Boston blog postings

Boston Postings

Earliest: March 16, 2003Latest: April 27, 2017Total: 167

December 8, 2016

Symphony Hall

Holiday Pops at Symphony Hall

For many Bostonian's the Holiday Pops is a popular annual tradition, this year marks the 43rd year of celebrating Christmas music. Tickets are extremely hard to get, and usually sell out within hours of going on sale.

The show features many popular Christmas songs, as Keith Lockhart conducts the orchestra and encourages the crowd to sing-a-long. The crowd favorite was the 12 days of Christmas and the singers add a bit of humor to the classic song.

We sat on the first balcony near the stage and enjoyed the music and watching Keith Lockhart. We highly recommend sitting between rows 1 - 20 on the first balcony. The nice thing about the balcony is that kids can see the performance because there's no obstruction view. If you sit at the tables on the orchestra floor you can't see the all the orchestra clearly.

Camera and recording equipment are prohibited in Symphony Hall during concerts. However, there were plenty of guests that were taking pictures of the performance using their smartphones.

Holiday Pops2016
View from the First Balcony, Seat 10

Fun Facts about the Boston Symphony Hall

  • Located at 301 Massachusetts Ave
  • Symphony Hall opened on October 15, 1900 with a performace of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis"
  • The Building was Designed by McKim, Mead and White
  • McKim, Mead and White also designed Boston Public Library five years earlier
  • Symphony Hall was the first American Hall to have scientific acoustic planning.
  • Harvard Professor Wallace C. Sabine did the acoustical research
  • President Eisenhower spoke at the National Council of Catholic Women in 1954
  • 1,000 Navy Inducts were sworn in at Symphony Hall in 1942
  • Holiday Pops started in 1973 and was first called "A Pops Christmas Party."
  • Arthur Fiedler was the first conductor to lead Holiday Pops.
  • The hall has served other types of events such as civic observances as various conventions, political meetings, commencements, inaugurations, religious worship, debates, flower shows, fashion shows, automobile shows, ball and banquets.

Event Parking at the Prudential Garage

The Holiday Pops is considered a Special Event and qualifies for discount parking. This means that the Prudential garage is the best place to park for the Holiday Pops.

The parking situation at the Prudential has recently changed to now include automatic checkout. I inquired to the Prudential parking staff on how to take advantage of the discount parking with the new changes.

This is the response I received:

I apologize for the confusion regarding your inquiry for the Symphony Hall special event rate. It has been confirmed that parking attendants will be at garage exists through the end of the year to assist with these programs. You will simply need to surrender your ticket stub upon leaving the garage to receive the reduced rate. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Make sure when you exit the garage to call over the attendant to get your parking discount. Failure to do so will result in a higher parking rate.

Prudental Garage Special Event Rate

Valid for evening and weekend events only, at Symphony Hall, Berklee, Huntington Theater, Jordan Hall
Special $18.00 Event Rate
Enter after 2:00 p.m. Mon-Fri
Enter after 7:00 a.m. Weekends
Exit by 3:00 a.m.
Customer must surrender ticket event stub at garage exit

Symphony Hall is a 5-minute walk from the Prudential Center.

December 1, 2016

Prudential Skywalk Observatory

Sky Walk Marb

One of the best views of Boston is from the 50th floor of the Prudential Building. That's where you'll find the Skywalk Observatory - Boston's only 360 city view.

Along with the amazing view of Boston are several interactive exhibits that will inform you about the history of Boston. Some of the exhibits that you'll see when you're walking around the floor:

  • Interactive Multimedia Exhibits, including a "Who wants to be an American Citizen?" Which features ten real citizenship question in a Jeopardy-type format.
  • Multimedia Theater - A state-of-the-art movie theater, which continually runs two short films: "Wings Over Boston," an up-close feel of the entire city, and "Dreams of Freedom," a multimedia journey through time.
  • Boston Immigration - Learn how immigrants came to Boston. See example items that people would pack in their crates as they made their journey to America.

Fun Facts about the Prudential SkyWalk

  • The Prudential Tower is 750 feet tall, 150 feet wide and 178 feet long.
  • The Observatory is 50 stories above ground. (740 feet)
  • It takes 30 seconds, via elevator, to get to the 50-story observation. This means the elevator is traveling 24 ft/s (feet per second)
  • When the Skywalk first opened on April 19, 1965, people waited in line up to four hours to get to the top.
  • The ticket booth in the Prudential Mall, near Dunkin Donuts, will let you know the current visibility. In addition, you can also go up to the 50th floor and see the visibility before deciding to purchase tickets.
  • When you get off of the elevator and walk to the ticket booth, the first view you see is Cambridge.
  • Mt. Wachusetts is visible from the Prudential Skywalk.
  • On a clear day, you can see the mountains of New Hampshire and far into the South Shore.
  • There is a penny souvenir machine - bring quarters and pennies if you collect Penny Souvenirs.
  • The four telescopes around the floor take 2 quarters and worth it if you would like a close up views of faraway points. There is a little step so that little ones can see through the telescope.
  • The 500,000 visitor was greeted on a ceremony on September 2, 1965 - 135 days after the SkyView opened.
  • In 1980, it cost $1.75 to access the Observatory.
  • Prudential garage can hold 3,500 automobiles.

When to Visit

Visit in the afternoon if you looking for views/pictures of Fenway Park, Metro West and Back Bay

Visit in the morning if you want good pictures of Downtown Boston. Otherwise, you may end up seeing the Prudential shadow in your pictures.

Prudential Boston
Downtown Boston from the Skywalk Observatory at 3pm on November 11, 2016.

November 24, 2016

Christmas Tree from Halifax

The Halifax Explosion occurred in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the morning of December 6, 1917. SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship fully loaded with wartime explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin.

The low-speed collision caused a series of chain reactions that resulted in a fast moving fire on the SS Mont-Banc. The fire caused a ignited the cargo on the SS Mont-Banc, causing a large explosion that devastated the seaport district of Halifax. Nearly 2,000 people were killed by blast and collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured.

Boston Assistance

As soon as the news hit Boston, locals scrambled to send help to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Within 24-hours after the accident, a train was loaded up with medical supplies and was sent up north. Unfortunately, a major snow storm hit and the train was delayed and didn't arrive until December 9th.

The train arrived in Halifax just in time as supplies were badly needed, in addition, the medical staff on the train was able to cover for many of those that were working since the explosion occurred.

Nova Scotia Starts a Tradition

Nine years after the incident, the city of Halifax sent a Christmas in appreciation of the support by the people of Boston. The tree was also a way to promote Christmas Tree exports from Nova Scotia. The annual gift was soon taken over by the Nova Scotia Government as a way to promote the goodwill gesture and to promote Nova Scotia to Boston.

Christmas Tree Timeline

Here's the timeline that happens every year:

  • June/July - Scouts look for the perfect tree to send to Boston. Halifax residences can submit their tree.
  • November 14th - Tree is cut down in a large tree cutting ceremony
  • November 16th - Tree leaves Halifax to Boston in a Grand Parade. (750 Miles to Boston)
  • November 21st - Tree arrives in Boston
  • December 1st - Tree lighting Ceremony at the Boston Commons.

Christmas Tree Requirements

There are certain requirements for the Christmas Tree, as not just any tree will do:

  • Attractive Balsam Fir
  • White Spruce or Red Spruce
  • 12 to 16 Meters tall (40 to 50 feet)
  • Very healthy with excellent color
  • Medium to heavy Density
  • Uniform and Symmetrical
  • Easy to Access

Halifax Christmas Tree Fun Facts

This year marks the 99th of the Halifax Explosion.

It cost Nova Scotia $250,000 (Canada) a year to send a tree to Boston.

The Nova Scotia CA story has a complete cost breakdown of the true cost of sending the tree to Boston.

Most of the Christmas trees come from the open land and not from Christmas Tree farms. Landowners that agree to give up their tree get some compensation, last year a family was paid $500.

An average Balsam Tree grows less than 12" a year. Which means that a qualified Balsam Fir would have to have been planted at least 40 years ago to be eligible for Boston.

Nova Scotia pays for the lighting ceremony in Boston.

November 17, 2016

Boston's Old City Hall

Old Boston City Hall

At the corner of Washington and State Street is Massachusetts Old State House building.

History of the Building

The building played an important part of the history of the United States. The Boston Massacre happened in front of the building on March 5, 1770. The Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in Boston to a crowd on July 18th, 1776. After the Revolution, the building was the location of the Massachusetts State government.

It served as Boston City Hall (1830 - 1841) and as a commercial building (1841-1881).

Since 1881 the building has been a museum run by the Bostonian Society.

The Queen of England gave a speech on the famous balcony on July 4, 1976.

Will Kids enjoy the Museum?

Youth (6-18) are free, so there's nothing to lose by taking them to the Old State House.

There are a couple of rooms on the second floor where my five-year daughter had some fun in.

In the "State Room" there are some puzzles to put together. Kids can try to rebuild the Old City Hall with a tall puzzle, build a wall using soft bricks and try to piece together an old photo.

In the "Old State House: A Hands-on History" room kids can draw a small picture and then hang it on the wall. There are story books to read all about Boston history at a kids size table. Kids can re-create the process of having to fix the clock.

Average time in the museum is about 45 minutes, it depends on how much you're into Boston history and if you take the tour.

Souvenir Shop

The souvenir shop has lots of goodies for kids. There are lots of colonial period items such as a feather pen and scrolls. On this trip, we picked up a large pencil since it's similar to the one she uses at school.

You do not have to go to the museum to visit the gift shop, so if your walking by the Old State House it's worth just stopping by for some unique Boston Souvenirs. Your purchase supports the museum, so it's for a good cause. (There's a good selection of Boston coffee mugs if you're looking something for the office.)

Bathroom

Parents with kids are always concern about bathrooms...

In the basement is a bathroom that was reasonably clean, you do have to purchase museum tickets to use the bathroom. It's a good pit stop if you're heading towards downtown crossing or the commons since good bathrooms are hard to find.

Personal Experience

My five-year-old daughter had a fun time learning about history at the museum. She enjoyed learning about how colonial chairs were made, sitting at the head of the table, looking at the old clothes and seeing history up close. She had a fun time with the puzzles and was excited to put up a drawing on the board with her name.

November 10, 2016

Charles Hilgenhurst Medallion

How the recent renovation at the Government Center MBTA station killed a view of a Boston landmark.

Between King Burial Grounds and Granary Burying Ground is a small medallion on the sidewalk pavement. The medallion is a bit hidden and is probably missed by many tourists walking between King Burial Grounds and Boston Commons.

Here is a picture of the medallion that is in front of the Omni Parker House:

Charles Hilgenhurst

The inscription reads:

Friend - Look Up And See The North Church Tower Where Were Shown Two Lantern Lights On The Night Of April 18, 1775, To Send Paul Revere On His Famous Ride And Begin The American Revolution. This View Preserved For All Future Generations By Charles Hilgenhurst And Colleagues Of The Boston Redevelopment Authority In The Year 1960

March 21, 2016

Today when you look up towards the King Burial Grounds, to see The North Church Tower, this is what you see:

North Church Tower

When the MBTA redesigned the Government Center back in 2014, they added a 40-foot glass structure. However, didn't take into account blocking the North Church Tower. You can still see part of the church through the glass structure, but the view is definitely blocked. At night, the glass structure is blue, which would completely prevent you from seeing the Church tower.

I wasn't able to find any information on why Charles Hilgenhurst wanted the view to be visible from the Omni Parker House. There isn't any document online or at the Boston Public Library about installing the medallion.

Locating the Marker

The medallion is located 3,580.80 feet (1091.43 meters) from the The North Church.

The medallion is located on Boylston Street, near the intersection of School Street. The GPS coordinates is: 42.357675, -71.060633

November 3, 2016

Boston Radio Graphic

This week's post highlights some of Boston most popular radio stations. I created a reference chart to where you can find those stations on the dial.

Top Three Stations

WROR, Boston's Greatest Hits Station, continues to dominate the Boston radio market. Month after Month they are what Bostonians are listing to all day.

WMJX, Magic 106.7, is a mass appeal radio station that plays songs that have stood the test of time, along with the best new music in the contemporary arena today. You?ll hear Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Pink and Elton John?it?s the best variety anytime!

Boston is a huge sports town and people like to talk sports over local politics. WBZ, the Sports Hub, and WEEI are neck and neck fighting to entertain their listeners.

General Talk Radio is very limited in the Boston Market. It seems that WRKO is that last of the major stations to survive.

Radio Dial Graphic

RadioPromo.jpg
Click on image for a larger version.

Download Boston's Radio Graphic to discover where the top 13 stations are on the radio dial. This is useful if you're setting up the station memory slots on your car radio.

If you want a higher resolution copy for print, let me know and I'll send you a high-quality PDF version.

I'll update the graphic anytime there are major changes to any of the stations.

Blogging Notes

For those that were disappointed about not learning anything about Boston's history. We'll go back to exploring various sites around Boston - next week.

If you have any site that you want featured, let me know!

October 27, 2016

Central Burial Grounds

In Boston, there are four major cemeteries that opened during the Colonial period.

Place Years in Operation Number of Interments
King Chapel 1630 - 1660 1,500 people
Old Granary Burial Ground 1660 - 1856 5,000 people
Copp's Hill Burying Ground 1659 - 1968 10,000 people
Central Burial Grounds 1756 - 1836 5,000 people

The one that is most likely to be haunted is the Central Burial Grounds. That is because of a couple of major events that have happened at the cemetery.

Brief History of the Grounds

The need for a third burial grounds came about because of the continued growth of the city of Boston. It was established on the Boston Common in 1756. It is located on Boylston Street between Tremont Street and Charles Street.

The grounds were actually not all that desire of a place because it was further away from the main part of the city. Many of the city poor were buried here. Many children were buried here.

British Soldiers

During the occupation of Boston, the British buried their dead in the Central Burial Grounds. They either died in combat or as a result of disease during the occupation of Boston, and the various battles around the city.

First Disturbance - Boylston Street Expansion

In 1836, Boston Mayor Samuel Armstrong requested extending Boylston Street to connect with Tremont Street. As a result, a considerable part of the cemetery had to be eliminated and a row of tombs had to be moved to make room for the street.

The tombs were relocated in a long barrow, which is called the "The Dell."

The Dell Location
The Dell at the Central Burial Grounds.

Second Disturbance - The Subway Construction

In 1894, when the Tremont Street Subway was under construction, burials were discovered in the area near the cemetery. These were reinterred in a mass grave within the bounds of the burying ground.

Many of the 900 bodies that were found were the British soldiers who died during the Boston occupation 100 years earlier.

The mass grave has a slate table and three boundary stones to mark the spot of those that were relocated.

Grave Yard

There were a couple of strange events that happened near the cemetery after the two disturbances.

Tremont Street Gas Explosion

On March 4, 1897, a gas explosion took place just a few feet from the Central Burial Grounds. In all six people were killed and at least sixty were injured. All the buildings in the area were shaken and windows in the area were broken.

The total damage cost, other than the loss of six people, was $10,000. (Equivalent to $287,196.15 in 2015) Most of that was for all the broken windows in the buildings.

At the time there was a well-known issue with a gas leak at the Boylston as many people reported the strong gas smell to the gas company. The gas company was negligent for not responding in time.

However, since it happened near the cemetery and shortly after the move of many graves, some think that a paranormal event occurred.

Emerson College Construction Collapse

In 2006, a horrific accident occurred during construction at the Emerson Dormitory building on Boylston Street. This was the first building being constructed opposite the cemetery in roughly 80 years.

On April 6, 2006, a large scaffold collapsed, and three people tragically lost their lives. An investigation went into the accident and discovered that it was a worker procedure error that caused the crane to collapse.

Girl Without a face

There is a ghost story around the Central Burying Ground where a "Girl Without a face" has been spotted wandering around the graveyard. I heard about this story from various sources, and will need to research more for a future blog post.

October 20, 2016

Parkman Bandstand

Parkman Bandstand

On the eastern side of the Boston Commons is a landmark bandstand. The bandstand is named after George F. Parkman and is officially called the "Parkman Bandstand."

George F. Parkman was the last family member of the Parkman family, a wealthy Bostonian Family. The were consider one of the Boston Brahmin - a class of wealthy, educated, elite members of Boston society in the nineteenth century.

When George Parkman died on September 16, 1908, he gave the city of Boston $5 million for the purpose of taking care of the park. That would be equivalent to $133,064,476.27 in today's value.

This is the second monument that is named after George F. Parkman in the Boston Commons. In front of the visitor center is Parkman Plaza, a circular paved area with three bronze statues representing Industry, Religion, and Learning. The Parkman Plaza was dedicated in 1960.

Interesting Facts

  • Parkman Bandstand was open in 1912
  • It cost $20,000 to build. ($532,257.91 in today's value)
  • Designed by Derby, Robinson and Shepard.
  • The Bandstand is modeled after Versailles' Temple d'Amour
  • Cow Pond once occupied the site.
  • The pond was filled in 1838 when the city of Boston pass an ordinance to ban cattle-grazing on the Commons.
  • The Bandstand and pavement around it is about 300 square feet.
  • The City of Boston welcome "first night" 1930 with a concert at the Parkman Bandstand
  • Charles Lindberg delivered his message from the Parkman Bandstand on July 23, 1927
  • Parkman House, 33 Beacon St, Boston, MA, is the Boston's Mayor Official Reception Hall
  • The bandstand also gives the Boston Common its most useful platform for public speaking
  • It was last restored in 1996 by McKinley Kalsow & Associates
  • Handicap ramp was added during the 1996 restoration.
  • George F. Parkman is the only person to have 2 monuments named after him in the Boston Commons.

Sign on the Floor

When you walk up the stairs of the Bandstand there is a plaque on the floor that was placed during the 1912 dedication ceremony. The text is all uppercase using an old style too look "clean and classy." This is the old-world style text:

Parkman Bandstand2 PARKMAN MEMORIAL BANDSTAND
ERECTED BY AVTHORITY OF
HON JOHN F FITZGERALD MAYOR
AND THE CITY COVNCIL
VNDER THE SVPERVISION OF THE
SVPERINTENDENT OF PVBLIC GROVNDS
D HENRY SVLLIVAN
AND THE MVSIC TRVSTEES
WILLIAM C BROOKS CHAIRMAN
MARY E MCISAAC DANIEL P SHEDD
JOHN A O'SHEA ALFRED P DEVOTO
BERBY ROBINSON & SHEPARD ARCHITECTS
DEVICATED MDCCCCXII

Notable Yearly Events

  • On October 23, 2007 it was the location of the Barack Obama and Deval Patrick Rally on Tuesday.
  • Johnson and Weld held a rally on August 22, 2016.
  • Shakespeare in the Park happens in the Summer
  • The yearly "Castle Hill Concours d'Elegance" car show is held every September around Bandstand

Family Story

There is an interesting side story about George Parkman family.

In 1849, George Parkman father, Dr. George Parkman, was murdered at Harvard Medical School in one of the most famous murder cases in Harvard history.

On November 23, 1849, Dr. George Parkman, a successful surgeon, stopped by Harvard Medical School to collect some money from John White Webster, a Harvard professor. Mr. Webster had some problems with paying off the debt and ended up murdering Mr. Parkman. Mr. Webster placed his parts inside a brick wall. A week later the body was discovered by Ephrain Littlefield, a janitor at Harvard Medical School.

The crime and trial of Mr. Webster was an international sensation. Tickets were sold to those that wanted to sit in the courtroom, and six thousand tickets were sold. The trial lasted for 12-days and John White Webster was convicted of Parkman's murder on March 30, 1850 (127 days after the murder).

He was executed on August 30, 1850. That's 280 days after the murder, and 153 days after being convicted.

There are some historians that believe that John White Webster may not have been guilty of murder and that the murder might have been accomplished by Webster's accuser.

Fall Foliage

The Parkman Bandstand is a great place to take pictures of the Boston Foliage:

Parkman Fall

October 13, 2016

Quack is Back!

Quack is Back

A few months ago I wrote about some information about the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue in the Boston Public Gardens. One of the facts I mentioned was that 2 of the ducklings that were stolen were never returned. I learned this week that one of them did get returned.

In the Children's section of the Boston Public Library Central Branch is "Quack", one of the missing ducks.

Finding Quack

Quack might be hard to find when you bring a child to the Children's section you can play a game to find Quack. You can find Quack in a small window on the front right side as you walk in the Children's section. There might be couches or blocks that could make it hard to see when you walk in. (Simply walk along the right wall.)

After finding Quack, sit down and read the "Make Way for Ducklings" story. It's a lot easier to do it at the library than in the Public Gardens.

There is a little wall sign near the duck statue about the lone duck:

Quack was among eight ducklings and a mother mallard sculpted and cast for the Boston Public Garden by artist Nancy Schon in 1987. The bronze feathered family, one of Boston's most famous public art installations, pay homage to Robert McCloskey's famous children's book Make Way for Ducklings (1941). In the much-loved story, the ducks find their way to a new home on an island in the Public Garden's Lagoon. McCloskey (1914-2003) brought six ducklings to live with him in his New York studio while he was illustrating the tale; he webbed roommates modeled for a series of preparatory sketches that now reside in the Boston Public Library print collection.

Not long after the Public Garden statues were installed, young Quack (the last in the line of ducklings) went missing. Schon cast a duplicate sculpture to replace the figure. In 1988, Quack came back and soon make its way to the Boston Public Library's Children's Library, where it has become a beloved resident.

Gift of Nancy Schon, 1989.

Quack Sign

Maybe someday Quack will get united with the rest of the family. Here's a link to the original "Make Way for Ducklings" blog post.

The original Mack statue is still missing! Bring Mack Back!

October 6, 2016

Boston Gaol

Real Boston Gaol Logo

The first correctional facility in Boston was called the Boston Gaol and it was located between Court Street and School Street. The jail was in use between 1635-1822. The jail was created less than five years after the city of Boston was founded.

Some people called the Boston Gaol the Boston Stone Jail because of the thick stone walls.

Terminology

The word "Boston Gaol" means a correction facility. the term gaol is used in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Since the facility was under the British rule, the name Gaol was used instead of jail.

Gaol Inmates

Some notable people that spent time in the prison include:

Captain Kidd - Spent a year in the jail before heading to England to be executed.

Mary Dyer - Visited the jail many times to comfort fellow Quakers. She also sent to jail for refusing an order to leave town. She spent the last night at the Boston Gaol before being executed in the Boston Commons.

Religious Leaders - Quaker's such as Anne Hutchinson were held in jail for being outspoken about their religion.

Salem Witches - Accused Witches were held anyplace that jail space was available.

Solders involved with the Boston Massacre - Were held in the jail in hopes to calm people down.

James Lovell - He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1782. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation. He was held in the jail as a likely dissident after the Battle of Bunker Hill.

John Leach - kept a journal of his confinement by the British Troops. He was in jail from July 2nd to 17th 1775.

Downfall of the old Boston Gaol

The Boston Goal went through many revisions and relocations over the nearly 200 years of its existence. By the 1820s it was too small to handle the increased jail population.

Boston Gaol Location

The Leverett Street jail was the success to the Boston Gaol.

Present Day Location of the Boston Gaol

The Boston Gaol has been long gone and the former site is the Boston Public School administration building. Directions to the site of the Boston Goal:

  • Take the 'T' to Government Center
  • Walk up the stairs and walk over to the Starbuck
  • Continue walking past Starbuck and down Court Street.
  • Just before you get to Franklin Ave, look across the street. You'll see a building will four tall pillars. This is the site of the Old Boston Gaol.

There is a small sign on the front left of the building to indicate the past history of the location:

Old Prison
The first prison in Boston stood on this site, close to the center of government and trade in the early settlement. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes its appearance: "The rust on the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World...But on one side of the portal, was a wild rose-bush."

Did you know? Captain Kidd was brought here in 1689 after he was captured, and before he was shipped to England to be executed.

Old Prison