If you’re looking to avoid the crowds that flock to Irish pubs and the St. Patrick’s / Evacuation Day Parade (fun fact: Evacuation Day was the day that British soldiers left Boston on March 17, 1776 following an eleven-month siege) – check out these other fun activities around the city!
1. For the Beer Lover
Harpoon St. Patrick’s Festival is happening a little early this year (March 6th & 7th), but who doesn’t love to get the party started?! There will be live music Friday evening through Saturday afternoon and rumor has it that bagpipes will be involved. The brewery will serve up St. Patrick’s themed beers and Harpoon staples like UFO White, which we’ve highlighted on our Freedom Trail Tour! Buy tickets early or at the door.
2. For the Athlete
The St. Patrick’s Day Road Race begins at 11am on March 15th near the parade route. It’s been part of Southie holiday festivities since 1940 and proceeds support local youth programs. The first 650 people to register get a race shirt designed by the Dropkick Murphys. Speaking of…
3. For the Music Lover
The Dropkick Murphys are returning home for four shows, running March 14th - 17th at the House of Blues. Whether it’s your first time “shipping up to Boston” or you’ve been around since the boys got together in Quincy in 1996, they're the perfect way to get you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit!
4. For the History Lover
Head to the JFK Presidential Library on March 14th for a day commemorating Irish immigrants in Boston. There will be music by the Celtic Bells, public readings, poster exhibits, and more. Fun for the whole family!
5. For the Cultured
The Irish Film Festival runs March 19th – 22nd at Somerville Theater in Davis Square. The weekend includes showings of over 50 films, the largest of its kind outside of Ireland. This will be the 20th anniversary of the event so they're going big--the festival will include documentaries, exhibitions, and awards – “great craic” as the Irish would say!
Four U.S. Presidents were born in Massachusetts and many more lived here during their schooling, including eight graduates of Harvard University. Can you name them all? (Answers at bottom of the post.) In honor of President’s Day, tour guides Kristen and Brooke will be hosting a History of Boston trivia night at Aeronaut Brewing on Tuesday, February 18 at 8pm. Four of our favorite Massachusetts themed presidential stories are below and--HINT--they'll help you at our trivia!
1. Danger Strikes Teddy Roosevelt
In September 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was visiting Pittsfield, Massachusetts when his carriage was struck by a speeding trolley car. The carriage careened around 40 feet, knocking Roosevelt onto the pavement and bruising the Governor of Massachusetts, Winthrop Crane. Unfortunately, Secret Service agent William Craig wasn’t so lucky. He got stuck under the train car and became the first U.S. Secret Service agent ever killed in the line of duty.
2. JFK Born in Brookline
Brookline, just a few miles from downtown Boston, is home to the 35th president's birthplace and first family house. It's now a National Historic Site (the inside is under renovation and closed to visitors for 2020). Rose Kennedy purchased their former home on Beals Street to commemorate her late son, and set all the clocks in the house to just before 3pm, when Jack was born on May 29, 1917. For more JFK history, his Presidential Library and Museum is worth the visit and we touch on a few Kennedy-related tidbits on our Freedom Trail tour!
3. Abraham Lincoln Assassin Stays in Boston
In 1863, John Wilkes Booth a national star and had performed in numerous local theater productions. He was in Boston in April 1865 and stayed at the Parker House. Ten days later, Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. In a strange historical coincidence, the man who would later kill Booth, Boston Corbett, had undergone a religious conversion in Boston, changing his name to honor the city where he became a new man.
4. Coolidge Crushes a Strike
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, was born in New England, attended Amherst College, and served as governor of Massachusetts. As governor, "Silent Cal" presided over a crazy moment in Boston history – the 1919 Boston Police Strike. When over three quarters of the police force announced a strike over the right to form a union, violence broke out and eight people died over four days. The strike ended when Coolidge put Boston under martial law for the first time since the Revolutionary War. Crushing the strike launched Coolidge into the national spotlight and led to his selection as Warren G. Harding’s running mate in the 1920 presidential election.
U.S. Presidents Born in Massachusetts: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, George H.W. Bush
Harvard Graduates: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, Barack Obama
Granary Burying Ground is a peaceful cemetery in the midst of Boston’s bustling downtown. If you’re on the Freedom Trail, you’ll find it as you walk down Tremont Street from the Boston Common. And if you join one of our tours, we'll take you in there!
The burying ground used to be part of Boston Common when bodies began to be buried there in 1660. A granary next door, used for wheat storage, gave the burying ground its name. The Park Street Church has stood on the old granary site since 1809. There are an estimated 5,000 bodies buried here, though you won’t see nearly that many tomb stones as most are family tombs. Here’s a list of graves to check out on your visit:
1. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here: John Hancock (left side), Samuel Adams (front right), and Robert Treat Paine (right wall).
2. The victims of the Boston Massacre are buried next to Samuel Adam’s tomb – on his family’s plot in fact! Join our tours to find out why…
3. Paul Revere is buried toward the back of the burying ground. It can be hard to find, as it’s small and close to the ground. But it’s worth searching for to pay your respects to the man famous for the midnight ride!
4. Peter Faneuil, the namesake for Faneuil Hall marketplace, is also buried here. Peter died in 1743, six months after Faneuil Hall opened as his philanthropic gift to the town of Boston.
5. The Infant’s Tomb is the final resting place for hundreds of young children. Infant mortality was quite high in colonial Boston and into the 1800s. You can find the tomb near the Franklin obelisk in the middle of the burying ground. This is where Benjamin Franklin’s parents and many of his relatives are buried, but he is buried in Philadelphia.
6. James Otis is a mostly unsung revolutionary hero, active in Boston's politics in the 1760s. He and Samuel Adams serve as bookends of the burying ground. Learn more about Otis and his wild benders and fights in episode 2 of our podcast, Beer Makes History.
As most Americans are quarantining inside (and may be running out of Netflix options), we thought we'd revisit our list of recommended books about the American Revolution. Stay well!
1. The Birth of the Republic by Edmund S. Morgan
Best for: a fantastic summary of the who, what, where, when, why
Morgan writes the definitive political and economic history of the American Revolution, which expertly lays out the cast of characters and their motives. Finding humor in things as mundane as taxation, this is an entertaining and scholarly introduction to the founding of our country.
2. Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire by Brooke Barbier
Best for: Boston-centric history
Read the riveting story about how a small town in Massachusetts ignited a period of rebellion in the American colonies. Each chapter highlights a key player and shows what historical sights look like in present-day Boston. If you’re in the city, combine your reading with a Freedom Trail tour!
3. American Revolutions by Alan Taylor
Best for: alternative perspectives
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor dismisses more narrow histories of the Revolution in favor of painting a broader picture that focuses on all of America, not just the thirteen North American colonies. This book is a follow-up to the fantastic, American Colonies, which also includes the history of the French and Spanish colonies throughout North America.
4. 1776 by David McCullough
Best for: military history
One of the most comprehensive popular histories of the American Revolution, 1776 guides you through the intricacies and emotions of war. It’s largely written through the lens of George Washington and British commander William Howe, making it ideal for those looking to learn more about the trials and tribulation of war.
5. An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker
Best for: the British perspective
Bunker offers a version of revolutionary events as seen from the other side of the Atlantic, using many British sources that American historians infrequently access. He attributes much of the buildup to Britain’s oversights, misunderstandings, and errors, which offer a fresh perspective to histories that tend to focus on political and military machinations.
6. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Best for: academic vigor
One of the preeminent historians of American Revolutionary history, Wood writes an epic political, cultural, and economic history of the roots of the American Revolution. Wood argues that the Revolution was radical because of all that it accomplished and that later societal changes (like equality for women and minorities) were only possible because of the Revolution. The book is thoroughly evidenced to appease academic audiences, but still entirely readable for a casual reader.
7. Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Best for: under-represented voices
If you’re looking to hear from the disenfranchised, check out this “untold story” of Ona Judge, an African American woman in pursuit of her lawful freedom from America’s First Family. Coming to terms with the darker side of early American history and its legacies, this book offers a moment of reflection and nuance central to our understanding of the time period.
8. Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Best for: getting to know Revere and lesser-known Revolutionary actors.
This book explores the life of Paul Revere and his legendary midnight ride on April 18, 1775 – on what would become the eve of Revolution. Fischer also focuses on British General Thomas Gage and expertly mixes the colonial and British perspectives to offer detailed accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.