Boston Common, in the center of the city, is a beautiful place, but it is particularly so during the time of year known as Indian Summer. Trees glow orange-red and curry-yellow, while the blue-tinted windows of the surrounding skyscrapers reflect the sun. Squirrels rustle through the fallen leaves; runners enjoy their daily routine and pedestrians point to the golden cupola of the Massachusetts State House one street over, on Beacon Hill. This building is the seat of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with columns and arcades reminiscent of a temple.
Federal Style and the clay brick charm
The Boston Common was dedicated in 1634, and it is considered the oldest city park in the US – as Boston itself ranks among its most venerable metropolises. Hardly any other American city can look back on such tradition. It is this tradition that makes the city of 700,000 on the East Coast something of a Grand Old Lady in the New World, with brick buildings, Colonial and Federal Style homes and an expansive harbor. The Lady speaks of a time when Boston and New England were a British North American colony; for this reason, many visitors are enchanted by its European character.
Nowadays, the narrow streets and alleyways, which are illuminated by gas lanterns at night, teem with everyday life. This is due mostly to the students from all over the world, who are enrolled in one of the over 50 universities and colleges of the area – among them famous Harvard University in nearby Cambridge, the Alma Mater of Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), America’s incubator for bright minds and company founders. The people from different cultures and backgrounds bring with them a breath of fresh air that continues to enrich the center of New England.
History unfolded in Boston
Those who look to the ground at Boston Common, at one of the paths arranged in a star formation, will discover a trail of red clay bricks: the famous Freedom Trail. Over a distance of 4 kilometers, the Freedom Trail leads to 17 sites of historic Boston, illustrating the founding history of the country. Among the stations, you will find a statue of Benjamin Franklin, one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, as well as Park Street Church, inside which human rights activist William Lloyd Garrison gave his first public address against slavery.
Liberation from the colonial rulers
The Old State House, a brick building with turrets, gables and white transom windows, lies a mere ten minute walk from Boston Common. Situated among the steep skyscrapers of the financial district, it rather resembles a forgotten toy. The lion and the unicorn on the roof are the same as those on the crest of the United Kingdom, indicating the past purpose of the building as the seat of the colony government. The relationship between the English and the Native Americans at the time was fraught with tension. When, in 1770, the British king levied draconian taxes on everyday items such as tea, an event that was to go down in history as the Boston Massacre took place outside the Old State House: British soldiers shot five citizens of the city. Three years later, Bostonians, some dressed as Native Americans, boarded the ships of the most prominent British trading company, the East India Company, and threw hundreds of crates of tea into the ocean.
This act of resistance against the British crown would become known as the Boston Tea Party, and it is considered to be an important step on the way to American Independence. On July 18, 1776, it was accomplished; from the balcony of the Old State House in Boston, the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America was read before a cheering crowd. With this document, the country’s 13 states declared their detachment from Great Britain.
An old sailing ship and an obelisk
Following the red markings of the Freedom Trail, you will pass the residence of the American national hero Paul Revere and a cemetery with moss-covered headstones, and crossing Charleston Bridge to the other side of the Charles River, you will reach Cambridge and Charlestown. Here, in the harbor, the freedom of the big wide world and nature is palpable: seagulls cry, the wind, directly off the Atlantic, pulls on your hair, and snow-white masts of sailing ships almost touch the clouds. The most prominent rigging belongs to the USS Constitution, the oldest seaworthy warship in the world, survivor of three sea battles the United States fought to secure their independence.
Today, sightseers have the opportunity to board the USS Constitution for a tour through the harbor; they can imagine how the ship, made from the trunks of 2,000 Virginia oaks, was launched right here, after two unsuccessful attempts, and christened with a bottle of madeira. A walk along the waterfront is equally beautiful. On the Harborwalk, the Grand Old Lady appears simultaneously relaxed and alive. And she has much more in store than what she reveals so readily on the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail ends not far from the USS Constitution, near the Bunker Hill Monument – a granite obelisk whose 294 steps will reward you with a stunning view. The venerable Old Lady entrusts her stories to the wind in all the languages of the world.