Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory
Massachusetts—A Journey into Our Past
By Diane Berry
Travelers with an interest in history and literature will find much to do and see in Massachusetts. Replete with significant locations from both patriotic and literary history, a trip to Massachusetts is an education in itself. Visitors will feel they are literally taking a journey into the past when touring the attractions of this beautiful state.
The towns of Lexington and Concord are known as the birthplace of the American Revolution. At Lexington Green where the battle was engaged, much of the area has been maintained for visitors to experience just as it was in the 1700s. Guests may walk along Battle Road which has been preserved to retain its open farmland, woods and stone walls. Travelers can walk along the Road, imagining the poorly prepared and terrified soldiers, most of them farmers by trade, traversing the same paths on patrol and in battle during the War. Guests can also traverse Concord’s North Bridge, the site of “the shot heard round the world” just as the militia did in battle. On the site now stand the Minute Man statue and the grave of British soldiers. Further along the Road, present day hikers may observe homes from the era as well as Hartwell Tavern where soldiers might have stopped for repast when passing by. Near the end of the road is the very site where Paul Revere was captured on April 18, 1775.
It is commemorated by an historical marker and has become part of Minuteman Historical Park.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is also located in Concord. This famous landmark of literary and haunting lore contains the grave of Henry David Thoreau, noted author of
, as well as numerous other literary giants. Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott are just a few of the others resting there.
Another Concord attraction is Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. This home of the famous author of
takes visitors back to another time, another place. In addition to being a lovely and picturesque residence, visitors may tour the home to get a real flavor of the lifestyle and customs of the time period.
And then there is the sleepy expanse of Walden Pond State Reservation. The name Walden Pond is a bit of a misnomer. Walden Lake might seem more appropriate to persons experiencing this famous body of water for the first time. The place remains, however, a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday 21st century life. Visitors can take a relaxing walk in the woods, much as Thoreau might have done, observe the site of his sparse accommodations or swim, kayak or canoe in the water that inspired this literary genius. No matter what activity you choose, the experience provides relaxation and welcome relief from the busyness of everyday life.
No trip to Massachusetts would be complete without a visit to Salem. Guests may tour the Salem Witch Museum, which explores the Salem Witch trials which ended in the executions of 19 innocent victims during the Witch Hunt of 1692. Mementoes of the experience, tools of the magical arts and lucky charms to take along home are available for purchase from the museum gift shop, as well as any number of boutiques specializing in unusual items located within the city. Aside from a picturesque port and marina area, the town also boasts the House of Seven Gables, made famous in the writings of Nathanial Hawthorne.
A trip to the city of Boston is essential to truly get the flavor of Massachusetts and of the earliest beginnings of this great country. While it is quite a large city, Boston is indeed a city that feels like a small town. Tourists may walk nearly everywhere, from Boston Common to the numerous restaurants that offer sustenance to the entire length of the Freedom Trail. Consisting of 16 stops at historical sites, the Freedom Trail is a red brick or painted trail throughout the city which visitors may follow to take in some of the most significant locations in our quest for freedom from Great Britain. The Trail may be followed with or without a tour guide and generally takes two to three hours to complete.
Walkers may pick up brochures and maps of the Trail from the Visitor’s Center just aside Boston Common, the nearly 50 acre green space in the center of the city. The Common is the largest park in the country and has been used for many purposes throughout its existence. Until 1817, public hangings took place there and until 1830, it was used as grazing land for cattle. British troops camped on the Common prior to the Revolution and left there to face colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord.
Walkers following the red trail out of the Common first encounter the Massachusetts State House. Built in 1798, it is located atop the famous Beacon Hill. The land on which it sits was once owned by the first elected governor of Massachusetts, John Hancock.
Visitors next encounter the Park Street Church and the Granary Burying Ground. The Church is located on the former site of an old granary and its 217 foot steeple was, at one time, the first thing visitors would see upon entering the city. This Evangelical church was the site of the first Sunday school in 1818 and “My Country ‘tis of Thee” was first sung here in 1831 by the church children’s choir.
Alongside the church is the Granary Burying Ground which has significance on its own. Founded in 1616, the cemetery contains the remains of governors and statesmen as well as three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Guests may walk through the gates and right up to the graves of these most significant framers of our constitution and our history. It is an experience to be remembered.
Further along the trail, walkers encounter the Old South Meeting House is located. Built in 1729 as a Puritan house of worship, it is the largest colonial building in Boston. But it is most significantly remembered as the place where the Boston Tea Party began. After a long, tension-filled meeting in winter of 1773, protestors stormed out of the building to dump three shiploads of tea into the Boston harbor, changing American history forever.
The home of Paul Revere is located a short distance past the Meeting House. Revere is remembered as the silversmith who took the midnight ride from Boston to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming to arrest them. He lived in the home with his family lived from 1770 to 1800.
Further along the Trail, the steeple of the Old North Church is first visible between two other buildings and, at 191 feet in height, it is the highest steeple in Boston. For this reason, it was on this steeple that Robert Newman signaled the arrival of the British soldiers with lanterns; “One if by land, and two, if by sea.” The oldest church building in Boston is even more impressive when guests can stand back and take a moment to appreciate the role it played in history. The past truly comes alive when you are standing in front of it looking up!
In the mood for a bit of nourishment after the walk, visitors would be well advised to stop at Durgin Park Restaurant, near the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, another stop on the Trail. Noted for being a bit bawdy and often downright rude, especially if the customer gives the indication that they prefer this “traditional” treatment, the waitresses at Durgin Park make any meal a truly memorable occasion.
After your meal, the Marketplace is a wonderful location to pick up an incredible variety of souvenirs. Everything from clothing to food items to trinkets can be found at Faneuil Hall, either in a brick and mortar store or at a vendor’s cart. The Marketplace was traditionally a place where politicos of the time would gather to spout their views on issues related to governance of the people. Inspirational speeches by Samuel Adams and other patriots were given at Faneuil Hall. Some of this still occurs there, for the entertainment and enlightenment of visitors and guests. Visiting music and dance groups also perform at the Marketplace so it remains a place to see and be seen.
A short drive from Boston, in nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts, the campus of Harvard University is located. It is worth the trip to drive around the campus and tour some of the buildings of this Ivy League institution of higher learning. A trip to the Bookstore will reward with a multitude of cutting edge writings as well as Harvard clothing and souvenirs.
Massachusetts has much to offer as a vacation destination. It is dotted with large and small communities, each with something unique to offer a curious guest. An added bonus is that no matter where in Massachusetts your journey takes you, you are likely to learn something new to enrich your life in a unique literary or historical way.