Friday, January 24, 2003

Hiking History II
My pedestrian explorations of Boston's past continued today, straddling the North End and downtown. Davo and I set out in search of centers, starting at the Boston Stone embedded in a wall not far from Ye Olde Union Oyster House, which has been in operation since 1826. The Boston Stone was brought to the United States in 1700 and was used to grind paint pigments. Installed as a marker in 1737, the stone has been rumored to be the point from which all distances from Boston were measured. Sources conflict on that matter. Also, upstairs from the oyster house was the printing shop for the Massachusetts Spy, the first newspaper in America.

Not far from the Blackstone Block, Boston's oldest commercial block, is Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace. The sidewalks and courtyard in the area are marked with building and street locations circa 1819, an interesting exercise in mapping the city's past on the city itself. Nearby are several bronze statues of note, including Anne Whitney's 1873 state of Samuel Adams and Lloyd Lillie's 1989 double of Mayor James Michael Curley. Curley held his first elected office in 1904 while in jail, and in 1946, President Truman had to pardon him to serve as mayor -- an election Curley won while in prison again.

Then we looked for the next center. And looked. And looked. According to Bizarro Boston there's a bronze plaque near Filene's and Downtown Crossing noting the exact center of the universe. The neighborhood has been rejuvenated, as marked by a stone inset near where I expected the plaque to be, so perhaps the sign has been removed or moved. Regardless, Davo and I couldn't find it.

On the way back toward the office, we walked past the Boston Globe's original location back when Washington Street was called Newspaper Row. We also made a point of stopping by 383 Salem St., now a vacant space, but once Langone's Funeral Home where Sacco and Vanzetti were laid out following their executions in 1927. Spectators spread out the length of Hanover Street. The two were later cremated at Forest Hills Cemetery.

Source: Greg and Katherine Letterman, Walking Boston

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