As a part of my "onboarding" process with Historic Tours of America, this past Thursday I got to play tourist, with pay. Since I'll eventually be doing it myself, I did a ride-along of the entire tour route, and tried to pay attention to all the sites we're supposed to point out, the script, interacting with passengers, and the daily operations of what is a rather vast enterprise in this city.
I rode the entire loop, then there were a few sites that the management wanted me to specifically visit. I got off at the Charlestown Navy Yard and looked over the USS Constitution (still in the maintenance cycle, and still in drydock for another few months). I had not visited the Constitution museum
in a long time, so I poked around in there for a while.
I did not jump on the bus back to Boston, but instead walked part of the Freedom Trail
through the North End. Just days after the anniversary of the events, I visited both Paul Revere's house, and the Old North Church. Along the way was Copp's Hill burying ground, and across the street, the curious "Spite House
" that is unfortunately not on the tour.
Back in the city, I had planned on heading up into Faneuil Hall. Not the marketplace, mind you - the actual Cradle of Liberty
. It was here that the real Sam Adams roused some rabble, and many public events leading to the revolution took place in the Great Hall. There are many fine paintings and a nice museum up on the fourth floor.
But on this day, I could not enter. About once a month, there is a citizenship ceremony that takes place here. So moving on, I did go into the marketplace and have lunch - then moved on to the Old State House, about a block away. As I'm fond of saying, only in Boston could you have a "New" State House
that was built in the 1700s. (circa 1798). That's because we have an "Old" State House
that dates back to 1713. This structure was the seat of the Royal Government before the revolution, and is now the oldest standing government building in the United States.
The street out front is stained with revolutionary blood, as the Boston Massacre took place on its doorstep - and a mere six years later, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony. Although part of the Freedom Trail, the building is actually now in private hands, and there is a "for pay" museum in what was the legislative chambers, telling the history of the building and the massacre.
But back to Faneuil Hall. After I finished my tour, I was wandering back towards the waterfront, where the tour company maintains the city offices and dispatch center. I happened by the Great Hall right when the doors were flung open and a wave of new citizens surged out to greet their extended family members that could not fit inside.
Also out front were literally dozens of earnest volunteers, all holding clipboards and wearing "REGISTER TO VOTE" T-shirts. It was a chaotic, jubilant, and hopeful scene - even to this jaded Bostonian.
Walking through the happy crowd, I had only one thought.
Is stronger than this: