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InterContinental Boston History Walking Tour

Downtown Boston has changed significantly since I went to graduate school in Massachusetts in the early 1990s. The InterContinental Boston Hotel where we stayed on one of our IHG Into the Nights promotion free nights earned last fall is a modern hotel less than ten years old.

IC Boston

InterContinental Boston is glass façade building in center, seen from Boston Tea Party Museum.

Interstate 93 used to be an elevated freeway through the downtown Boston financial district. After a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project known as CA/T, the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, or unofficially as “The Big Dig” from 1991 to 2007, Boston has a 3.5 mile tunnel for interstate traffic and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway urban park now occupies the street level.

The InterContinental Boston is located across the street from the Greenway, facing the Financial District, and on the seaport waterfront side of the hotel is the Boston Tea Party Museum.

Greenway art

Urban view from InterContinental Boston of Janet Echelman’s ‘As If It Were Already Here’ art installation over Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. This piece will be displayed from May to October 2015.

Tea Party Museum

Boston Tea Party Museum and Boston Children’s Museum on Seaport behind InterContinental Boston.

Despite a red eye flight from San Francisco and only 90 minutes sleep, I was ready to walk Boston after a short nap at the IC Boston hotel.

InterContinental Boston Walking Tour

Boston advertises itself as a walkable city. I concur. After a day walking around Boston from the InterContinental Boston hotel, there were so many historical sights I was fascinated to see.

Fan Pier

View of Downtown Boston from Fan Pier

The area of the South Boston Flats used to be seaport piers. This is now the major urban renewal project in the city with residential high-rise buildings going up.

South Boston Flats

I enjoy seeing urban renewal of former industrial areas. There are trendy restaurants and shops opening up in the South Boston Flats area.

Although, Kelley was not pleased with me when we were walking through Chinatown and she felt it was too isolated late last night.  Trying to find another route back to the hotel, I went the wrong direction and took her walking through an up and coming urban renewal district in South End Boston where the Whole Foods Market borders the homeless shelters on the streets. One thing about iPhone maps is the walking routes provided are not necessarily designed for the safest routes to walk.

For the less adventuresome, like my wife, many of the better known places in downtown Boston are easily reached from the InterContinental Boston walking in the well developed portions of the city.

Here are some photos of some of the better known Boston sites.

Boston Customs House

Boston Custom House tower sits on the 1847 Custom House foundation. The 496-ft. tower was added in 1915. The tower was the tallest skyscraper in Boston until 1947. Boston’s Custom House is now Marriott’s Custom House,  a Marriott Vacation Club International property. Walking around Boston showed several high-end Marriott hotels. Marriott’s Custom House is a category 9 hotel at 45,000 points per night.

Loyalty TravelerMarriott’s Custom House Boston (July 19, 2015)

Greenway fountains

Children playing in a Rose Kennedy Greenway fountain on the first day of July.

Quincy Market

Historic Quincy Market (1826) is about 15 minutes walk from InterContinental Boston Hotel. This is a major tourist retail area and was originally one of the largest market areas in the U.S. when constructed. Today Quincy Market holds food stalls. Retail shops surround the historic buildings in a pedestrian-only zone.

Sam Adams Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall is called ‘The Cradle of Liberty’ for its role as a meeting house for speeches advocating American Independence in the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Boston reveals a symbiotic relationship between history and corporate commercialism. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a commercial venture established in the 1970s to revitalize the historic district with Quincy Market, South Market, North Market and Faneuil Hall. This is a place of historic significance and modern capitalism, which is perhaps appropriate for a historic market district.

Sam Adams (statue) was a revolutionary figure before becoming a beer brand.

Signs are Everywhere

One of the aspects I loved about wandering the streets of Boston was finding signs everywhere with vignettes of history.

Ben Franklin press 

New England Center for Homeless Veterans has a plaque in the left corner:

‘Here in 1719 stood the printing office of James Franklin, publisher of the New England Courant. Here served as an apprentice his brother BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. Here 1769 to 1776 Edes and Gill published the Boston Gazette. Placed by the Massachusetts Society of Sons of Revolution 1913.”

Joseph Tapping

King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the oldest cemetery in Boston, established 1630.

The ornate gravestone in this photo is Joseph Tapping, died 1678.

King's Chapel

King’s Chapel is the oldest church in New England. The original chapel was a wooden structure from 1686, built as the first Anglican Church (Church of England) in the American colonies. The current structure was built in 1749-1754. The chapel sat vacant during the American Revolution and in 1782 the church reopened as a Unitarian Church.

King’s Chapel is located on the corner of School Street, the site of the first public school in the United States, Boston Public Latin School. The school opened in 1635 and stood on the north side of School Street until 1749, when it moved to the south side of the street, where it remained until 1844. Today, the Boston Public Latin School is located in Roxbury and is the oldest educational institution in the country.

Boston Old City Hall, near the former school site, served as City Hall from 1865 to 1969. Since 1970 the building has been office space and now houses a Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurant on the ground floor.

Old City Hall

Boston Old City Hall 1865-1969

On a second walk with Kelley in the evening, she only wanted to see one thing in Boston and we headed to Boston Common, founded 1634, and the oldest public park in the United States.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House seen from Boston Common.

We were looking for a sculpture and I could not find it listed on my iPhone maps. A group of millennials were sitting on a bench in Boston Common and Kelley said, “I’ll ask them.” I am checking out the kids and thinking there is no way they are going to even know what book Kelley is talking about.

To my surprise, these kids did know the book and the author and the location of the sculpture in the Public Garden, adjacent to Boston Common.

Make Way for Duckings

Make Way for DucklingsRobert McCloskey

Kelley is a first grade teacher. We began our teaching careers in Penobscot County, Maine in 1994. Author Robert McCloskey won the 1942 Caldecott Medal, an annual award for most distinguished children’s picture book, for his illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings. The story is about a pair of mallard ducks who raise their family on an island in Boston’s Public Garden.

Public Garden island

Duck Island in Boston Public Garden

In 1994, our first year as elementary school teachers in Maine, we learned Robert McCloskey lived close by on Deer Isle, Maine. He wrote several books about Maine including Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine.

One Morning in Maine is set in the town of Brooksville, Maine. We looked at homes in Brooksville and I was blown away to recognize the town’s features from Robert McCloskey’s 1953 children’s book illustrations more than 40 years after the book was published. Robert McCloskey died in 2003. He signed some of Kelley’s copies of his books when we lived in Maine.

Boston Public Garden gate

Boston Public Garden Gate 1822

Boston is a city of history. The history of the United States happened here and the signs are everywhere. Connections to our own history happened here too.

1 Comment

  • JohnSD July 2, 2015

    It is always nice to read positive comments regarding the city I call home. It seems that you had a great trip despite the neighborhoods you found a little sketchy. I hope other readers will come and visit as well, it is a great town that really does have something for everyone.

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