ate a total of 120 oysters at Union Oyster House, breaking the previous record of 84 oysters eaten by a Harvard student in 1916. He accomplished this in 2 hours and 15 minutes. (He would have kept going but his friends convinced him that it wasn't necessary.)

Building History

The building that occupied by the Union Oyster House was built in 1714 and has been an oyster house since 1826. Before that, it was a dry goods store wherein 1769 Benjamin Thompson, conducted early experiments with gunpowder and pressure cabinets.

The building also serves as headquarters for revolutionary movements. Between 1771 and 1775 Isaac Rogers published there the famed Revolutionary "Massachusetts Spy"

Daniel Webster Sign:
The Original U-Shaped Mahogany Oyster Bar where Daniel Webster was a Constant Customer. He Drank a Tall Tumbler of Brandy and Water with Each Half Dozen Oysters and Seldom had less than Six Plates

September 14, 2017

John Winthrop Statue

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was an English Puritan lawyer and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He served twelve terms as Governor between 1630 and 1649 and he was one of the founders of the First Church in Boston, which was established in 1630.

John Winthrop died in 1649 and is buried at the King's Burial Grounds.

In 1880, the City of Boston commissioned a statue of John Winthrop and put it in Scollay Square at the 250th anniversary of the founding of Boston. (September 17, 1880)

The statue was moved in 1904 as the area was being refitted for the new MTA subway station. Scollay Square was renamed Government Center. The statue ended up in front of the First Church in Boston.

John Winthrop

Twelve things I learned about John Winthrop and the statue

  • The bronze statue was done by Alessandro Nelli in 1880.
  • The statue is 7' by 2.5' by 2.25' on top of a 4' by 8' concrete base.
  • The face is based on the Vandyke Portrait which is now on display at the Harvard Art Museum.
  • This is bronze statue is a replica of a marble statue that is located in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building which was done by Richard Saltonstall Greenough in 1876.
  • Congress allowed Massachusetts to have two statues in the Capital Building Statuary Hall. The other statue representing Massachusetts is Samuel Adams. John Winthrop beat other historical notables such as John Hancock and Paul Revere.
  • The John Winthrop statue was on display in the vestibule of the Boston Athenaeum for four years before being placed in Scollay Square.
  • The statue shows John Winthrop holding the Bible in his right hand - close to his heart. In the left hands are the scrolls to the Massachusetts Charter. The body is position as if he is about to step off the "Arbella" to the New World
  • To the side is a tree stump with a rope around it - holding the vessel to the wharf.
  • In 1968, the statue was damaged in a major fire was at the First Church. Part of the building hit the statue and the head fell off. The head was never recovered and mysteriously disappeared.
  • The statue was removed from the site for repairs and was placed back in 1975. The original head was never found.
  • There are two sculpture signatures on the statue: R J Greenough Sculp 1873 and Alessandro Nelli 1880
  • In 1974, a request was made to move the statue to Winthrop Square in Boston's Financial District. (People thought it was weird to have a square named "Winthrop" without a proper statue.) The First Church declined the offer. The owners of the square eventually settled on the Scottish Poet Robert Burns who wrote the famous poem "Auld Lang Syne."

Note: I was able to figure out that Alessandro Nelli worked on the statue even though nobody gives him credit. His signature is on the back of the statue. His work on this statue isn't even mentioned on the Wikipedia page.

Some John Winthrop Notable Firsts

American Slave Trade

The first documented reference to the slave trade in Massachusetts is the journal of John Winthrop (the founder of Boston), who recorded on 26 February 1638 that the Massachusetts ship Desire had returned from the West Indies carrying "some cotton, and tobacco, and negroes, etc., from thence..."

UFO Sighting

John Winthrop has the earliest recorded written record of a UFO in America. In 1639, Boston Founder and Governor John Winthrop made a peculiar entry in his journal. Within, he describes how several sober men spotted an unusual object in the sky that shone as a great light. The object was large and moved across the night sky that suddenly took on the shape of a pig.

Finding the John Winthrop Statue

The statue located near the corner of Marlboro and Berkley Street in the Boston's Back Bay. (299 Berkeley Street, Boston MA)