The Flat is Where It’s At!


If a Jamaica Pond tour isn’t enough for one weekend, head to Charles/MGH station on Sunday June 28th as Boston By Foot presents the Tour of the Month, The Flat of Beacon Hill.  This special tour will focus on the lesser known and once unfashionable area built on made land along the Charles River.  Stepping off at 2 pm, tour admission is $15 per person, but only $5 for Boston By Foot members (one of the many reasons to become a member!).  This tour is also an event for the Boston By Foot Meetup Group, another great way to get involved, meet people, and learn about our fair city.  I will not be leading this tour myself, but I can assure you that some of the finest and knowledgeable guides will be.

A view of Brimmer Street in the Flat of Beacon Hill
A view of Brimmer Street in the Flat of Beacon Hill

Click here for many more photos of the December offering of this tour.

Official description of this tour:

On this walk you will discover one of Boston’s least known and most delightful neighborhoods. The Flat of Beacon Hill is built on 19th century made-land along the Charles River. The Flat is geologically part of Back Bay and culturally park of Beacon Hill, with the architecture of both. This intimate patch of real estate soon acquired carriage houses and horse stables owned by the wealthy families living on Beacon Hill. Today, many of these edifices have been converted into charming residences and seamlessly blend among the notable landmarks such as the Charles Street Meeting House, the Church of the Advent, and the Sunflower Castle. What do Sam Mayday Malone, a private-eye named Spenser, a Fox Terrier named Igloo, and seven strangers have in common? They all know the Flat is where it’s at!

See you on Sunday!

Boston By Foot Special Tour: Literary Landmarks, Continued


An entire week has passed, and I’ve yet to write about Boston By Foot’s special tour of 20th Century writers who lived and worked on Beacon Hill held on March 8th entitled Literary Landmarks, Continued.   This is a sequel of sorts to the regular Literary Landmarks tour which focuses on the 19th Century writers in the same area and is offered every Saturday at 10 am during the regular tour season from May to October.

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial subject of Robert Lowell's most famous poem "For the Union Dead"
The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial subject of Robert Lowell's most famous poem "For the Union Dead"

The tour covered a number of sites including:

  • Site of Houghton-Mifflin publishing on Park Street
  • The Boston Athenaeum
  • The Massachusetts State House
  • Site of Little, Brown publishing on Beacon Street
  • Joy Street
  • The Beacon Press
  • Mt. Vernon Street
  • Louisburg Square
  • Cedar Street
  • Savenor’s Market
  • Charles Circle
Shadow of the Little, Brown name on a Beacon Street building
Shadow of the Little, Brown name on a Beacon Street building

More important than the sites are the stories of the writers and the literature they produced.  Sadly, the words “depression,” “alchoholism,” “failed marriages,” and “suicide” were repeated throughout the tour, so being a Boston writer was not an easy job.

Writer’s included on this tour include:

  • Esther Forbes, author of Johnny Tremain
  • poet Amy Lowell
  • Samuel Eliot Morrison, author of One Boy’s Boston
  • historian David McCullough who researches his work at the Athenaeum
  • poet Robert Lowell
  • Frances Parkinson Keynes, author of novel called Joy Street
  • Atlantic editor Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  • William Stanley Braithwaite, poet who joined black and white poets together in an anthology for the first time
  • Frances Minturn Howard, who wrote Beacon Hill: Hub of the Universe
  • David MCord, children’s poet
  • Sylvia Plath, poet born in Jamaica Plain who lived on Beacon Hill with Ted Hughes
  • Robert Frost, probably the most famous poet of New England
  • Robin Cook, physician and author of medical thrillers
  • Archibald MacLeish, lawyer, poet and Librarian of Congress
  • John Marquand, author of The Late George Apley and the “Mr. Moto” series
  • W.S. Merwin, poet and playwright-in-residence at Poet’s Theatre
  • Annie Fields, writer, publisher, and host of literary salons
  • Sarah Orne Jewett, novelist and story writer
  • Willa Cather, novelist of My Antonia and other stories of the Great Plains
  • Julia Child, cookbook writer
A plaque commemorates Robert Frost residency as one of the many great writers who lived on Beacon Hill
A plaque commemorates Robert Frost residency as one of the many great writers who lived on Beacon Hill

If you’re kicking yourself for missing this terrific tour, make sure to sign up at Meetup.com so you will get reminders of Boston By Foot special tours. Better yet, become a member of Boston By Foot and take free regular tours, discounted special tours, and tours only available for members.  You can even become a guide yourself by signing up online and attending the Annual Spring Lecture Series which begins on April 11th.

Upcoming tours include:

  • Sunday March 29th, 2 pm – Great Women of Boston (meet at the flagpoles at City Hall Plaza)
  • Sunday April 25th, 2 pm – Revisiting the Waterfront, lead by yours truly (meet at McKinley Sq., by the entrance to Marriott Custom House)

See you on the streets of Boston!

Boston By Foot Special Tour: The Flat of Beacon Hill


On Sunday, December 7th, a hearty band of around two-dozen fans of Boston history and architecture came out for a special sneak preview of an upcoming Tour of the Month of The Flat of Beacon Hill.  The Flat is part of Beacon Hill literally removed from the top of the hill and used to fill in marshy land between Charles Street and the river.  The result is a charming and overlooked nook in the city.  Check out my photo gallery online.

Snowman on the Balcony welcomes you to the Flat!
Snowman on the Balcony welcomes you to the Flat!

The tour will be offered again on June 28, 2009 (and in the 2010 season as well) but it was especially charming to take the tour as the first snowfall of the season fell and the residents of the neighborhood put up decorations.  Highlights of the tour include the homes of Samuel Elliot Morrison, Edward Filene, and Admiral Richard E. Byrd.  Architectual landmarks include the Charles Street Meetinghouse, the Sunflower Castle, and the magnificent Church of the Advent.  The neighborhood is also shaped by it’s history as the location of stables & carriage house for wealthy people up the hill (leading to Morrison’s nickname of  “the horsey district”), studios for artists & architects, and buildings moved, demolished or modified by the widening of Charles Street.

Making the neighborhood cheerful for the holiday season
Making the neighborhood cheerful for the holiday season

Keep an eye on the Boston By Foot webpage for more special winter offerings, including a special birthday edition of Son of Boston where your’s truly will be a guide.  Becoming a Boston By Foot member is a great way to get discounts and freebies on a lot of tours and special events.  Memberships also make great holiday gifts.

Who new this amazing church was hidden away in this corner of Boston?  I didnt!
Who knew this amazing church was hidden away in this corner of Boston? I didn't!

Beer Review: Sevens Dark Ale


This is a beer on tap at the Sevens Ale House in Beacon Hill.

Beer: Dark Ale
Brewer:Sevens Ale House
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.1 of 10)

Comments: I tried this beer at the Sevens Ale House on Sunday where it is apparently the house beer, however I don’t know who does the brewing. It’s a beer with an attractive reddish/brown color but the pint I had did not have much of a head or visible carbonation. It was pleasantly bitter with a nutty aftertaste. I don’t know much about real ale, but for some reason I think this is the type of beer that may taste better at a warmer temperature. Nevertheless this was a nice old-fashioned beer appropriate to a chummy pub.