Boston blog postings

Boston Postings

Earliest: March 16, 2003Latest: November 8, 2018Total: 247

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.

June 15, 2017

Fan Pier Park

Fan Pier

Boston Fan Pier Park

One of the most popular photo spots in Boston is the buildings along the waterfront with the harbor in front. People take this photo from Boston Fan Pier in the Seaport District. It's a nice place to get a harbor side view of the city skyline.

The Boston Harbor Association describes Fan Pier:

From the HarborWalk on the Fan Pier, visitors can enjoy one of the best panoramas of the city, with unobstructed views of downtown to East Boston and the Harbor Islands.

Things I Learned about the Boston Fan Pier Park Area

  • Fan Pier first earn its name in 1903 - That's when the New York, New Haven rail lines "fan out" at the end of the line. (There were multiple tracks at the end of the line that was spread out like a fan.)
  • By the 1930s the tracks were removed as fishing became more important use of the land.
  • More land in the South Boston was filled in the 1950s.
  • The United States Courthouse was built here in 1998. It was built so that the rotunda would look like a lighthouse.
  • The original estimated construction cost was $184 million (1991). By 1993, the Court House construction project was estimated to be $223 million. It actually cost $170 million upon completion. (Unsure how that happened)
  • There is silhouette cut out of ships that use to be in the harbor. These make great photo opportunities. (Try to take a picture so that it looks like the ships are still in the harbor.)
  • As you continue to walk down the Fan Pier Park you'll encounter a sign on the sidewalk to inform you where the Edge of Pier 1 was in 1878. (18 78 Historic Edge of Pier 1)

Things I learned about the HarborWalk

Harborwalk, the area in front of Fan Pier Park, was inaugurated on July 4, 1982.

  • The goal of Harborwalk was to illustrate all the things that you can do along the Harbor.
  • The Harborwalk is highlighted with a dotted blue line. (It's modeled after the Freedom Trail.)
  • Harborwalk starts at the Old State House where you can get a guide for free.
  • You can also pick up the self-guide walking guide at the Bostix, Boston Common Information booth.
  • The Harborwalk is a fifty miles of waterfront - from Boston to Milton.

Directions to Fan Pier

The easiest way to get to the Fan Pier is to take the Silver Line to the Courthouse stop.

Once you get up to the street level, head towards Boston (walk with the direction of the car traffic). You will see a lot of tall buildings in the distance.

At the first light take a left towards a brick building (That's John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse)

At the end of the road, take a left towards a couple of old bridges, this is the Old Northern Ave Bridge.

Then take a right and walk along the Boston Harbor. This is the Harborwalk.

As you continue to walk, you'll see a sign that welcomes you to the Fan Pier Park.

June 8, 2017

Caryatids

Recently, 116 Huntington Ave updated the sideway. In the process, the plaque about the figurines on the building was removed.

Here's a copy of the plaque that I took back in 2011:

Side Walk Sign

Plaque text, from my 2011 blog post:

The CARYATIDS that support the arch over the large
oculus of this building were designed by Boston Artist,
Syma. The figures reference the original sculpted 
Caryatids who supported the pediment of the Temple of 
Diana in ancient Greece. Diana was the Greek 
Goddess of dance and dreams. Seven stars adorn each 
panel, a reference to the Pleiades, which, according to 
Greek Mythology, were the seven Caryatids or 
Princess of Diana who were places among the stars by
 Zeus. Each of the stars has six points, a 
traditional symbol of harmony and transformation. 
The waves underfoot recall 19th century Back Bay,
once covered with water.

This is what the Caryatids look like on the building:

Angels Building Top

You can see the Caryatids walking on the Huntington Ave Pedestrian over path. Which is located between the Prudential Mall and the Copley Square Mall.

June 1, 2017

Boylston Street Fishweir

Long before the English had settled in Boston, the Indians were fishing off Boston Commons.

About 3,000 years ago the area known as the Boston Commons was waterfront property.

Boston Neck 1623
Boston in the Early Days.

Fishweir

Indians use to fish right around the Boston Commons and much of Back Bay. They would build Fishweirs to trap fish as they swam with the tides.

A fishweir is a dam or "fence" on stakes set in a stream or waterway to trap fish.

First Major Site - Boylston Street station (1913)

Fishweirs were first discovered in 1913 during the construction of the Boylston street subway system. Construction workers didn't know what they encountered and inadvertently destroyed many valuable stakes. Some were saved and were discovered to be about 2,000 years old.

This fishweir location is commonly called the "Boylston Street Fishweir."

Second Major Site - New England Mutual Life Insurance Company (1939)

Fishweirs were also discovered at 500 Boylston Street in August 1939, when setting up the foundation for the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company. Scientists have calculated that they go back to 1700 B.C.

Hand-sharpened stakes, roughly about 5 feet in length and about an inch in diameter were found in the clay. The Robert S. Peabody Foundation discovered 65,000 stakes in the two-acres location.

The Archaeology of Philips Academy in Andover, Mass discovered that there were seventeen different types of wood use. Including Sassafras and Sycamore. Scientists were able to figure out that the wood was cut between the middle of April and the middle of June.

Third Major Site - John Hancock Building (1946)

During construction of the tower, several vertical wood stakes were discovered. Scientists were able to slowly map out a pattern of how the fishweirs might have been used. The weirs were built to trap certain type of spawning fish in shallow water tidal areas.

Some experts say that the Back Bay is loaded with ancient Fishweirs buried deep - many at least 3000 years old. The clay has helped preserve the wood that was used. Scientists have been studying the wood to learn about the fishing habits of Indians.

Every time a new building is constructed, a team of experts checks out the soil for any signs of Fishweir.

17th Century Factoid

While the Indian's were capturing fish, in what would be the future location of the city of Boston, the last Wooly Mammoth we still walking around in Russia.

Arlington Street T Station

There is an artwork panel at the platform level. The diorama panel explains how the ancient Boylston Street Fishweir worked. You can learn a little bit of local history while waiting for the next train.

Location the original Wooden Stakes

According to my research the original wooden stakes found in the 1913, 1939 and 1946 sites are kept in the The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. They are kept out of public viewing.

Bos Fish Weir

Ancient Fishweir Project

Every spring students at the Boston public school take a field trip to the Boston Commons and spend a day building a replica of the Fishweirs in the Boston Commons.

Students learn about the Fishweirs and some of the cultures from Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers. Some Information about the annual event:

The Ancient Fishweir Project combines public art, educational programs, and community events in celebration of the contemporary Native American community.

3,700 to 5,300 years ago, near what is now Boston Common, Fishweirs were built along the tidal flats to catch fish during the spring spawn.

The Fishweir Project's annual building of a Fishweirs on Boston Common brings this ancient activity into the current imagination, expanding the time frame of history told in Boston, and honoring the people who lived in the place we now call Boston.

Learn more about the fishweir at the TEDcBeaconStreet Ted Talk.

Viewing the Fishweirs

The final results of the kid's work are on display at the Charles Street entrance to the Boston Commons. (Near the Baseball Field)

May 25, 2017

Boston's Wang Center

The Wang Center is one of the most popular places in New England to see traveling Broadway Shows. In addition, the theater is a good location for Company gathering and weddings.

In 2016, the theater was rename the Boch Center.

Ten things I learned about the Wang Center / Boch Center

  • The Theater has existed since October 16, 1925 as the The Metropolitan Theatre. For years, it was called "The Met."
  • Designed by Clarence Blackhall (Also designed the Colonial Theatre and the Winthrop Building - first Boston Skyscraper with a steel frame. )
  • Many famous silent film stars were on hand including Harrison Ford, Bessie Love, Lois Wilson attending the opening ceremonies. Fay Lanphier, Miss America 1925, was also there.
  • Initial construction cost was $8 million in 1920. ($101,357,098 in 2017)
  • In 1962, it became The Music Hall
  • In 1979, Ronald Reagan held a fundraiser at Music Hall - Frank Sinatra was the headliner
  • In 1983, it became the Wang Center thanks to the donation of the Wang Family. Additionally fundraising was done to help restore
  • Designated as a landmark on July 10, 1990. (Approved on the first try)
  • Official became the Boch Center on November 1, 2016.
  • Maximum Seating capacity is 3,561seats (Can vary based on using the orchestra pit for seating)

Wang Boch Center

Not the Largest Concert Hall in New England

Tanglewoood in Lenox, Massachusetts is the largest concert hall in New England. It holds 5,100 seated inside. It has the ability to handle up to 18,000. ( That's 12,900 people sitting on the lawn outside.

Dress Circle Left and Dress Circle Right

Dress Circle Seats

The Dress Circle seats are not available for the general public. They are reserved for Boch Center Members. Generally, these seats are for corporate sponsors of the show or major sponsors of the Wang Center.

Parking around Wang Theater

You can park at the Tuffs Shared Services Parking garage next door.

We like to park at the Motor Mart Garage on Stuart Street. It's very easy to get to off the Massachusetts Turnpike. Simply Take the Prudential Exit. Stay right on the ramp heading towards Copley Square. You'll be on Stuart Street. Simply drive about 5 blocks and the garage will be on your left. You'll see the garage sign by the time you get past Berkeley Street.

Both garages charge $28 a day. (Sunday Rate)

May 18, 2017

Memorial Day Flag Garden

Every Memorial Day weekend there are thousands of American flags that are placed in the grass on the Boston Commons.

Fieldof Flags

These flags are a memorial to each Massachusetts Soldier that died in battle.

Who places the flags?

Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund is responsible for placing and maintaining the flags. In 2016, there was a sign:

Flag Sign

The sign reads:

This garden of 37,000 flags was planted in memory of every fallen Massachusetts service member from the Revolutionary War to the present. These flags will be on display throughout Memorial Day weekend for your observance and reflection. Please remember and honor the ultimate sacrifices of our local heroes.

Each flag represents a fallen service member; please respect the display.

Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund are looking for volunteers are needed to help out set up the flag, protecting the flags and taking them down. Download a Volunteer Information sheet for more information. If your able to help out, use their online sign-up form.

Flag Garden Timeline

Here's a timeline that I created of the Flag Garden events. Activities start on Wednesday, May 24th:

Timeline Memorial3

Finding the Memorial

You can find the flags between Frog Pond and Charles Street. The best way to see them is from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The flags are on display for a very limited time. This year the flags will be removed on Memorial Day - May 29th at 6 pm.

It's quite a sight to see 37,000 flags planted in the ground, and certainly worth seeing!

May 11, 2017

Pi Alley

Pi Alley Logo

Between the Old State House and the Irish Famine Memorial is a small alley called "Pi Alley."

When you walk down the alley you can learn some history of the Alley from a sign on the wall:

The Pi Alley Story

As downtown Boston evolved from a residential to commercial area by the end of the 19th century, the name of this alley evolved from the names of local landowners to one more descriptive of the area. Many small restaurants set up shop in the alley to serve the area's workers. A staple in many of these places was meat pies (often ordered by colorful names such as "Cat Pie" earning the alley the name "Pie Alley".

In the days when Washington Street was home to most of the city's newspaper printing plants, many of the printer and typesetters frequented a tavern in the alley called the Bell In Hand. In their haste to get refreshment, the newspapermen would often drop pocket full of mixed up loose type (called "pi" in the printing business) on the ground, leading to the current name "Pi Alley".

Today the alley continues the tradition of small businesses serving the people who work in the area.

It's Pi Alley Not Pie Alley

The sign is a bit misleading, locals have always referred the Alley as Pi Alley. The first printed reference to Pi Alley was in the Boston Globe in the early 1890s.

Pi is a terminology used by printers to describe type matter that has been upset or spilled. If a compositor had the misfortune to pi a line of type, they were expected to fix it at their own expense. Fixing the line of type was too much work. So many compositors just threw out the pi out the window into the alley - that is if no one was looking. It was that custom the alley got its name - Pi Alley.

In 1898, there was a restaurant called Dennett's that was located at 241 Washington Street - which is on the southwest corner of Pi Alley. Joseph Gridley food and hospitality was so good, that he was known as the "King of Pi Alley." His pies were good that people did consider changing the Alley to Pie Alley.

Pi Alley View

Things I learned about the Alley

  • Offical name was Williams Court
  • Was once called Savage's Court in the mid 1730s
  • Oldest By way in the City of Boston
  • Officially was recognized by the Boston Public Improvement Commission as Pi Alley on February 16, 1955
  • Locals have been calling it Pi Alley since the 1900s.
  • Alley is 100 feet long next to a 600-car garage.
  • Alley connects Washington Street and Court Square.
  • Pi Garage open for business on December 24, 1969

Newspaper Companies

Every major newspaper company had their offices nearby here, including:

  • Boston Globe
  • Boston Herald
  • Boston Post

Locating Pi Alley

You can find Pi Alley is located at 275 Washington St, Boston, MA 02108. It's located on the Freedom Trail. You can see the entrance to Pi Alley next to the Pi Alley Garage.

May 4, 2017

District Hall

District Hall is Boston?s public innovation center. It has the distinct honor of being the first building completed in seaport square.

District Hall

What is District Hall?

The answer is in the window as you walk by on Seaport Blvd:

District Hall is a not for profit civic innovation center, public workspace and event venue designed to inspire innovation, build community, and make your ideas happen.

Things I learned about District Hall

  • Officially open on October 24, 2013
  • Overall 12,000 square-feet
  • Cost $7 million to build
  • In June 2013, Global Investors financed the project and leased the building to the City of Boston for $1 a year for 5 years.
  • City has an option to renew the lease for an additional five years
  • Mayor Thomas Menino toured the facility before leaving office.
  • Rental space fees will be adjusted according to the groups means. Non-profits would pay less for the same space than a large corporation.

There's three main parts of District Hall

  • Lounge WiFi Hang out
  • Meeting Space
  • Lunch/Dinner (Brew and Gather)

District Hall Board
A Whiteboard greets you as you walk in...

Lounge - Free Wifi

If your looking for a nice quiet WiFi spot to get some work done, then District Hall is perfect.

There are plenty of tables and couches with a plug nearby. It does seem to get busy shortly after lunch time. Looks like most people use the Cafe Hangout to talk about projects they are working on.

Check the walls for the current Wiki name and password.

The smell in the Lounge is very nice, you don?t have the strong coffee smell that you find at Starbucks. The WiFi range is powerful enough to reach the outside patio.

Brew Cafe Hangout

Hungry? Thirty? Want to meet-up over coffee? Enjoy the Brew cafe. They brew Starbucks coffee and have a delicious selection of sandwiches. Prices are fairly reasonable. A single size pizza is $3.50.

There's hardly any wait at the cafe. The service is quick and the selection is excellent. Coffee is good.

Checkout the menu.

Gather

If your into some afternoon celebration try Gather. They have a great selection of beer and wine. They also have pizza and lots of other delicious entries.

You can sit outside and have a nice view of a park and the Boston Harbor in the distance. In addition, this summer there will be tall ships that will be dock close to District Hall. This will add a nice touch to the scenery.

Checkout the menu

Meeting Space

District Hall is a great venue to hold a meeting of just about any size. They have several large rooms with removable walls to accommodate big meetings.

As an added bonus, meeting rooms have whiteboard paint on some of the walls. You'll run out of ideas long before you run out of whiteboard space. Tip: If your hosting an event, bring a step stool so you can write high up on the wall.

They offer excellent catering services with a wide selection - including health and Gluten free options.

I attended several meetings in the Assembly Rooms, they were nice and quiet. Room temps were very nice, I attended meetings on a very cold winter day and a nice spring day. You may occasionally hear aircraft taking off from Logan airport. (They usually don't fly over the District Hall, but weather factors may change their take-off paths.)

Getting to District Hall

District Hall is located 75 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210 in Boston?s Seaport district.

It?s about an 8-minute walk from South Station, or you can catch the Silver Line and get off at Court House. It?s the first Silver Line stop after South Station. Once you get upstairs it?s a 1/2 a block walk to the District Hall.

District Hall is open to the public 8 am to 5 pm, Monday thru Friday. They are open other times for private events.