Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Miss This Town

A little over 12 years ago, we moved from Boston to Florida. For 12 years, I’ve been questioning the wisdom of that decision. Every time we take a drive and some new strip mall has popped up out of nowhere, or a wooded area is cleared for another tract of cheaply-built, closely spaced houses, I remember living in a city that has been “built out” for a hundred years.

We took a stroll around the city on a chilly, overcast day (commonplace January weather in Boston). The streets are a messy, winding tangle, because they were laid out by cows wandering to pasture back in the 1600’s. Somehow, developers managed to build beautiful buildings in the odd negative spaces left available. For example, here’s a building that has a gentle, gracefully curved façade, following the curve of the street below:

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Back in the early days, even functional buildings were constructed with decorative detail, giving the city a rich texture not found anywhere in Florida. Here’s South Station, emblazoned with Ionic columns.

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Boston's small Chinatown district is marked by this cool, traditional gate:

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Because Boston is the capital of Massachusetts, the State House is located there. It sits on top of Beacon Hill adjoining the Boston Common (a city park where cows were once permitted to graze). The dome is gilded and gleams like a beacon on sunny days. However, it was painted black during World War II so it would be a less visible as target for enemy bombers.

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I like the Massachusetts State House, but surprisingly, it’s less imposing than that of Rhode Island, the tiniest state in the union. Even more surprisingly, it's not the original State House. The tiny original state house still stands in the city, but we didn't pass it on our walk.

Everywhere you go, there are plaques or bas-reliefs identifying historical events or locations. This small one identifies the birthplace of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century poet. And he’s just one of many noteworthy poets who lived in the Boston area.

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There’s not much history in Florida, and what little there is, most people seem content to forget.

In Boston, care is taken to preserve old buildings wherever possible. Here, the buildings on either side of this gothic masterpiece have been removed (presumably to replace them). Braces have been put in place to keep the grand old building from collapsing.

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We visited Faneuil (FAN-yewl) Hall, where famous patriots such as Samuel Adams made impassioned speeches advocating independence from British rule. In Florida, Samuel Adams is a brand of beer.

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2 comments:

Florida Historical Society... said...

wasn't that the guy from Emerson, Lake and Palmer???

Tim said...

No, that was Keith Waldo Emerson.