Monday, April 18, 2016

"Two If By Sea" - Old North Church (Boston #8/Pillars of the Earth #3)

Old North Church and Paul Revere Statue - Photo by Jim Schmidt
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."

"Paul Reveres Ride"- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1860)

Happy Patriot's Day 2016!

This blog post is a two-for-one! First, a continuation of posts about my visit last summer to historic sites in Boston, and - second - a continuation of posts about historic churches I've visited.

Today's post is about an important, wonderfully preserved, and lovely historic site: "Old North Church" - or, more properly, "Christ Church in the City of Boston."  It is most famous as the location from which the "One if by land, and two if by sea" signal was sent, on orders from Paul Revere, that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land; it is also the oldest standing church building in Boston.

 
Old North Steeple - Jim Schmidt

 The church is one of the most visited historic sites in Boston and sits in the wonderful "North End/Little Italy" section of the city.

It's also stop on the terrific Boston Freedom Trail.  Of the 16 official sites on the trail, I managed to see 7 of them, and Old North was definitely one of my favorites among the sites I visited.

From the Freedom Trail website description:

Plaque - Old North - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Christ Church in the City of Boston, also known as Old North Church, is the oldest standing church building in Boston, having first opened its doors to worshippers on December 29, 1723. Its 191 foot steeple is the tallest in Boston and, because of its prominence, would play a dramatic role in the American Revolution and would be immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

On April 18, 1775 Paul Revere met up with the sexton Robert Newman to tell him how to signal the advancement of British troops towards Lexington and Concord. Newman then met fellow Sons of Liberty Captain Pulling and Thomas Bernard. Leaving Bernard to keep watch outside, Newman opened the church and he and Pulling climbed the stairs and ladders up eight stories to hang two lanterns for a few moments. It was long enough for patriots in Charlestown to learn what has been immortalized by the phrase "one if by land, two if by sea" in Longfellow’s poem. The British were advancing by boat across the Charles River.


The famous Old North Church steeple has been blown down twice by hurricanes - once in 1804 and again in 1954. The Old North Church is still an active Episcopal congregation today.

The church maintains a website here and I especially encourage you to the visit the blog here which is updated frequently with items of historical interest.

Interior - Old North Church - Jim Schmidt

One of the most interesting features of the church to me were the "box pews" - I've been in several historic churches but had never seen this feature before. The pews have brass plaques with the dates and names of some of the original owners of the pews.  The Old North church blog, mentioned above, has a series of posts - "This Old Pew" - discussing some of the previous owners.

Box Pew - Old North - Jim Schmidt

Box Pew - Old North - Jim Schmidt

A view from the box pews as a docent kindly discusses the history of Old North - Jim Schmidt
Among the most interesting furnishings in the church are the so-called "Gruchy Angels" - from a post on the Old North blog:

Perched upon the gallery railing in front of the oldest American-built pipe organ, high above the floor of Old North Church, there are four hand-carved angelic figures. They each stand about two feet tall and in a triumphant pose. Two of the angels blow trumpets, while the other two greet onlookers with open arms. These four figures are celebrated features of Old North, and a favorite among visitors and staff alike. The story surrounding the angels is well publicized, and in one visit to Old North, a guest will most assuredly hear it told by an educator. The short version, the version read in most guidebooks and told by most tour guides, is this: In 1746 the angels were captured from a French ship on its way to a Catholic church in Quebec, when the ship was intercepted by British privateer Thomas Gruchy, a member of Old North Church.

 
Gruchy Angels - Old North - Photo by Jim Schmidt


Gruchy Angels - Old North - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Interior Detail  Old North - Jim Schmidt

 
A look out a church window to Boston's famous "North End" - Jim Schmidt


 
Rear of Old North Church - Jim Schmidt

 Adjacent to the church is the "Paul Revere Mall," which is home to what is "perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Boston," according to the Boston Art Commission.  Per their website:

Revere Statue - Photo by Jim Schmidt
Artist: Cyrus Edwin Dallin
Location: Paul Revere Mall, between Hanover St. and Salem St.

Neighborhood: North End
Type: Sculpture
Year: 1940
Medium: Bronze and Granite
 

Description:

This statue of patriotic hero Paul Revere is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Boston. Cyrus Edwin Dallin depicts Revere on his famous “midnight ride” of 1775, alerting his fellow colonists that the British army was moving toward Lexington, MA. Dallin emphasizes the urgency and energy of Revere’s mission through the posture of both the horse and its rider. Revere attempts to keep his balance as his horse abruptly halts, rearing back slightly. Dallin’s design also seems to recognize the presence of his viewers. Walk over to Revere’s right side, and you play the role of a colonist receiving his message...Although Dallin designed this sculpture for a competition in 1885, it was not cast in bronze until 1940. The statue’s installation was halted for several years, after another artist assailed Dallin’s winning submission, calling it unrealistic. In the 1930s, the Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned to have the commission completed.


Revere Statue - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Revere Statue - Photo by Jim Schmidt
If you have time, I recommend the material in the links below:

A delightful article in Yankee Magazine (July 2015) by Aimee Seavey in which she describes her own visit to Old North - great insights into making plans for your own visit!

A short (2-min) YouTube video from VisitorsTVNetwork takes you up the steps of the steeple!






While another takes you into the depths of the crypt!


To learn more about Paul Revere and the "Midnight Ride," I highly recommend David Hackett Fischer's excellent book, Paul Revere's Ride - you can read my 5-star amazon review here

You may also like these other posts on this blog:

Other Posts About Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue
Boston #2 - Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston #3 - The Boston Massacre and the Old State House
Boston #4 - King's Chapel Burying Ground
Boston #5 - Granary Burying Ground
Boston #7 - Trinity Church

Other Posts About Historic Churches:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Trinity Church - "The Work of a Civilization" (Boston #7/Pillars of the Earth #2)

"This isn't just the work of an architect.  This is the work of a civilization." -- David McCullough, Pulitzer prize winning author, on Trinity Church 


Exterior Detail - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt
There are hundreds of places of worship in Boston - some of them have importance in the role they played in American history: Old North, for example (a blog post coming soon!); also, the Charles Street Meeting House and African Meeting House, which are important sites on the Black Heritage Trail in Boston.

Another important church in Boston is Trinity Church - famous for its attachment to a well-known preacher, a well-known architect, and for its status as a famous building in and of itself. Indeed, in 1885, architects voted Trinity the most important building in America.  Over a hundred years later, the American Institute of Architects still ranks Trinity Church among the Top 10 - the only building (and only church) that remains from the original list. It was featured as #2 in a series on "Ten Buildings That Changed America."

I had the pleasure of visiting Trinity Church in August 2015.

If you have a four or five minutes, I highly recommend the short but superb video from PBS/WTTW that produced the "Ten Buildings" series mentioned above - it's a great introduction to the building, the architect (H. H. Richardson), and to Trinity's famed preacher (Phillips Brooks):

http://interactive.wttw.com/tenbuildings/trinity-church


Reflection in John Hancock - Jim Schmidt
The church sits on Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay, across the square from the famous Boston Public Library and flanked by the John Hancock Tower.  The square is a busy place and visitors can view the impressive church from the outside - and its magnificent stonework and statuary - for free.  A fee ($7.00) is charged for visiting the inside of the church and some of the text below is from the "Self-Guided Tour" booklet that they provide.

For me, the outside was mesmerizing with its Old-World stone-carvings and  its "muscular" appearance.

Trinity Church is the birthplace of the "Richardsonian Romanesque" architectural style, after Henry Hobson Richardson.  From the guide:

Richardson was the first American architect to attract international attention.  Trinity Church is the building that established his international reputation, and is considered his first major work..."Richardsonian Romanesque" is characterized by a clay tile roof, polychromy (use of several colors in an architectural decoration), rough-faced stone, heavy, rounded arches and a massive tower, all prominently featured at Trinity Church.  Copied throughout America for the rest of the century, it was also the first American style to be widely imitated in Europe and Canada.  Despite its origins in an ecclesiastical building, the Richardsonian Romanesque style soon became popular for use in structures serving all aspects of modern life, including railroad stations, libraries, and public utility buildings.


Photo by Jim Schmidt
Richardson's buildings (the church and parish house) are the third home for Trinity Church.  The current buildings were constructed under the leadership of Trinity Church's Rector, Phillips Brooks, one of the most renowned preachers of the 19th century.  Inspired by their charismatic preacher, and responding to changes that were quickly transforming their formal residential neighborhood into a commercial center, in 1870 the parish voted to move from downtown Boston to the newly developing Back Bay and awarded Richardson the commission to design a bold new church.

You can learn more about the invitation to Richardson and his first sketches of the search in an excellent post (here) from the blog at Harvard University's Houghton Library.


Trinity Church - Boston - photo by Jim Schmidt
 
Trinity Church - c. 1900 - Library of Congress


Exterior Detail - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt
 
Exterior Detail - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt



Exterior Detail - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Exterior Detail - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Exterior Detail - Porch - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt


Exterior Detail - Door - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt
You can't visit Trinity Church without running into Phillips Brooks - his visage is on the pulpit, a bust in the church, carving in the stone, and a statue outside.  From the guide:

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was one of the best known and most charismatic preachers of his generation, and served as Trinity's Rector from 1869-1891.  Brooks vision of an intellectual honesty in Christianity continues to influence the Episcopal Church today.  He is listed in the Anglican Church's Calendar of Commemorations with other Americans including Martin Luther King, Jr., and joining such luminaries as St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Claire and John Donne as examples of Christian living to inspire contemporary Christians.


Exterior Detail - Phillips Brooks - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt


Phillips Brooks
A statue of Phillips Brooks by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the grounds of Trinity Church.  Gaudens also crafted the memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts, featured ina  previous blog post (here).

Phillips Brooks Statue - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Phillips Brooks Statue - Trinity Church - Photo by Jim Schmidt

The inside has minimal artificial lighting and produces a fittingly solemn and quiet setting, even with the number of people touring the site. 

Murals - from the guide:

The interior decoration of Trinity Church was one of the most ambitious commissions in America, both in scale and scope, aiming to integrate art and architecture into a unified whole.  The murals were executed solely by American artists - over 21,500 square feet of painted decoration enrich Trinity's interior.





The Pulpit - from the guide:

The pulpit was designed by Charles Coolidge, executed by John Evans, 1916.  Figures include St. Paul, St. Chrysostom, Martin Luther, Hugh Latimer, and Phillips Brooks.


The Windows - adapted from the guide:

Trinity's magnificent stained glass collection is one of the finest in the nation, with examples from most of the American and European stained glass studios of the nineteenth century,  With one exception, the church contained only clear glass windows at its consecration in 1877.  Twenty-four followed within five years; eight more followed soon after.



You may also like these other posts on this blog:

Other Posts About Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue
Boston #2 - Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston #3 - The Boston Massacre and the Old State House
Boston #4 - King's Chapel Burying Ground
Boston #5 - Granary Burying Ground
Boston #6 - Gravestone Iconography in Boston's Historic Burying Grounds

Other Posts About Historic Churches:





Thursday, March 31, 2016

The "Dead Center" of Boston - Part Three (From Death's Heads to Soul Effigies) (Boston #6)

This is the third and final installment of a series of posts (Parts I and II here and here) on Boston's historic burial grounds.  The first two posts described Boston's oldest cemetery, King's Chapel, and third oldest, Granary.  As promised in those first two, this third post takes a closer look at a couple of notable headstones in the King's Chapel Burying Ground and at some of the iconography on Puritan-Era headstones, with some recommendations for additional reading.

Elizabeth Pain - Photo by Jim Schmidt
One of the more notable headstones in the King's Chapel Burying Ground is that of Elizabeth Pain (c. 1652-1704).  Many websites and travel guides declare that Pain's gravestone (and possibly her life story) was an inspiration for the character Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The final paragraph in the novel certainly paints a picture of a stone in the King's Chapel cemetery:

"And, after many, many years, a new grave was delved, near an old and sunken one, in that burial–ground beside which King’s Chapel has since been built. It was near that old and sunken grave, yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. Yet one tomb–stone served for both. All around, there were monuments carved with armorial bearings; and on this simple slab of slate—as the curious investigator may still discern, and perplex himself with the purport—there appeared the semblance of an engraved escutcheon. It bore a device, a herald’s wording of which may serve for a motto and brief description of our now concluded legend; so sombre is it, and relieved only by one ever–glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow:— 'ON A FIELD, SABLE, THE LETTER A, GULES.'"

Another prominent headstone is that of Joseph Tapping.  Per the wayside marker at the cemetery:

Joseph Tapping - Photo by Jim Schmidt
One of the first and most famous gravestones, visible upon entering the burying ground, is that of Joseph Tapping (d. 1678). The marker is famed as a work of art conceived by the unnamed carver known as “the Charlestown Stonecutter.” The stone is one of the most elaborate in the burying ground with beautifully carved symbolic images: the skull with wings represents the soul leaving the body, the hourglass represents time running out, the skeleton snuffing out the candle is Death ending life, and the bearded figure is Time attempting to stop Death. The stone’s Latin inscriptions refer to the quick passage of time and awareness of death’s inevitability. Little is known of Tapping, a Boston shopkeeper who died at the age of 23, leaving his young wife Marianna a widow.

Detail - Joseph Tapping - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Detail - Joseph Tapping - Photo by Jim Schmidt
After visiting some of Boston's historic burying grounds, I did some reading to learn more about the iconography and craftsmanship on early colonial/Puritan-era headstones. One of the best books I read was Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and its Symbols, 1650-1815, by Allen Ludwig (1966; reprint 2000). The book included some discussion on the Tapping stone, especially in terms of where New England stone-cutters obtained the inspiration for some of the artwork on Puritan-era headstones.  Ludwig points out that they used "emblem books" and primers, and that the Tapping headstone is an excellent example of this use, as the famous image of the skeleton and "Father Time" is adapted from a nearly-identical image in Frances Quarles' Hieroglyphiques of the Life of Man, printed in London in 1638:

Detail - Joseph Tapping - Photo by Jim Schmidt
"Time and Death" - Frances Quarles' Hieroglyphiques of the Life of Man
The Pain and Tapping headstones also both employ the well-known "death's head" iconography of New England Puritan-era headstones.  For modern sensibilities, the imagery seems macabre or "creepy," but that was not how it was perceived by the population in New England at that time.  

Harriette M. Forbes researched New England gravestones and their creators, and wrote the book Gravestones of Early New England and the Men who Made Them, 1653-1800 (1927).  She concluded that "the gravestones of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries carried a message to the passerby both by the epitaphs and even more by the designs," and that the meanings could be categorized - with the death's head marking "The certainty of death and warnings to the living." As time passed, the death's morphed into the "soul effigy," and eventually into other iconography such as the urn and willow that are commonplace on Victorian-era markers.

Even more interesting is that the evolution of this iconography can be quantified in time and place as outlined in the groundbreaking studies of James Deetz and Edwin Dethlefsen, resulting in their fascinating and highly-readable scholarly paper, "Death’s Heads, Cherubs, and Willow Trees: Experimental Archaeology in Colonial Cemeteries," published in American Antiquity in 1966 (full text here).

You can see that evolution throughout both the King's Chapel and Granary Burying Grounds and in some of the photographs I've shared in the past few posts - here are a few:

Detail - King's Chapel Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Detail - Granary Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Detail - King's Chapel Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Detail - King's Chapel Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Detail - King's Chapel Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt
You can see even more (thousands of examples!) at the excellent Farber Gravestone Collection at the American Antiquarian Society website -

Another very good book I read was Sticks and Stones: Three Centuries of North Carolina Gravemarkers by M. Ruth Little (1998).

For a great  study of Colonial-era cemeteries without this type of imagery (and why that is), I highly recommend Elizabeth A. Crowell's "Philadelphia Gravestones 1760-1820," in Northeast Historical Archaeology (Vol. 10, Issue 1, 1981), the full text of which is available here.

You may also like these other posts on this blog:

Other Posts About Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue
Boston #2 - Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston #3 - The Boston Massacre and the Old State House

Boston #4 - King's Chapel Burying Ground

Boston #5 - Granary Burying Ground
 
Other Posts About Historic Cemeteries:  

Granary Burying Ground - Boston

King's Chapel Burying Ground - Boston
St. Louis Cemetery #1 - New Orleans, LA - My YouTube Video here
Jewell Cemetery State Historic Site - Columbia, MO
Sunset Hills Cemetery - Boonville, MO - here and here
Galveston (TX) Cemeteries - here and here
Jefferson City (MO) National Cemetery 
Springfield (MO) National Cemetery - (blog posts here, here, here)

Monday, March 21, 2016

The "Dead Center" of Boston - Part Two (Granary Burying Ground) (Boston #5)

Granary Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt
In this second of three parts about historic Boston burial grounds (Part I, about "King's Chapel Burial Ground," is here), I share some general information and photos about Granary Burying Ground; the third post will have a little more "nitty gritty," with a focus on a few famous gravestones in the cemeteries, background on Puritan era gravestone craftsmanship and iconography, and some book and article recommendations.

From the wayside marker:

Granary Burying Ground - Library of Congress- c. 1900
This graveyard was started by Boston's town officials in 1660 because of overcrowding at the "old burying ground" (King's Chapel, one block away). Granary is Boston's third graveyard and was referred to as the "New Burying Ground" or "South Burying Ground." Later it was called "Middle" or "Central" Burying Ground until it was named "Granary" after 1800. This name referred to the 12,000-bushel grain storage warehouse built in 1729 to provide food for the poor. The Granary building was moved to Dorchester in 1809 to make way for Park Street Church. It was originally a part of the Common at the very edge of 17th century Boston where the land rose steeply to three towering hills or "trimountain." Here, Boston Town put "noxious" buildings and activities they wanted away from the bustling harbor businesses, including the burying grounds, the almshouse or poorhouse, the prison, the cow pen, and the workhouse.

The Granary Burying Ground today covers approximately two acres and contains 2,345 gravestones and 204 tombs. It is probable that more than 8,000 men, women, and children were buried here, the majority in the tombs that border the grounds. Many gravestones have decayed or have been lost. Granary was overcrowded by the 18th century, and burials outside of tombs were prohibited from 1856 on. The gravestone locations have been rearranged at least two times to accommodate pathways and landscaping, so many no longer mark the actual burial location. In 1840 Solomon Willard, sculptor and architect of the Bunker Hill Monument, designed Granary's Egyptian-style gateway.


Granary Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt
You can get a quick tour watching the "Boston History in a Minute" video from Ye Olde Tavern Tours, below:



I didn't wander around the Granary Burying Ground as much as the King's Chapel Burying Ground as I was anxious to get started on my tour of the rest of the Freedom Trail, but it is the final resting place of some well-known patriots, so I made a point to find them, including Paul Revere, Sam Adams, the victims of the Boston Massacre (see my post on the Massacre here), John Hancock, and perhaps the most poignant that I saw: the marker for "Frank," a slave of Hancock's, who died in 1771.

Frank - A Servant to John Hancock - Photo by Jim Schmidt
 
John Hancock - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Paul Revere - Photo by Jim Schmidt
Samuel Adams - Photo by Jim Schmidt
  
Victims of the Boston Massacre - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Given it's age and historical importance, it's not surprising that the cemetery has attracted many visitors, and it has been the subject of several guidebooks,including this interesting one from 1902:



You may also like these posts on this blog:

Other Posts About Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue
Boston #2 - Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston #3 - The Boston Massacre and the Old State House

Boston #4 - King's Chapel Burying Ground

Other Posts About Historic Cemeteries:  

King's Chapel Burying Ground - Boston - here
St. Louis Cemetery #1 - New Orleans, LA - My YouTube Video here
Jewell Cemetery State Historic Site - Columbia, MO
Sunset Hills Cemetery - Boonville, MO - here and here
Galveston (TX) Cemeteries - here and here
Jefferson City (MO) National Cemetery 
Springfield (MO) National Cemetery - (blog posts here, here, here)