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Boston, Massachusetts

The city of Boston is the capital of the commonwealth of Massachusetts in the north-eastern United States. It lies on Massachusetts Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the city itself has a relatively small area for a major city, with a population of approximately two thirds of a million people and approximately 4.6 million people in it's Metropolitan area, it is by far the largest city in New England. This web page attempts to give a brief outline of the city, alongside some of my photographs taken from a visit here in the 1990's.

The location of today's city was known as Shawmut by the native people and in 1621, Myles Standish and ten companions sailed to Boston Bay from Plymouth. He made friends with the natives, feasted on abundant lobster and codfish, before returning to Plymouth with news of the harbour and it's islands. In 1626, the first settler arrived, William Blackstone. Blackstone was a former clergyman of the Church of England and a recluse, whom had been granted a deed to fifty acres of Shawmut, plus rights to the whole peninsula, as it was then - another 700 acres. He built a hut on the slopes of Beacon Hill where he lived on his own. For unknown reasons, however, he sold his rights and all but six acres of land for £30 and this paved the way for other settlers to move in. A small group of Puritan colonists from England, led by John Winthrop arrived and Boston was founded by them on November 17, 1630. The early settlers called the area Trimountaine (Three Mountains) and renamed it Boston, after the English town in Lincolnshire because many of the 'Pilgrim' colonists originated there. Most of the early citizens of Boston were Puritans and here they created America's first public school and in 1636, America's first university, Harvard (Harvard University is in the city of Cambridge, which is across the Charles River from Boston). Boston held its first town meeting in Faneuil Hall in 1743. It became America's largest city until the 1760's. During the early 1770's, the British parliament attempted to impose taxes and other laws on the thirteen American colonies and without colonial representatives in the government, the people in Boston started the American Revolution. Several events took place in or near the city, including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and several early battles. After the American Revolution, Boston continued to grow and attract immigrants from around the world. Many people came here from Ireland to escape the potato famine, giving the city a very Irish culture which is still in evidence today. Many Italians also settled here, in the North End, where today there are to be found many Italian shops, restaurants, bakeries, and households. In more recent times, Boston was in the headlines when two bombs exploded at the city's famous Boston Marathon.

Today, the city attracts many visitors and here, they will find a mixture of a very busy modern city combined with old-world charm. Modern skyscrapers and expressways may dominate the cityscape but still very much in evidence are quaint wooden framed houses and narrow twisting streets. Old brick mansions stand next to new buildings. Perhaps the cityscape can be summed up in the photo below:

Boston excels in many areas, such as education, medicine, science and industry. Ever since it's early days, it has been at the forefront of new technologies and the city's world class educational resources have produced an enviable number of Presidents, statesmen, scientists and engineers. the city has undergone several changes throughout it's modern history and one of the most dramatic is the waterfront redevelopment in South Boston. The city has always been interrelated with the sea and the plans for this area have and continue to develop, reviving old warehouses and constructing new facilities. The area now contains a modern aquarium, new luxury waterfront dwellings, high-rise apartments, offices, hotels, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and new home for the Institute of Contemporary Art - but to name a selection. Of course, much has been going on since my visit to the city (which had limited time, in any instance) and so if there is any reason to wish to return to this great city, the "South Boston Waterfront" must surely be one of them.

Approaching Boston, the main focal points are the 60-floor John Hancock Building and the 52-floor Prudential Building. The latter is the centre of a 'city within a city' and includes the 29-floor Sheraton Boston Hotel, an auditorium, shops and restaurants. The main airport is Logan International Airport and one of it's most appealing features is unlike many other major international airports, it is in relative close proximity to the main downtown area. With countless hotels and a diverse selection of restaurants, the city has much to offer the visitor.

One of the best ways to explore the city's historical sites is to take the Freedom Trail. This is a 2½ mile long (4km) route through the downtown area that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. It is a red line on the ground (that is hard to miss), marked largely with brick. It runs between Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. The 16 main sites along the trail are: Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel and Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin statue and former site of Boston Latin School, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House (Paul Revere is famous for his "Midnight Ride" when he alerted colonial militia to the approach of British forces), Old North Church, Copp's Hill Burying Ground, USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. One of the most popular tourist sites in the city is the harbour location of the Boston Tea Party, where it is possible to view ships and a museum. If the walking takes its toll and the weather is good, a great place to unwind is on Boston Common, and unsurprisingly, it is the oldest city park in the United States.

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