Boston is a harbour city, surrounded on three sides with waterways. By walking the Freedom Trail, the visitor is exploring the north end of the Boston peninsula and the east side is where all the commercial docks line the harbour shore. On the day we decided we would check out the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, we would be heading to the South side of Boston, not far from South Station.
Boston is a city full of the history of the birth of the United States and everywhere you go there are reminders of that history. If any events marked the official start of the breakaway of the American colonies from Britain, it is the events commonly dubbed the Boston Tea Party. These events played out over the six years from 1767 to 1773 and the trigger point occurred in the docks area of the Fort Point Channel where our museum destination had been set up. While we purchased our tickets for the museum, the sign outside (image to the right) explained much of the background to the event.
We knew this was an important historical site because standing beside us as we bought our tickets was another statue of Samuel Adams; we had met Samuel Adams outside Faneuil Hall on the previous day. The base of this statue read, “Samuel Adams, 1722-1803, Father of the Revolution.” (Approval for the publication of this image has been gained from the random tourist who accidentally moved into the shot.) Adams was in the middle of these local events, from making speeches attacking the Tea Tax in 1767 and receiving Paul Revere’s message in 1773 that announced the arrival of British soldiers ‘by land’.
The difference between this Museum and a standard museum where the ticket will gain you entrance to various rooms with displays on walls, this museum is almost like going to the theatre where the patrons are invited on stage.
In the first act of this play we were invited to partake in a town meeting of local ‘sons and daughters of liberty’, presumably in a hall similar to the Old South Meeting House. We were even given our lines as we were led in a rabble rousing discussion by ‘Samuel Adams’ and others.
We were then invited to join in the Tea Party itself as we joined our revolutionary leaders and ‘stormed aboard’ the 18th century sailing vessel that had supposedly brought the evil tea bales into the harbour. They encouraged us then to take part in criminal acts such as throwing tea bales over the side into the harbour. Unfortunately the ropes tied to the Tea-Bales undermined the authenticity of these actions as it looked liked they were returnable tea-bales.
We were then taken on a tour of the ship and I can report that the cramped working conditions illustrated why a sailor’s life is not an enviable one.
From the ship we were taken inside the Museum itself and allowed to inspect some the exhibitions illustrating the events surrounding the Boston Tea Party, particularly illustrating the dissension in the town of Boston where not everybody wanted to leave the comfort and support of the British Empire. One of the curious items that was highlighted was one of the surviving tea chests that had been washed up on the shore of Boston harbour and collected by a Bostonian. It was handed down in his family before its arrival at this museum. Two curious cartoons from the display are set out below.
The last section of the event was a ‘multi-sensory’ film, “Let It Begin Here”, which covered the events of 1775 depicting Paul revere’s ride and the subsequent opening battles of the revolution.
I have to say that the visit to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum was a very enjoyable event and was a great support to our walking the Freedom Trail the previous day in understanding Boston’s place in the birth of the United States.
After having caught the bus to Fort Point Channel, we missed the bus to return to our hotel so we decided to walk back. It wasn’t problematic as getting around Boston by foot is very easy. This walk home illustrated one of the great things about this city. The original planning of the city allowed many aspects of its layout to be determined by the industrial and commercial needs of the citizens, particular the needs of car-drivers getting easy access to the centre of town in competition with the living needs of those who reside in the city. We discovered two great examples of the fightback against these forces as we walked back up Congress Street to the centre of the financial district.
As the map to the right illustrates, our walk took us past what looked like a small green space called Fort Point Channel Park. It was in fact just one section of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway that extends through three suburbs and included in its features are parks, promenades, plazas, fountains and artworks. It was created on land created by the demolition of the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway and was opened in 2008. Rose Kennedy was the Matriarch of the Kennedy Family and her son Edward Kennedy played a role in establishing this greenway. It is not only the local citizens of Boston that have benefited from this type of town planning, the business and tourist industries would have been enhanced by this beautiful addition to the town’s landscape. It is a section of Boston that I regretted not having another day to walk through.
We passed another example of this conversion of a negative feature of the city’s commercial landscape into an oasis for local workers and citizens when we encountered Norman B. Leventhal Park further along on Congress St. On this site was an old garage about to be demolished for a new car-parking garage. A committee was formed to resolve the urban design issues raised by cement parking stations and so, the needs for car spaces was resolved by an underground car-park and the needs of the humans were resolved by the gorgeous parkland above ground that opened in 1992. We finished our walk that morning hoping that other world cities would takes this path of balancing the human need of its resident citizens with the commercial and industrial needs of the working population.