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


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:

No comments: