Posts Tagged ‘History’

Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts: Circle the City

Bostonians enjoyed easy access for walking, biking, skating, playing and more on the outbound lanes of Huntington Avenue on Sunday, July 14th thanks to the Circle the City Open Streets program.  Thanks to Walk Boston, I was able to participate in the event reviving my Boston By Foot Avenue of the Arts walking tour.  A small but curious group joined me on the 90 minute walk from the Christian Science Center to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

After the tour, I met up with my wife and kids to take in more of the activities.  My son Peter was drawn to the Super Soccer Stars activities at Northeastern University and happily played soccer with the coaches and rotating cast of children for about three hours.  I had little trouble convincing my daughter Kay to be my copilot on a bike ride up and down the Avenue of the Arts.  We enjoyed the Boston Cyclist Union’s demonstration cycle tracks, listened to a drum circle, watched dancers, heard a loud synthpop duo, rode alongside marching bands, and got high fives from passersby.

Despite scorching hot weather, it was a fun day out for all the family and something I’d love to see more often.  Before I get to the photos, I have two quick, mild criticisms.  First, the map and program didn’t seem to have enough helpful detail about the types of activities going on or even a good sense of where to find some things (for example, I think my tour may have had more people if they had a better sense of what it was and where to meet, but I also had this feeling looking for other activities).  Second, the stretch of Huntington from Ruggles to Brigham Circle felt like the activity tents were spaced far apart.  It’s also a less shady part of the road, unfortunately.  It didn’t seem too welcoming to pedestrian activity and I didn’t see many people walking here.  Maybe the activities should be grouped together more closely to lend it a better street festival vibe?

 

Cross-posted at my Boston Bike Commuter blog.

July 14th: Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts

This Sunday, July 14, 2013, Circle the City and The Fenway Alliance present Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts.  From 11am – 4pm, Huntington Avenue will be closed to motor vehicles and open for fitness, yoga, bikes, dance, arts, kids activities, and walking tours AND MUCH MORE.

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I’m particularly excited about this event because thanks to Walk Boston I’ve been invited to reprise my Boston By Foot walking tour of the Avenue of the Arts.  Imagine a walking tour where we can step safely out into the street to take in new perspectives on the architecture and history of the institutions that line the avenue!  And the best part is that the tour is free.  If you are interested in learning more about the cultural institutions on Huntington Avenue, this is the day to do it.

As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

Meet at the Christian Science Center plaza on Massachusetts Avenue at 11 am for the 90 minute tour.  And leave time to make a day of it because there will be plenty more activities to enjoy on our Open Streets!

 

Happy Independence Day

On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted for independence thus birthing a new nation, the United States of America.  As John Adams wrote,

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

So how are you celebrating Independence Day today?

Wait? You’re not celebrating until July 4th, a date on which nothing of great significance.   Sure, the document known as the Declaration of Independence was approved on that day, but the momentous event of actually declaring independence already happened on July 2nd.  The idea of the Declaration being written, presented to Congress, and signed on July 4th as depicted in art never happened that way.  The Declaration was written over the course of June, presented on June 28th,  and signed on August 2nd (with other delegates adding names through the autumn).

So we celebrate our nation’s independence on the wrong day.  Still we can make it work.  We love our country and we love to celebrate, so why not have two days?  We can celebrate the real Independence Day or Adams’ Independence Day on July 2nd and the conventional wisdom Independence Day or Declaration of Independence Day on July 4th.

Having two Independence Days solves the “July 4th falls on a Wednesday problem.” When July 4 falls on Monday or Friday we celebrate on July 4th. When July 2nd falls on a Monday or Friday we celebrate on July 2nd. When July 2nd is Sunday and July 4th is Tuesday we split the difference and observe Independence Day on July 3rd. Same thing when July 2nd is on Thursday and July 4th on Saturday. And when July 2nd is Tuesday and July 4th is Thursday it’s a Jubilee Year and we all take the entire week off!

EDIT ON JULY 3:  I didn’t see it until today but Mallard Fillmore’s Birthday wrote a much better July 2nd Independence Day blog post than mine.  Read it now!

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Book Review: As if an Enemy’s Country by Richard Archer

Author: Richard Archer
TitleAs if an enemy’s country : the British occupation of Boston and the origins of revolution
Publication Info: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780195382471
Summary/Review: Sometimes you pick up a book thinking it will be about one thing and discover it’s about something else, and learn a lot in the process.  I thought this book would be about Boston occupied by British troops under siege of the Continental Army ca. 1775-1776.  Instead it is set a few years earlier from 1768 to 1770 when British troops were first sent to police the unruly provincial capital.  I did not know, for starters, that after the Boston Massacre (where this book ends) that British military forces were withdrawn from the city only returning for the later conflict.  Archer creates and interesting panorama of Colonial Boston, small in geography and population, where the army formed 1 out every 5 adult males.  The inevitability of conflict between the troops and the populace in what was effectively an armed camp is discussed, but also the unexpected alliances.  Many merchants who would go on to become Loyalists, for example, were fine with the political dissent against taxation and the occupation at the time.  Archer writes an engaging and informative history of a time and place I thought I knew already.

Recommended booksThe Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young,  Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, and Boston Riots: Three Centuries of Social Violence by Jack Tager.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About by Joshua Clover

Author: Joshua Clover
Title:  1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About 
Publication Info: University of California Press (2010)
ISBN: 0520267877
Summary/Review:

Cultural critic, poet, and professor Joshua Clover examines the pivotal year of 1989 as it manifested itself in popular music.  He has three main focal points.  First, the transition of rap music from Black Nationalism to gangsta, from East Coast to West Coast, through Public Enemy and NWA (with a short dalliance into the third way of De La Soul’s da inner sound, y’all).  Next, he goes to England for the rave scenes of “The Second Summer of Love” which is both a term I’ve never heard before and a culture I knew little about.  Back in the US, Clover heads to the Pacific Northwest for the emergence of the inwardly focused punk/metal blend of grunge.  Later chapters also explore what was on the Billboard charts in 1989 and explicates the vapidity of the Jesus Jones’ song that provides the subtitle of the book.  The ultimate conclusion is that popular culture embraced the image-event of the fall of the Berlin Wall but missed that actual revolutions of  that year.  Overall, this was an entertaining trip down memory lane (not to mention filling in the gaps of the things I missed the first time around) but found the author’s use of an overly scholarly tone off-putting.  If you’re interested in music criticism and the history of the late 80s/early 90s, pick up this book as it won’t take long to read, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.

Recommended books: How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll by Elijah Wald and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: City : a guidebook for the urban age by P.D. Smith

Author: P.D. Smith
Title: City : a guidebook for the urban age
Publication Info:   Bloomsbury Press (2012)
ISBN: 9781608196760

Summary/Review:  This is kind of a coffee table book for urbanists depicting humanity’s greatest invention – the city!  The book is split into bit size chapters about different aspects of the city from public parks to public transportation, from skyscrapers to the street, and from coffehouses to hotels.  The books spans history and the globe seemingly try to create a city in the pages with snapshots of what makes up the city.

Favorite Passages:

“Look above the shopfronts and you begin to sense the history of the original buildings: exposed beams, time-roughened brickwork as red-raw as abraded skin, a plaque recording a creative life spent in a building, faded lettering advertising a long-defunct product.  As you stand in the high street, to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras you are just one more figure among the crowds of shoppers, someone with time to kill and money to spend.  But as you begin to notice these traces of the past and read the urban text, the city starts to come alive. You become part of its history, more than a mere consumer of products.  You are ready to begin a journey that can take you back to the roots of civilisation itself.  It is time to start walking.” – p. 171

“Creative cities are edgy places, where conservative, traditional forces collide with new, radical ideas in a shower of brilliant sparks.  Great cities are complex, even disorderly, cosmopolitan communities.  They are certainly not the easiest or safest places in which to live (housing conditions in Athens were far from ideal).  Such cities are often overwhelming and intense environments.  But this is often why they are such creative places. After all, it’s the irritant of sand in an oyster that produces a pearl.” – p. 253

Rating: **1/2

Boston’s South End: A Photo Collage

A photo collage of sites in Boston’s South End.

Learn more about these sites on the South End Walking Tour presented by Boston By Foot, this Sunday August 26th at 2pm.

Buy advance tickets for the tour online and meet us across from Back Bay Station on Dartmouth Street.

This Sunday: Boston By Foot South End Walking Tour

Come join a South End Walking Tour presented by Boston By Foot.

I will be one of the guides, but this is not just shameless self-promotion as the other five guides are a dream team of some of the best walking tour guides in Boston.  Come learn about one of the largest, most diverse, and dynamic neighborhoods in Boston.

Buy advance tickets for the tour online and meet us across from Back Bay Station on Dartmouth Street at 2 pm on Sunday August 26th.

Book Review: The Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

Author:  Eric Foner 
TitleThe Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Publication Info:  New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2010.
ISBN:   9780393066180
Summary/Review:

Every year on or around Lincoln’s Birthday I read a book about Abraham Lincoln, and this year I read this study about Lincoln’s evolving views on slavery.  Some people consider him the great emancipator while others think he was racist and never freed a slave.  Both views have an aspect of truth.  Foner shows that Lincoln was anti-slavery from early in his life but did not think freed black persons were equal or capable of living alongside white Americans.  Until late in his Presidency he held true to a plan of colonization and resettlement of freed blacks in Africa or Latin America.  Yet, even these views were modified over time as during his Presidency he was actually exposed to meeting and respecting black individuals on a regular basis.  It’s an interesting look at how a mind changes and how the country changes as Lincoln was often just a step ahead of popular opinion.

Recommended booksThe Radical and the Republican by James Oakes
Rating: ***1/2

  • The Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

Walking Tour of Davis Square in Somerville

I’ll be leading this Boston By Foot Tour of the Month of Davis Square in Somerville (which I also researched and co-wrote) on Sunday, July 29th from 2pm-3:30pm.  Admission is $15 per person, $5 for members (and you can become a member on the day of the tour).  No reservations needed, just show up a few minutes before 2 pm on Sunday at the plaza opposite Somerville Theatre.

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