Otis House: Living Witness to the Federal Period

Otis House

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The Otis House (1796), named for Harrison Gray Otis, is filled with memories of the Federal Period.  From one room to the next the furnishings speak as if America is still young and the Otises still live there with the kids.  Tour guide Judy Gansberg gives the house a voice and brings the residents, so long dead, to life as she points to new-looking yet antiquated objects and explains their uses.  One imagines Mrs. Otis caring for the children at the crib next to her bed in her upstairs bedroom.  Within the narrative, one hears running children threaten to disturb the guests in the elegant (with)drawing room (they had 11 kids by the end).  I visited on a recent freezing, gloomy Wednesday when the light was becoming dim, so I had no difficulty putting myself in place of someone walking through the big house at night with candles, or feeling his way in darkness like on those reality shows.

The tour includes a slideshow which shows the view of Beacon Hill out the front windows in 1796.  There were three peaks, and no one lived there because of the steep pitch.  No one is alive who remembers it.  But when you focus on the number of experiences, of births, deaths, marriage celebrations, cryings, laughing fits, of which the house has been the locus — by 1925 several hundred people had lived in that house — one feels the house may have imbibed some of this life and retained some opinions of America’s past.  It would remember Beacon Hill when it had the same look John Winthrop saw in 1630 (almost: the construction had just begun).  It would remember George Washington’s final year as president, and the Lincoln assassination (Imagine the reaction inside that day.  It was then a boarding house for women.  Perhaps some had a crush on the famous actor John Wilkes Booth who had recently performed nearby).  It would remember its retirement in 1925 when it finally became a museum.  The house was new in 1796.  But it feels new to me, or, rather, eloquent, and old.  Eloquence has eternal youth.  When you drive by it as a trolley tour guide, you don’t realize how much the bright colors of the carpeting and decor contrast with the staid exterior.

From the front windows, the house has for over two centuries gazed without blinking upon the changes in Beacon Hill.  Windows cover the front.  The house has three stories, so there are three rows of windows, like a triple-layer cake.  The windows are directly above and below each other in vertical columns, of which there are five.  So they’re arrayed like a tic-tac-toe box with 15 places.  The center bottom place is taken, however, by the front door, which is precisely Federal in style because it has fake columns (“pilasters”) on each side, and a window on top which is flat on the bottom where it touches the door, but rounded at the top like a half-moon.  Extremely common — nay, definitive — for the Federal style.  On the lower two floors each window is “six over six.”  That is, each window is a grid of three panes across, four high, but grouped in two sixes one atop the other.  The top floor has smaller windows, only “three over three.”  The perfect symmetry of the front face is definitive of Federal style (also of Georgian, from which Federal springs.  Federal is rather a classical spin on Georgian).  One thing is different here from other Federal houses. In the 19th Century the second floor windows are frequently much larger than those on the first floor to maximize sunlight.  You can see this on Beacon Street.  Like those old houses which face south over the Common, the Otis House also faces south, to grab the warming sun.  In the middle column among the five there is, as stated, the door on the bottom floor.  The center square of the frontal grid is occupied by a window with a rounded top and pilasters on the sides, and at the top floor there is another window, semicircular, like the one atop the door.  These are some of the chiefest features of Federal style.

Other examples of Federal Style in Boston are the two other Otis Houses, the State House, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, the Old West Church, Charles Street Meeting House, and St. Stephen’s Church.

These windows to the soul of the house have witnessed miraculous transformations, the memories of which have perhaps penetrated the materials.  In 1796, for example, the Mount Vernon Proprietors, of which Harrison was a principal, were taking down the hills and smoothing out Beacon Hill, the one chosen to remain and become a neighborhood.  This was the first step also in creating the famous landfill project that perhaps all tour guides must discuss now and then.  The Mount Vernon Proprietors were of course named after George Washington’s home in Virginia, and so is Mount Vernon Street, the wealthiest part of the Hill, where John Kerry lives.  Harrison was a leader of the nation, a leader of the Federalist Party which included Hamilton, Madison, Washington, and Adams, and he was a major real estate developer.  He was a congressman, senator, district attorney, and mayor of Boston.  By 1846 he was worth about 800,000 dollars, the equivalent of 5.6 billion (that’s a “B”) today.  The estate was administrated with the help of about seven servants, some of whom lived in the North End.  The Otis family would later occupy two more mansions on Beacon Hill; all three were designed by Charles Bulfinch.  Otis died in 1848.

Other members of the Otis family include revolutionary orator James Otis Jr.; Elisha Otis, born in 1811, who founded Otis Elevator Company, and invented a device so that when the cable breaks the elevator car doesn’t just crash to the ground and kill everyone; and Amelia Earhart the flyer.

It’s in the tradition of New England literature to envision the living quality of a house, as in Poe’s “House of Usher,” and Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables of Salem, a city itself replete with Federal architecture, perhaps the largest sampling of it in the country.  If the Otis House were a living entity with a philosophy of its own, it would be a Roman.  Well, almost a Roman.  A “Roman American.”  It’s features are neoclassical (meaning copycatting the ancients of “classical” Greece and Rome), but even the symmetry characteristic of Georgian and of Federal architecture was not foreign to Rome (and especially Greece) with its fetish for geometrical patterns and ratios.  The Federal style of architecture ran from about 1783 to 1830.

Just as people display a flag to show pride in a cause or nation, so Americans displayed domes, columns, and windows in neoclassical style to show that America stood for the principles of Rome.  Latin itself was a standard part of the curriculum, for it was believed that the educated mind spoke the language of the Roman mind.  The founders believed the Constitution which defined the noble republic was itself an epitome of Roman principles – with a few tweaks to make power-balancing more robust.  A different philosophy would have produced a different architecture.  While many Federal structures are now vanished, Otis House yet stands for (believes in) republican principles.  The uncle of Harrison Otis, James Otis, is the one who expressed the most famous of these: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

Given their fetish for Rome, it’s amazing our senators don’t have to wear togas!  But, our leaders are in fact depicted in togas; for statues of respected Americans throughout the 19th Century continued to be depicted in togas, as a symbol of their (Roman) ideological legitimacy, i.e., that they believe in equality and law.  And it practically follows from the logic of history that there was a massive statue of George Washington in a toga in the Capitol Forum (whose construction was supervised by the same architect as the Otis House).  And there is a number of statues of important Americans in togas within a short walk of the Otis House, for example Horace Mann in front of the State House, and Josiah Quincy on School Street.

The architect of the Otis House, Charles Bulfinch, was born on the other side of Bowdoin Square from it.  Bulfinch supervised the construction of the Capitol Building in D.C.  And he designed three of the six state houses in New England, one of them just out the front windows of the Otis House, at the summit of Beacon Hill.  Bulfinch was a chief architect of the Federal Period.  But he was influenced by movements in England.  It was not Americans who began the obsession with classical philosophy.  The flag of classical infatuation had flown in Europe first, during the Renaissance, a “rebirth” of classical ideas.  So the Federal-Period flourishing of togas and palladian windows and fancy columns and domes was, in addition to freestanding pride in Rome, also a way for Americans to prove to Europe that they had arrived.  These statuary togati (statues depicting people in togas) were emblems of faith, like a dollar bill, or a license, things which empower the holder because of our faith in them as tokens in the game of society.  When a sculptor decked out a prominent American in Roman garb, this American, by the unwritten rules of the game, would already be authenticated in the mind of the (re)public.  To deck him thus symbolized the deep fact that he was already held to be a legitimate political entity – equivalent in greatness even to a British or a French leader!  There was a new boldness in America.  All this neoclassicism was among other things a method of standing up and claiming our adulthood as a nation.  No empire, French or British or Spanish, could push us around anymore.  And that’s final!  See the toga?

This national pride, and the newness of it, the groping for identity it entailed inspired the mission of one of America’s greatest writers: our own Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson’s concern with “self-reliance” and the “american scholar” argue passionately in the 1830s and 40s for an “original vision” for America.  Emerson argued against apologizing for what we are.  We are a country with our own identity and should not look to others for validation.  He was only expressing what had already come into full flower.  But he was giving it a powerful voice and putting it into more empowering words that it had previously experienced.  Personally, the essay “Self Reliance” is one of my favorite pieces of literature; I’ve read it dozens of times.  The Otis House marks the moment when America seized its identity and became an adult.

Left on Red

- by Jon Cotton

Years ago a mentor said you can turn left at a red light onto a one way, from a one way, after a complete stop.  It’s come up since among tour guides, and I haven’t known what to believe.  I asked some cops.  They didn’t know.  One said he’d have to “see it written down” to believe it.  Here is the answer, “written down” in the Massachusetts Driving Manual (page 81):


left on red

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Lincoln and Booth in Boston

"Emancipation Statue" of Lincoln in Park Square

“Emancipation Statue” of Lincoln in Park Square

-by Jon Cotton

Abraham Lincoln hopped off the train in Park Square in 1848 to stump for presidential candidate Zachary Taylor.  He spoke at Tremont Temple Church, formerly Tremont Theater.  The theater was once managed by Junius Brutus Booth, a famous Shakespeare actor from England, and father of John Wilkes and Edwin Booth.  Junius Brutus was named after the Brutus of “et tu Brute” fame, the assassin of Julius Caesar.  According to legend, when Julius was stabbed Brutus uttered the condemnation “Sic semper tyrannis!” – “thus always to tyrants!”  When John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln this was the phrase he screamed into the audience, angling for the acclaim he never received.

John Wilkes Booth performed frequently at the Boston Museum on Tremont Street.  He stayed at nearby Omni Parker House on April 5 and 6, 1865, shooting the president nine days later, April 14, 1865 (the president died next morning, April 15, 1865, 7:22 am).  John had been seen to practice his gun technique at a shooting range off nearby School Street.

Lincoln was enamored of Booth.  He saw him at Ford’s Theater and asked to meet, but Booth declined due to political differences.  Booth’s intimacy with every crevice of the playhouse made it perfect ground to stage his act.  Booth shot Lincoln, brandished a sword, then jumped like a dramatic hero from balcony to stage, and shouted the Latin phrase.  It was perhaps his greatest performance, in the strictly histrionic sense.  But the action was real.  12 days later Booth was shot unpretentiously by a man named “Boston” Corbett.


Lincoln was enamored of Booth.  But Booth loved Lucy.  Another contender for Lucy Hale was Robert Lincoln, eldest son of Abraham and Mary.  Lucy’s father preferred Robert, but Lucy preferred John, and the two were engaged.  When Booth was killed, Lucy’s picture was in his pocket.

John and Edwin admired Boston for its beauty and culture.  John earned 20,000 dollars a year in the 1860s.  But Edwin was the more prominent actor.  Edwin lived on Beacon Hill (26 Chestnut Street).  John bought a lot at 115 Commonwealth where a mansion was built in 1863 that recently sold for 10.6 million.  Even without John’s action, Edwin would still be famous as one of the best Hamlets.

Shortly before the assassination, Edwin saved the life of Robert Lincoln.  On a crowded platform, Robert was pressed into a moving train, and Edwin snatched him back.  Robert thanked him by named, but Edwin found out only later that he saved a Lincoln.

Robert Lincoln was at Harvard during Lincoln’s presidency.  In an early scene of the 2012 movie Lincoln, Mary Todd quotes Shakespeare, saying “We’ll fatten you up before you return to Boston.”  The original line, from Hamlet to Horatio, is “We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you return to Wittenberg.”  Just as Hamlet’s friend has returned to Denmark from Wittenberg University for the coronation of the King, so Robert has come to the White House from Harvard for the (second) inauguration of his father.

Boston’s Abandoned Tunnels

Tremont Tunnel

Tremont Tunnel

Did you know there exist abandoned tunnels beneath Boston?  The musty world of silence echoes with trains past, squeaks of present rats, and suggests the supernatural horror of Poe, who was born a minute’s walk from America’s first subway tunnel.  This tunnel went from Park Street, along Tremont, crossing Boylston, through the Theater District.  At Tremont and Boylston, from the door at the surface of Boylston Station, you can hear the awful shriek of metal wheels on tracks far below as today’s train is routed sharply away from the Tremont tunnel, into Back Bay.  Such sounds must screech loudly through the walls of the receiving, abandoned tunnel, an empty darkness witnessed by man nevermore.  Well, almost nevermore.  There’s a video segment below.  We’ll get to that.  Anyway, the tunnel Bostonians traveled in 1897 continues to the Theater District.  And there is now a movement to open it up by installing a new museum-like area for the public.

Today we laugh at the skeptics who thought the buildings on Tremont would fall when the rolling trains of the new subway would cause earthquake conditions.  Horse-drawn carriages so glutted the upper world, that the area below was called into service.  In 1897 Tremont street was an aggravating bottleneck, as the Fitzgerald Expressway was for us, and the opening of America’s first subway relieved the road rage of Tremont Street travelers, as the Big Dig did for us.

Other Boston Tunnels

Speaking of the Big Dig, the Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest tunnel in North America.  And an entirely different set of tunnels exists beneath the North End.  This tunnel system is exploited by the horror stories of H. P. Lovecraft (c.f., “Pickman’s Model“) and deserves an article of its own.

The Present Video

The intrigue of abandoned underground areas blends with classical religious iconography and horror literature.  And some people are drawn by whatever it is of the past, the removed, the out-of-reach, that speaks to them.  The fascination comes out sometimes in the form of an interest in the trains that rode the highways of history and are now in museums.  One such “train buff,” “trainspotter,” or “railfan,” is the president of the Boston Street Railway Association, Bradley Clarke.  Three years ago he was permitted to explore, with flashlights and a safety team from the MBTA, the abandoned subway tunnels.  From Boston.com, here’s a short video of their adventure.

(Click here for the video)

Boston English: Grammar, Accent, Food!

-by Jon Cotton

The video below talks about the Boston way of speech.  We omit the letter “r” after a vowel.  The linguistic term “non-rhotic” is used, which means “non-r.”  If we don’t pronounce the letter “r” in the word “letter,” that’s because of our “non-rhotic accent.”

Having grown up in Boston, I have learned only little by little that certain of my language habits are native to here.  When most people talk about “bowling,” they mean the kind with the large ball, and holes you can put your fingers into.  Our style is called, as you may know, “candlepin” bowling, and was invented in Worcester.  In other places the word “frappe” is not used (for nonBostonians: “milk shake.”  But it’s actually a little thicker, it seems to me, than what we here at least call a “milk shake”).  Some of you remember Buzzy’s Roast Beef in Charles Circle.  I’ve heard some of you make jokes about it on your tours, as do many local comedians.  That way of making roast beef sandwiches is native to here, mostly to the north shore.  A “roast beef sandwich” elsewhere is … not as good.  In official documentation for automobiles, when blinkers are called “directionals,” that’s because apparently we’re the only ones who call them “blinkers.”  And the breakdown lane is called by other people the “shoulder.”  Rotaries are called “traffic circles” elsewhere.  I don’t think most of us call water fountains “bubblers” today, but we all know what is meant by the term.  Only we use the term “carriage” for a “shopping cart.”  We might get an ice cream cone with “jimmies,” but other people call them “chocolate sprinkles.”

Here’s one further tidbit not mentioned in the video.  It’s standard throughout English to express agreement with someone with the phrase “so do I.”  I might say “I love chocolate,” and you might say “So do I.”  But in Boston – or New England – we sometimes say “So don’t I.”  It’s subtle, but if you think about it carefully, “so don’t I” is logically awkward, strictly speaking.  But to us it seems transparent because it’s how we talk.  But no one else does.  So to others it can be confusing.

The blog Universal Hub has a discussion of Boston English.

Enjoy the video.

Red Sox’ Tony Conigliaro: Unfulfilled Promise

- by Old School

And then one August night, the kid in right, lie sprawling in the dirt.The fastball struck him square; he’s down.  Is Tony badly hurt?

– From  the “Impossible Dream,” 1967 Boston Red Sox season with Ken Coleman and Don Gillis.

Anthony Richard Conigliaro was born on January 7, 1945 in Revere, MA.  In 1962, at the age of just 17, Tony C graduated from St. Mary’s of Lynn High School and was drafted and signed by the Boston Red Sox!  In 1963, just 18 years young, Tony batted .363 with 24 home runs playing minor league ball.

Tony C was becoming the most exciting young player in all of Major League Baseball.  He was called up to the Red Sox for the 1964 season, and, despite missing 50 games due to a broken arm (He was hit in the arm by a pitch.), the teenager batted .290 with 24 home runs and 52 RBIs.  In just his second season, Tony became the youngest home run champ in the history of the game, knocking out 32 home runs.

In the summer of 1967, the Red Sox were in the midst of their “Impossible Dream” season.  New manager Dick Williams brought a new philosophy to Boston, and it was working.  Pitcher Jim Lonborg would win 22 games that year.  Carl Yastrzemski was on his way to winning the Triple Crown and the MVP.  Tony Conigliaro, at the age of 22, had just become the youngest American League player to hit 100 home runs.

In Fenway Park, on August 18th of 1967, the Sox were playing the California Angels.  In the fifth inning, Angel’s pitcher Jack Hamilton hit Tony C in the face with a pitch.  Tony suffered a broken cheek bone, a dislocated jaw, and damage to his retina.  He would miss the rest of that season and all of the 1968 season.  His team would go on to win the American League Pennant, but lose in the World Series.

After missing a year and a half, Tony attempted to come back to the game in 1969.  Tony C would win the league’s “Comeback Player of the Year” that year, playing 141 games, hitting 20 homers with 82 RBIs.  In 1970, Tony had a fine year as well, hitting 36 homers and 116 RBIs while playing alongside his younger brother Billy.

Tony’s eyesight, which was never quite the same after the damage from the injury, continued to falter.  He played a bit for the Angels in 1971, but retired after that season.  He would attempt one more comeback in 1975 with the Red Sox, but that would last just 21 games, as his eyesight was now permanently damaged.

During his playing career, as well as after he was done, Tony often could be found singing in night clubs in and around Boston.  He even appeared on the Merv Griffin show, singing his signature song “Little Red Scooter.”

During his short career he had several noteworthy accomplishments.  He was the 1965 Home Run Champ.  He was selected to the All-Star team in 1967.  He was Youngest American leaguer to hit 100 home runs.  He also holds the record for home runs by a teenager.  He was the 1969 AL Comeback Played of the Year.

Tony C always seemed to have health issues after that August night in 1967.  In 1982, he suffered a stroke that left him on a coma.  He remained that way until his death in 1990 at the age of just 45.

Each year, the Tony Conigliaro Award is given to the Major League Baseball player who has exemplified Tony’s fighting spirit in overcoming obstacles and adversity.

-Old School is the sports columnist for bostontourguide.org

Myth: Puritans Believed in Religious Tolerance

-by Jon Cotton

Here are two inconsistent yet common perceptions of the 17th-Century New England settlers:

1.  They came for religious freedom, so they were tolerant.
2.  They were not tolerant; they were strict and persecuted innocent citizens with their stringent laws of religion.

The 17th-Century New Englanders were Puritans.  The word “puritan” gives the adjective “puritanical,” used in common speech to mean “moralistic, rigid, persecutory.”  We tend to imagine the Puritans of Boston and Salem as being witch-hunters and locking people in stocks on Boston Common for uttering vulgarities or for kissing – even your spouse – in public.  These are the Puritans of The Scarlet Letter.  In contrast, we think of the “Pilgrim Fathers” of Thanksgiving’s Plimouth Colonie as laying the groundwork for religious tolerance – they “came to America for their religious freedom.”  Within the general lore of early Early New England, accordingly, lies this tension.

Quick clarification: some people make a sharp distinction between the Thanksgiving pilgrims of Plymouth, and the Boston-Salem Puritans.  The pilgrims were separatists and the puritans were not separatists.  But this is the only difference between them.  Their views of religious tolerance are indistinguishable.  Therefore I refer to the collective grouping as “Puritans.”

The thesis of the current article is, as the title suggests, that statement number two above is the more truthful of the two.  The Puritans elicit our fascination and are an intriguing people to study, a people who were sincere and interesting.  But they believed in persecutionism.  The purpose of the article is to elaborate on that.

Smithsonian Magazine says

In the storybook version most of us learned in school, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since these religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as their governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.

The problem is that this tidy narrative is an American myth…

The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.

The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.

We remember from school that the Pilgrims came here to escape persecution and practice their beliefs freely. But from the fact that they came here to practice their beliefs, it doesn’t follow that they believed others had the same right.  This is a logical point.  A given group may seek a place to practice its beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they believe that anyone else has the same right.  For example the Puritans did not have this belief.  The notion that everyone should have the right to practice their own religion only gained wide acceptance toward the end of the Puritan era.  Such belief in tolerance was first implemented in a major way only later during the Revolutions of France (1789) and the United States (1775).

According to PBS, John Cotton, chief spokesman of the (1630) Boston settlers, said that tolerance is “liberty … to tell lies in the name of the Lord.”  In other words, a law protecting freedom of speech is something like a government endorsement of blasphemy.  He would have repudiated the first amendment of our Constitution.  Imagine letting people talk just any way they want to about God!  Dangerous!  Such permissiveness could anger God and result in plague, crop failure, demonic possession, and myriad further horrors.  As PBS succinctly states:

Ministers like the Reverend John Cotton  preached that it was wrong to practice any religion other than Puritanism. Those who did would be helping the devil. They believed they followed the only true religion so everyone should be forced to worship as they did.

And John Cotton was not a minister of obscure standing!  He was the leader of the church in Boston England.  When he came from there in 1633 he was given charge of the main church, and because of his prominence our town was named after his town.  When he spoke, people listened.  What he believed, they believed.

The error lies in the idea that they came with the belief that all people have the right to practice a religion of their own choosing. 

The Puritans left England because their own correct view was being repressed.  The Church of England was wrong, they believed, ungodly.  They were right; God was calling them forth.  So they needed to put into practice the right view.  They believed nothing should stop them from this.  It was God who called them forth to the New World in order to perform this task (as John Winthrop’s sermon to them states).  They believed the greatest threat to putting their religion into operation was resistance from dissidents.  People who disagreed were in rebellion against God’s will for humanity.  God’s will for humanity was to establish in the New World (America) the True Church.  The true church would produce the right society, would be loving, and all the people would be happy and well.

Just as they had been a problem back home for the Church of England which demanded to impose its view, so now non-Puritans would be a problem for the Puritans who demanded to impose their view.  This required that other religions should be outlawed, for God’s will is the basis for all Law.

I have disputed the view that the original settlers were models of religious tolerance.  The opposite mistake is to think of them as unreflective oppressors, people who, if they had only reflected on it, would suddenly stop their persecutionism because it’s so obviously wrong.  This is not precisely correct either.  Their persecutionism had an identifiable, conscious motive rooted in the highest values.

They believed religious tolerance was dangerous because they had a vision of a loving society.  They gave their lives to achieve it: an inspirational “city upon a hill” that would motivate the world, by their example, to love each other and bring peace on earth.  This is the conception and hope that the original settlers had for Boston!  This vision is evident in John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, delivered to the first settlers on the ship before they arrived here.  It was their fanatical commitment to a vision of human love and unity that produced this other fanaticism of protectionism.  For their heaven on earth could only come if everyone worshiped God correctly.

The Puritans were fundamentalists, not modernists.  The Enlightenment that produced our modern ideology of politico-religious tolerance was a product of seeds planted in the 17th Century that came to wide fruition only in the 18th Century.

The greatest product of Enlightenment Tolerance is perhaps the United States Constitution in which oppositional factions are embraced within a single system through “checks and balances,” and in its (first-amendment) “establishment clause” (that the government can’t make “laws respecting an establishment of religion”).  So it’s understandable that we might be tempted to project backward in time and imagine the first New Englanders, as early Americans, shared the same philosophy as their countrymen from 157 years later.  After all, some of the ideas of the first settlers did play a role in shaping the philosophy of the constitutional framers.

Let not therefore the current article be accused either of hating or glorifying the Puritans.  They were a mix.  They were human.  My intent has been to explain the Puritan view of tolerance, and to correct a common misconception.  The worth of understanding the Puritan philosophy is that it makes clear why they persecuted heretics and witches – and yet still allows us to feel some camaraderie with the iconic Pilgrim Fathers.  If one has the conception that the Puritans were only open and tolerant, then one finds it impossible to piece together the reason for the Quakers deaths and the witch trials of Salem.  The truth is richer and more intriguing than the lore.  To reduce the Puritans to a caricature – either of stringency or of openness – is to lose insight into the soul of our country.  To dismiss them as “puritanical” pinheads, or glorify them as models of tolerance, is in each case to lose our living connection to them, and, if you’re a tour guide, to lose connection to your material.

“Blink!ing” Lights set to Music at Faneuil Hall Marketplace


– by Delilah Webb

Faneuil Hall Marketplace has launched “a new holiday tradition” in Boston.  Blink! is a six-week “light and sound extravaganza” that utilizes technology to bring the marketplace alive with the holiday spirit.  Over 350,000 LED lights engage with the music of the Holiday Pops in a seven-minute spectacle each night beginning at 4:30pm.  The Blink! performance runs every half hour until 10pm., ending December 31st.  That’s twelve shows each night, and the promoters of this new event claim that each of the twelve shows is unique!

Blink! is in partnership with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Arts Boston, and
the Greater Boston Visitors and Convention Bureau.

-by JC

In addition to the music and lights described by Delilah above, Blink! and Super Tours is sponsoring a one-hour, free “Holiday Lights Trolley Tour” for “behind the scenes exposure to Boston’s holiday beauty.”  Today is the last day!  The tour guide happens to be a member of bostontourguide.org’s own team, Delilah Webb!  For more information call 617 523 1300.

Further Faneuil Fact:
It was from Faneuil Hall also that Ted Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency in 1979, thereby attempting to symbolically distinguish himself from his brothers.  He stood accused by pro-Carter opponents of living in his brothers’ shadow.  His legendary brothers having both announced their candidacies on Capitol Hill, therefore, Ted announced his from the “Cradle of Liberty.”

Boston Fun Fact: Ted Williams Tunnel Deepest in North America

According to Boston.com, the Ted Williams Tunnel, at 90 feet below the surface, is the deepest in North America.  The tunnel was completed in 1995.  It was the first part of the Big Dig to be completed, and the last part of the Big Dig to be completed on schedule and within budget.  It is the subject of the first episode of the Discover Channel’s “Engineering Marvels.”  Watch it now:

Curley First Mayor to Have a Car

James Michael Curley was the first mayor of Boston to have an automobile. The plate number was “576” – the number of letters in “James Michael Curley.” The mayor of Boston’s official car still uses the same number on its plate.  Between 1914 and 1950, Curley served four terms as mayor of Boston.