As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston has become known as a predictable, and comfortable place to visit. But it does have some quirks, and unusual sights.
Boston is actually named for a town in England.
The streets in Back Bay are in alphabetical order: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth and so on. So are the ones in my hometown: Sierra, Tulare, Union, Ventura, Winter, and who knows? I am told they were English lords.
Many Beacon Hill streets are named after trees. Jacaranda? Maybe Chestnut, Grove, Myrtle, Cedar, I am not good on tree names.
Many Wellesley streets are named after poets: Frost, Avon, Longfellow, Tennyson. Truth be known, I don’t recognize many poets these days. I am not good on poet names either.
Urban legend has it that Boston’s difficult-to-navigate streets are paved cow paths. While some streets are paved over cow paths, most of the streets follow the original coastline of Boston Proper before the city expanded over 1,000 acres during the landfill projects in the 19th century, giving them their seemingly strange pattern.
In the 19th century, the hilltops of Boston, Pemberton, Beacon, and Mt. Vernon were reduced 60 feet or more for a landfill project. From 1830 to 1890, workers carted land from the hills adding it to bays and along the coastline to expand Boston by 1,121 acres in order to accommodate the ever growing population. Imagine if they did that to San Francisco or Seattle?
The Boston Pilgrims won the first World Series over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903. No wonder it was a long drought between championships!
Boston’s subway, known as the “T,” carries 1.3 million passengers per day on average. The “T” is short for MBTA, or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. No wonder Charlie got confused and needed a nickel!
The topper would be names of some cities and towns out on the Cape, like Plymouth, Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Buzzrds Bay, Harwich, Orleans, Wellfleet, Brewster, Chatham, Thumpertown, Truro, Woods Hole, Sandy Neck, Long Nook, First Encounter, and my favorite, Aptucxet Trading Post.
Boston offers its citizens and visitors over 850 restaurants. Amazingly, only 40 of the 850 serve fast food. This stat must be old, as there must be a hundred Dunkin Donuts joints in the city.
While the Salem Witch Trials are named after the town of Salem, Massachusetts, the first death sentence of a “witch” occurred in Boston. In 1648, Boston citizens hanged midwife Margaret Jones for using herbal remedies on her patients that were believed to have made them sicker. However, I strongly suggest a visit to Salem on Halloween day.
Boston Baked Beans helped earn Boston the title of the bean capital of the United States. However, the nickname of Beantown originates from a publicity stunt in 1907 that used stickers that displayed clasped hands over a bean pot. Postcards printed with sayings like, “You don’t know beans until you come to Boston” also helped the name stick.
In 1967, race official Jock Semple attempted to forcefully remove Kathrine Switzer from the Boston Marathon because she was a woman. 5 Years later, women were officially allowed to participate.
Christmas was once banned in Boston. Between 1659-1681, residents of the capital city were prohibited from celebrating Christmas. Early puritan settlers believed it was a corrupt and indulgent holiday, and outlawed any yuletide celebrations.
In 2005, MIT held an actual Time Travelers Convention. On May 5, 10:25 pm, over 300 contemporary people gathered at MIT in the hopes of making contact with time travelers from the future. The convention set up a “landing zone”, complete with milk and cookies. The event was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Though no contact with future time travelers was made, MIT continues to publicize the space time coordinates (i.e. time and location) prominently and indefinitely, so that future time travelers will be aware and have the opportunity to attend.
Brook Farm in West Roxbury operated as a transcendentalist utopian community from 1841 to 1847. Famous figures such as Charles Anderson Dana, Greeley, Margaret Fuller and Nathaniel Hawthorne participated in the experiment.
A massive wave of molasses once devastated Boston’s North End. On January 15, 1919, a storage tank holding more than 2 million gallons of molasses burst and sent more than two million gallons of hot molasses roaring through the streets of Boston. The accident claimed 21 lives and injured hundreds.
Basketball was invented in Springfield in 1891. Dr. James Naismith, a physical education teacher, came up with the game as a way of keeping his students occupied indoors during the cold winter months. The first game involved throwing a soccer ball into two peach baskets nailed 10 feet above the floor. Can you imagine Michael Jordan flying through the air towards a peach basket?
Speaking of sports, volleyball was invented in 1895 by William Morgan in Holyoke.
Which famous opera was inspired by Boston’s famous swan boats?**
Most of us do not know that midnight rider, Paul Revere was both a blacksmith and a dentist. Ouch!!
Boston had a National League baseball team until the 50s. They became first the Milwaukee Braves, and now the Atlanta Braves. Can you imagine Hammerin’ Hank Aaron in Boston?
Bruce Springsteen helped inaugurate the famous Leonard P. Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge. Why?
Zakim, a well-known civil rights activist, was introduced to Springsteen in the last year of his life. After a concert, one of Springsteen’s managers brought Zakim backstage and introduced him to Bruce by saying, “This is a guy who’s out there on the front lines doing what you sing about, his name’s Lenny Zakim.”
What is the Scooper Bowl? The Scooper Bowl is a taste-a-thon of leading ice cream makers from across the country. Held every June to benefit cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, attendees pay a small fee to sample a variety of ice cream – from old favorites to new unreleased flavors!
Two of the three women who have served as Secretary of State are graduates of Wellesley College. Hillary Clinton (1969) and Madeline Albright (1959).