Boston Blog Posts

August 23, 2018

Views of Boston From a Distance

There are a many places where you can get good views of Boston. Two places to consider for photo opportunities are the Blue Hills Observatory and Thompson Island.

Blue Hills

Blue Hills Mountain

Six Things I learned About the Blue Hills Observatory

  • This is a great spot to catch the sun rise over the city.
  • There is no public transportation to the Blue Hills, you will need a car to get to this location.
  • You can watch the Boston Fireworks from this location, tickets are needed in advance - and they do sell out!
  • Blue Hills Observatory tours are available weekends from 10 to 4. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students.
  • You can take a Mountain Bike or hike the Blue Hills Reservations trails. Stay on the trails! There's no cost to hike or bike the trails.
  • The Skyline Loop is the best hike to get great views of the city, it takes about 2 hours to do the hike which covers a total of 3 mile.

Thompson Island

Thompson Island Chairs

Five Things I Learned About the Thompson Island

  • This is a great spot to see the sunset over the city!
  • The Public may visit Thompson Island via public access on Saturdays and Sundays, from May 28, 2018, through September 3, 2018.
  • Year round boat access is available for private events or school groups.
  • Summer Connection program on Thompson Island is run by Outward Bound. The 5-week program is free for middle schoolers.
  • You can read more about Thompson Island in the early blog post.

August 16, 2018

Fall Pictures Opportunities

The Boston Public Gardens and Commons are a great location for fall foliage. You don't need to head to the Berkshires to see some great colors. You can find great color right in the city.

Boston Fall Opportunity

Four Tips on Taking Pictures in the Boston Public Gardens

  • The best time to take pictures of the fall foliage in Boston is the first week of October. You'll get some great bright colors and some trees will still be very green.
  • The spot over by the Parkman Bandstand is a great spot for pictures. The trees along Charles Street turn bright orange early.
  • In the Public Gardens, the trees near the Ether Monument have great early colors. Also, the trees near the flagpole are great.
  • The swan boats are taken out on the third Sunday in September. There is a slight chance that some trees may change before then. (Makes for a great backdrop photo.)

August 9, 2018

Boston Fan Pier Park

Boston's Fan Pier is the perfect spot to get a landscape picture of Boston. Located in the Seaport District, it's a great view of the building in the Financial District - including the Custom House clock tower.

Fan Pier Picture

Five Things I Learned about the Fan Pier

  • In the fall there is a fire pit to keep people warm while visiting the Pier.
  • Best Picture spots are along the grass near Courthouse Way. Make sure to include the Pier Chains in the pictures for the best effect.
  • There is a tot lot for the kids to play while the adults take pictures - fun for the whole family!
  • This is the best spot to take sunset pictures. If the sky is clear, head down to the Fan Pier after dinner with a tripod to take amazing pictures. Tip: Keep the horizon on the lower third for the best effect.
  • Check out my Blog post from last June about the Fan Pier Park.

Directions to Fan Pier Park

The Silver Line T / Courthouse Station is the closest stop to the Fan Pier Park. You can catch the Silver Line at South Station.

August 2, 2018

Acorn Street

Acorn Street is widely cited as the "most-photographed street in Boston" is the perfect street to start this month-long Boston Photographic series. All month long we'll look at where to take the best pictures of the city of Boston.

This street is famous because it is the last remaining street in Boston, to be fully lined up with cobblestones. It's also unique because it's a single lane street and has a downward slope.


Make sure you make good use of depth of field here!

Tips on Taking the Best Pictures

This is a popular location and you'll most likely encounter other people visiting this location to take pictures. Be patient and wait for the right moment to take your prize shot.

I have found that the top of the street has fewer people than the bottom of the street. The top of the street is the best place to take the picture. You get the best depth of field.

The best time to come here is in the late afternoon as the sun starts setting.

If you have a DSLR, this is a great place to try different lenses to see how a lens can really change the view.

The Gas Lamp and American Flag is a great "colonial-type" close-up picture to take. Rarely will you see a flag near the gas lamps.

The street is not plowed during the winter, so the street doesn't have the same old time look.


While it looks pretty in the winter, without the cobblestones it's just another street.

Finding Acorn Street

Acorn Street is far away from any T stop, the closest stop would be Boylston Street. It's a 10-minute walk from the train station.

From Boylston Street, walk down Charles Street - the street between the Commons and Gardens. Cross the street at the Intersection of Charles and Beacon Street. Walk two blocks to Chestnut Street and take a right. Walk two blocks to W. Cedar St and take a left. Acorn Street will be the next street.

You'll be at the bottom of the street, walk up the cobblestones to the top of the street for your picture perfect opportunity.

July 26, 2018

Louisburg Square

Louisburg Square is a small square located in the Beacon Hill area of Boston Massachusetts.

Most people may have heard about the square from the children's classical book - Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Louisburg Square Pano

Five Interesting Houses Around in the Square

  • 10 Louisburg Square is where the Alcotts lived for a few years in the 1880s.
  • 19 Louisburg Square is the oldest house on the street built in 1834
  • 20 Louisburg Square is where Jenny Lind married her accompanist Otto Goldschmidt.
  • 3 Louisburg Square townhouse sold in 2012 for $11 million. It was the 2nd biggest deal in Boston. 15 Commonwealth Ave was the biggest at 12.5 millon
  • 85 Pinckney Street was on the market in 2017 for $14,950,000 or $2,136 a square foot

Fun Facts About the Louisburg Square

  • Charles Bullfinch came up with the idea for the square in 1826. The square was built up around the same time the current State House was being constructed.
  • Louisburg Square is named after the battle of Louisburg, during which the Massachusetts Militiamen sacked the French Fortress in 1745.
  • The houses surrounding the square were built between 1834 and 1848 on small plots suitable for row houses.
  • The small park is privately owned by all the houses that have visibility to the square. This is the first privately owned park in the nation. Only house owners have keys to the gate.
  • The Proprietors of Louisburg Square was formed in 1844 as the entity responsible for maintaining the square.
  • The only other privately own square is the Gramercy Park in New York City
  • There is an iron fence around the square and only residences are allowed in the square.
  • On the road around the square you can see the original cobblestones that were placed in the 1830s.
  • There is a statue of Columbus at the north end and of Aristides at the south end (closest end to the Boston Public Gardens).

July 19, 2018

Seal of Boston at the Boston Public Gardens

There is a gate entrance to the Boston Public Gardens. It's used to open and close the gardens after dusk.

The Boston Gate

Look carefully at the Center Gate

There is a little secret to the top of the gate.

Above the gate entrance is a small oval which contains a picture what the town of Boston looked like in 1823. This is the official seal of the City of Boston

Boston Map

Six Fun Facts About the Seal and Gate

  • The map on the official Seal of Boston is significant at this location because the Boston Public Gardens didn't exist on the map. It was marshland and flats known as Roxbury Flats. The Boston Public Gardens was known as the Botanic Gardens started in 1839 but didn't get fully accepted by the citizens of the town until 1859.
  • The City Seal was adopted in 1823.
  • The current gate was built around the Boston Public Gardens as part of the park restoration project in July 1974. The budget for fixing and protecting the Boston Public Gardens in 1974 was $1.65 million.
  • "SICUT PATRIBUS SIT DEUS NOBIS" is Latin phrase from the Bible - "God be with us as he was with our fathers" ' (1 King's, viii, 57).
  • "Bostonia Condita AD 1630" is Latin meaning Boston was founded in 1630.
  • "Civitatis Regimine Donata A.D. 1822" is Latin meaning the city was incorporated in 1822.
  • Therefore, Boston was founded as a town in 1630 and incorporated as a city in 1822.

July 12, 2018

Christian Science Center Plaza Update

In case you haven't noticed, the Christian Science Center Plaza has been going through a major update. In 2018, most of the plaza has been closed. This is to help modernize the plaza and make it more welcome for people to come and visit.

Full details on the construction can be found on the Christian Science Center Plaza Construction Page.

Christian Science Plaza
For the most part, this view will not change at the competion of the construction.

Construction End Date

According to the Project team the project is on schedule and should be completed by this Fall.

What's Changing on the Plaza

The most noticeable change is to the reflection pool:

  • It's now going to be shallower so that it uses less water.
  • The pool will look better when there is no water in it. There are dark stones on the bottom of the pool. (Currently it looks like they are solar panels - they are not.)
  • It's going to be slightly shorter to provide easier access to the plaza from Huntington Ave.

Mother Church is closed and worshipers are asked to attend services in The Mother Church Extension - which is the building connected to the Mother Church.

There is construction going on by the Massachusetts Ave side of the plaza to increase the green space in front of the church.

The popular Children's Fountain is still open and running during the final phases of the construction. There are no major changes being done in this part of the plaza

Ultimate Goal

When completed, the plaza will be more picturesque any time of the year. For example: taking pictures of the Christian Science Center Plaza from the Prudential Skywalk Observatory will look much better.

Church Plaza2016

July 5, 2018

First Independence Day Toast

The first Independence Day in Boston was a very special event. People were celebrating and fireworks going off all over the city. The guns were going off at Castle Island and at Fort Hill to celebrate the occasion.

At a Coffee Shop in Boston, perhaps the Green Dragon Tavern, thirteen people from various states gathered and each one shouted out a toast. Each person would have a drink and one by one they gave a special toast.

Toast to Independence

Toast to Independence Day

Here are the thirteen toast given at the very first Independence Day in Boston:

  • The noble and honorable Representative of the United States in Congress, who voted the same free and independent. (Cheers!)
  • May the Lord God protect the United States, now and henceforth, forevermore. (Cheers!)
  • The United States of America and may the good people of the same support their independency. (Cheers!)
  • The President of the Grand Continental Congress and the present members of the same (Cheers!)
  • Our Noble and worthy General Washington and the Army (Cheers!)
  • Success to the American Navy (Cheers!)
  • May the Fourteenth string be added to the harp (Cheers!)
  • May the Army of America vanquish the enemies of American independence. (Cheers!)
  • Many none but men of honor and virtue test American freedom (Cheers!)
  • Liberty to those who have the virtue to defend it. (Cheers!)
  • May the union of American states be as lasting as the pillars of human nature (Cheers!)
  • Major General Charles Lee and all our friends in captivity (Cheers!)
  • The immortal memory of General Warren all al the rest of our brave officers who have been slain since the commencement of this unnatural war. (Cheers!) (Cheers!)<

After the thirteen general toast was given, a special toast was given to each of the thirteen states.

Source: Boston Globe and various history books.

June 28, 2018

Gerrymandering

"Gerrymandering" is a term used to describe a political practice of drawing district boundaries in an unnatural way to favor a political party chance of winning that district.

This term came about in Massachusetts in 1812 - when the Governor created a new district to help the Republican-controlled legislature stay in power. The weird shape district looked very weird and many people thought it looked like a salamander.

Gerrymander Site

Five Facts about GerryMander

  • The word gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on 26 March 1812 in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814)
  • The term was originally written as "Gerry-mander"
  • Elbridge Gerry, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He is the only signer of the Declaration buried in the nation's capital.
  • Elbridge Gerry was the Vice President under President James Madison.
  • Elbridge Gerry was one of three people that refused to sign the U.S. Constitution at the Constitutional Convention (Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia were the other two. Elbridge Gerry wanted more individual liberties in the constitution.
  • The earliest occurrence of Gerrymander was the districting of New York State Orange County to help Monroe over Madison on February 2, 1789. Madison ended up winning the County.

Gerrymander Sign

Near this site stood the home of state senator Isreal Thorndike, a merchant and privateer. During a visit here in 1812 by Governor Elbridge Gerry, an electoral district was oddly redrawn to provide an advantage to the party in office.

Shaped by political intent rather than any natural boundaries its appearance resembled a salamander. A frustrated member of the opposition party called it a gerrymander, a term still in use today.

The word gerrymander (originally written "Gerry-mander") was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on 26 March 1812 in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814)

Finding the Sign

The sign is located on a red/white building near Downtown Crossing. As you enter Arch Street from Summer Street if you look to your right you will see UDG restaurant. If you follow along the wall you will see the green sign against the white wall.

June 21, 2018

Wicked Cool WiFi

Did you know that there are various free WiFi spots around the City of Boston? Two of the most popular tourist spots are also Boston's hottest spot to do work - Boston Commons and Boston Gardens.

In 2016, The City of Boston installed free wireless access points in the Boston Public Gardens and the Public Commons. Making these a great location for laptop users to go offsite and get work done in a nice relaxed atmosphere.

The "Wicked Free Wi-Fi" map has location points to where the access points are, but just about anyplace in the Gardens/Park has Wifi access. Just make sure your laptop is charged, as there is no place to plug-in.

Boston Common Wi Fi

Additional Free WiFi Spots

There are a couple of other Wi-Fi spots around the city that make for a great escape from the office or if the office WiFi is not working correctly. If your visiting Boston, these Wifi spots are great if you want to upload photos from your phone.

Boston Public Library at Copley Square

Grab a desk and get some work done at the Boston Public Library. Is it Performance Review times? Need some getaway time from all the constant interruptions? This is the place to go. Plenty of tables and comfortable places to charge up the laptop.

The two quietest places in the Library is the Kristen Science Center and Bates Hall. Bates Hall is really an inspirational place to work - very cool architecture. However, when someone moves a chair, it can echo and be a distraction. Kristen Science Center has lots of desk with USB and plugs. The chairs are more comfortable than Bates Hall.

Prudential Center Mall

The Prudential Center Mall has free WiFi for shoppers and visitors. You can even get WiFi access in the courtyard - which is very convenient if you work in one of the office buildings in the complex.

Wifi is also available at the Starbucks inside the Barnes and Noble. Get a Venti drink and a snack and work away!

There were a couple of times where the Prudential Center Mall Wifi came in handy when the power went out in the office.

Any Other Spots?

If you work in Boston, are there any other wifi spots worth sharing? Any places that might be inspiring to check out?

June 14, 2018

Louisa May Alcott House

Many people have heard about the Alcott's Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts. Did you know that the Alcott's moved around a lot? For many years the family lived in Boston.

If your walking around Beacon Hill you may encounter a sign on a house that Louisa May Alcott once lived at:

Louisa May Alcott House Boston

Fun Facts about the Boston House

  • Louisa May Alcott and her Father lived here from 1852 to 1855 (She was 20-years-old)
  • She wrote her first story here: The Rival Painters: A Tale of Rome
  • Louisa May's room was on the third floor
  • Thanks to the success of Little Women, the Alcotts was able to move to the more prosperous neighborhood of Louisburg Square.
  • The house is part of the Boston Women's Heritage Trail of Beacon Hill.

Plaque on the Building

The plaque on the building reads:

As a little girl Louisa May Alcott lived in rented rooms at 20 Pinckney Street. The Alcott house was part of the Boston literary scene during the decades before the Civil War. Louisa's father Bronson Alcott, was an innovative educator whose friends included Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Henry Channing and William Lloyd Garrison.

In the 1800s, her reputation and fortune secure, Miss Alcott returned to Beacon Hill. She lived at 10 Louisburg Square until her death.

Finding the Boston's House

The house is located at 20 Pinckney St, Boston, Massachusetts. This is a private residence, there are no tours in this location.

Best Public Transportation Route: From Park Street Station, walk up to the State House, turn left on Beacon Street, and then right onto Joy Street then take your second left onto Pinckney Street. The house will be the eighth house on your left.

June 7, 2018

Wall of Literary Awards

While Hollywood has the "Walk of Fame", to celebrate the Stars. Boston has the Wall of Literary Awards Wall to celebrate the accomplishments of local literary writers.

In Copley Square, at the Boston Public Library, is a wall of Massachusetts literary writers that have won distinguished awards in literature.

The Literary Wall concept was created as part of the major library redesigned that was completed in 2017.

The Wall

Qualifying Awards

  • Noble Prize for Literature - The Swedish Academy
  • Pulitzer Prize - The Pulitzer Prizes
  • National Book Award - National Book Foundation
  • Pen/Faulkner Award - Pen/Faulkner Foundation
  • Nebula Award - Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
  • Edgar Award - Mystery Writers of America
  • Rita Award - Romance Writers of America

Missing Authors

While there are many distinguished authors on the wall - Edgar Allen Poe makes several appearances. There are a number of authors that are not on the wall, simply because they haven't won any of the major awards. (At least their work existed long before the awards were ever handed out)

Finding the Wall of Literary Awards

The Wall of Literary is located on the first floor of the Main Library. It's located between the Fiction section and the Cafe.

Enter the library from Boylston Street, and head over to the Cafe. Take a left before the Cafe and you'll be in the Fiction area of the Library. Walk a few steps into the Fiction area towards the staircase, and then look back towards the Cafe and you'll see the Wall.

May 31, 2018

Marvin Goody Memorial

In the Boston Public Gardens, along Charles Street, is a flagpole and several granite benches. This is a memorial to Marvin Goody.

Marvin Goodie Memorial

Who Was Marvin Goody?

This memorial is in honor of Marvin Goody, who was a former chairman of the Boston Art Commission and Friend of the Public Garden and Common, as well as an MIT faculty member.

Interesting Facts about this Memorial and Marvin Goody

  • Born in 1929 and died of a heart attack in 1980.
  • He was a well known and respected architect and worked at Goody Clancy
  • He was one of the founders of the Friends of the Public Garden
  • His Wife, Joan Goody, designed the circle memorial where the couple once walked each morning to their office to near-by Boylston Street.
  • The memorial was partly funded by the Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund
  • The memorial is a circular arrangement of square stone block benches around a flagpole. (The benches are called "Pods")
  • He worked hard to keep up the Public Gardens, which is why there's a quote at the memorial which reads, "To See His Work, Look Around You"
  • There is a sycamore tree that was planted near the memorial in his memory.
  • He founded the red stones used on the Public Gardens bridge
  • He made sure that the fountains were working order and frequently checked them to make sure that water was always flowing.
  • A $5,000 annual prize in Goody's name was set up in 1983 for architecture, city planning or engineering master's students at MIT.

Interesting Facts about the Flag Pole

  • The Flagpole is one of the oldest markers in the Garden - older than the 1869 "Ether" statue.
  • The Friend of the Public Garden help design the path around the flagpole in the 1970s - during the park restoration project.
  • The Park Plaza hotel donated the American Flag, as well as funding for lighting. (By law the flag is to be illuminated since it is never lowered.)
  • Flag pole base is made of Bronze and was made in 1921.
  • Base of the flag contains the signature TF McGann & Sons - Boston MA

Home of the Future

One of Marvin Goody assignment was designing the Monsanto House of the Future. This was a project that was displayed at Disneyland in the 1960s.

"the house was envisioned as something that could be quickly and inexpensively constructed on nearly any terrain and could withstand most any force of nature" - Disney

Watch this Disney video about the home of the future:

May 24, 2018

Boston Chinatown Gate

Boston's Chinatown is the third largest in the United States, and just as most are, there is a decorative gate at its entrance.

The Chinatown Gate was offered by the Taiwanese government to the City. The gate is engraved with two writings in Chinese: Tian Xia Wei Gong, a saying attributed to Sun Yat-sen that translates as "everything under the sky is for the people", and Li Yi Lian Chi, the four societal bonds of propriety, justice, integrity and honor.

Outside The Gate

Fun Facts about Boston Chinatown Gate

In 1974, China gave the Gate to the City of Boston as the gift for the United States Centennial Celebration.

It took seven years to figure out how to pay for the installation. In 1975, the City of Boston created the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund to direct spending on various city art projects.

Ground breaking was on June 7, 1981.

When the gate was placed, the entrance onto Beach Street was closed off from car traffic. This was to reduce the congestion from the Expressway into Chinatown. The street was re-open during the construction of the Big Dig, which caused issues with trucks knocking down the lions.

There is a lion, otherwise known as Foo Dogs, on both sides of the Arch - each weighing a ton.

The Chinatown Gate Arch is 30-feet high

The words on top of the gate mean, "A World Shared By All" - It's the same phrase that's on the Chicago Chinatown Gate and the Chinatown Gate in San Francisco. In Chicago, the translation is "The World Belongs to the Commonwealth." This was a common saying in the early 1900s.

Rededicated October 1990

Taipei, Capital of Taiwan, is Boston Sister city since 1996.

The Chinatown Gate installation was officially funded by the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund.

Foo Dogs Controversy

At one time there were four Foo Dogs in front of the Chinatown gate.

During the construction of the Big Dig, sometime between 1991 and 2007, the Foo statues, were replaced with replicas.

Two of the originals were placed in a private home in Lexington. The home was owned by Paul Pedini, a former vice president of Modern Continental. The other two were placed in front of the Kowloon restaurant in Saugus.

Paul Pedini claimed that the original Foo dogs were not needed anymore and initial plans indicated that they were going to be destroyed because they were damaged. He had two of them placed in the rooftop garden of a 2.2 million dollar home he was building in Lexington.

Once public, via a Boston Herald story, the City of Boston has asked for all the Foo Dogs to be returned.

Paul Pedini returned the two statues. Kowloon has declined to return there's saying that it was a gift by the Chinatown elders.

The statues in front of the gate are still the replicas. The city hasn't decided what to do with the originals that they have. There has been some suggestion to place them in the Boston's Mount Hope Cemetery.

The replicas cost the city $4,800 each. The original ones were part of the entire gate package estimated to cost between $400,000 to $500,000.

Getting to Chinatown Gate

Chinatown Gate is located at the intersection of Beach Street and Hudson Street. The best way to get there is to take the Red Line to South Station and walk to Beach Street.

May 17, 2018

Royal Coat of Arms

In the Massachusetts Old State House are various exhibits where visitors can learn a lot about the City of Boston.

Royal Coat of Arms in the Council Chamber

In the Council Chamber Room, is where the Royal Governor of Massachusetts met with members of his Council. It was where key decisions were made before the American Revolution.

One artifact that people may miss is the Royal Coat of Arms above the door as you enter the room. This is a copy of the lion and unicorn heraldic crest - as it would appear in the chamber room. If you want to see an older version, walk down the stairs to the Keayne Hall. If you want to see the original one - head to New Brunswick Canada.

Coat of Arms Boston

Four Fun Facts about the Royal Coat of Arms

  • One of the original Coat of Arms was taken from Boston in 1775 and now appears over the doorway of the Trinity Episcopal Church, St. John New Brunswick. It was removed by the Revolutionaries to protect it from being damaged. It was brought to Halifax by Edward Winslow. Several requests have been made to return the Coat of Arms back to Boston but have been denied by the church.
  • On the USS Constitution are some guns with the British Royal Coat of Arms.
  • The Lion and Unicorn on the roof of the Old Massachusetts Statehouse are the same used in the Coat of Arms, a simple reminder of the past. The original Lion and Unicorn were burned in 1776. The ones currently on display were placed in 1882.
  • The Royal Coat of Arms was once placed on the building at 17 Market Place. (Next to Faneuil Hall)

Sign next to the Coat of Arms in the Keayne Hall

A symbol of royal authority, this royal arms hung over the doorway of the Province House, the Governor's residence.

Boston, 18th century
Carved and painted wood