Part II: Sailors, Brownstones, and Pasta.
Boston as a long history with ships and the sea. It is currently the home to the oldest commissioned Naval vessel in the world still afloat, the U.S.S. Constitution. Yes, the H.M.S. Victory is older, but she is cemented in permanent dry-dock in Portsmouth, England and unable to sail. The Constitution, on the other hand, can be sailed out of Boston harbor should the Navy desire to do so.
Of course, this Navy veteran couldn’t pass up the chance to pay her a visit.
Built in 1797 to defend United States merchant ships from the Barbary Pirates, she was America’s first line of defense during the War of 1812. During a battle with the H.M.S. Guerriere, on the afternoon of August 19, 1812. When cannon fire from the Guerriere bounced off of her sides, a crew member declared, “I swear she’s made of iron!” Giving her the nickname “Old Ironsides.” She would fight thirty-one battles and win all of them.
Today, she is looking a little tired and undergoing a $1.5 million restoration. It’s a long process but she is still welcoming visitors.
The day I was there, my group was guided by Airman Garcia. The Constitution is still a commissioned ship of the U.S. Navy, and her crew is naval personnel. Airman Garcia was an able interpreter of the ship’s history, keeping both adult and children engaged.
After the tour, I was, with the assistance of another crew member, able to fly a U.S. flag on the ship’s mainmast. The flag was then folded and given to me. I am looking forward to placing it in a shadowbox and displaying it in my home office.
After the visiting the Constitution, I headed across town to the Back Bay area. Here stately brownstone mansions line the streets. Once a shallow bay, the area was filled in and homes built on the “new land.” Tucked in between the old brownstones converted into apartments one remains very much as it was when it was built in 1860.
The Gibson House Museum was built by Catherine Hammond Gibson (1804 – 1888). It was unusual for a woman to purchase a house in their own name, but build it she did. She was the widow of John Garner Gibson (1799 – 1838), a man who had made his fortune in the shipping business. It is thought she built the house in order to attract a suitable bride for their son, John Hammond Gibson, Sr. (1836 – 1916).
Her grandson, John Hammond Gibson, Jr. (1846 – 1954) never married and lived in the house until his death. An author, poet and prolific letter writer, John Jr. want to preserve Victorian architecture and style. He began preserving the house and its contents to be open as a museum in honor of his grandmother many years before his death.
Three times a day, visitors are led on an hour long tour of the house. It eye-opening to see lavish decorations filling the narrow house. The grand staircase just inside the door led to time capsule into how the elite of Boston showed their wealth and power. Downstairs in the kitchen and laundry room, the simple space of the servant’s domain. If you are a fan of Downton Abby or Upstairs Downstairs, this museum is a must-see when you are in Boston.
One evening my husband I went to Boston’s Maggiano’s Little Italy. Just a short walk from the Boston Park Plaza, where we were staying, even at nine-thirty it was still alive with patrons. We were sat in a little booth with a view of the main room. Large tables filled with food, served family style, surrounded us. Bread and herbed olive oil were brought to the table with the menus. We kept our choices simple. He ordered “Mom’s lasagna” and I the eggplant parmesan. The servings were generous and there was not room for dessert.
Walking the city and full of good food, it was time to say goodnight.
Coming Soon – Part III: Trollies, Trails, and Seafood