Let’s continue our journey through the monuments and sites that have marked the history of the origins of ‘America, through what is now the historic centre of the city of Boston.
Boston Latin School
Founded in 1635, it was the oldest public school in America and offered free education to children both rich and poor; among its students we can find five signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Today, to mark the spot where the original school once stood, there is the statue of another of its graduates: Benjamin Franklin.
Unfortunately, I have to note that, like other monuments that represent the town’s history, American institutions did not care to preserve it in its original form. The building was left to decay and was then demolished, and a memorial statue took its place. This is not the only example of abandoned historical buildings one can find in Boston as well as in other cities in the United States.
Old Corner Book Store
To resume the above discussion, here we are faced with an example of history not only forgotten but humiliated. At the “Old Corner Book Store”, between Washington and School Street, books by the most innovative American and foreign authors were printed, and on the first floor, was one of the most important cultural gathering area of the 700’s. In this hall, the most different topics were discussed, first of all poetry for which the library became known as “the Parnassus Corner ” in honour of the place where the nine muses of Greek mythology lived. Unfortunately, nothing is left of the original book store, or is there any evidence, that great intellectuals might have left in their passing because today the building houses a Mexican restaurant, one of many belonging to a chain.
I can understand that it may happen, that time and history might not leave us anything from a specific moment in time, but to humiliate what has been a bastion of culture for Boston by replacing it with a Mexican grill, it is something that makes me feel a great sadness.
Old South Meeting House
Built in 1729 it was the largest building in Colonial Boston and was used as a meeting place and for prayer by the Puritans of the city. The building acquired its place in history when, inside it gathered more than five thousand Bostonians who were protesting against the taxes imposed by the mother country England, on tea imports. Here Samuel Adams, one of the founding fathers, said that the time for words was over and that a strong action was needed to make it clear that the taxing could not happen without representation. On the same night settlers, disguised as Indians, threw 340 baskets of tea in the sea creating what henceforth history would call the “Boston Tea Party”.
Old State House
In this building the British power in Boston had its highest representation, here lived the governor and here the council meetings took place. But the Boston State house is not famous for being a British symbol, it is famous because it was the very centre of the revolution in Massachusetts. Speeches were held in front of what had become the symbol of ‘oppression, speeches that contributed to the start of movements and protests, the most violent of which led to the famous Boston Massacre that, thanks to the patriots propaganda, has become the symbol of British oppression.
However, history teaches us, that the so called peaceful settlers were actually armed and certainly did not have peaceful intentions. But then, the winners are usually the ones that write the history of great nations. At the end of the revolution, the Declaration of its Independence was read from the balcony of the boardroom and, to celebrate the event, the lion and the unicorn, symbols of the British power which stood in front of the building, were destroyed and have now been replaced by copies.
Founded in 1741 as a centre for commerce by the merchant Peter Faneuil, it hosted Boston’s “Marketplace” and throughout the colonial period had an important role as a meeting point for the most important personalities of the city. Here had their start the first children of freedom’s intrigues (sons of liberty) with the aim to give America its independence and here, is where speeches and demonstrations were held. Today, it has become a big souvenir shop and behind it there are two halls with many ethnic restaurants and shops that attract a lot of tourists every day.
This was the second part of the freedom trail and as you read it, at times you probably perceived my criticism, which I would like to explain. America has a short history if we consider only what is learned in school. It does not cover the Native Americans history, nothing is said about how the white man has uprooted them from their land and systematically condemned them to be forgotten. Their history is lost, so what is left of American history should be preserved and enhanced, by making the most of it and not do things such as transforming a 300 years old bookstores into a Mexican grill.
Unfortunately this disastrous behaviour is common in Europe as well, where no nation is exempt from these faults. For instance, we Italians are working very hard to make sure that of our cultural heritage remains only what we can afford to preserve. There are no investments, restorations or redevelopments, but most important, nothing is done to stop raiders who, as you read, are stealing artefacts from an Etruscan or Roman tomb.
I don’t know how an article on the Boston Trail has ended in an alarm about the need to defend and protect our artistic and cultural heritage, but I hope the message has come across. I will be back soon with the next (and final) part of the Freedom Trail. Stay tuned!