So, last time, I had us crossing Congress Street, with hordes and Hordes and HORDES of other tourists, to get to Faneuil Hall. Out front of the building , there is a kind of bricked-in plaza, a.k.a., “Dock Square,” which is occupied by the statue of Sam Adams I mentioned before, and, usually, several entertainers who have set up to bemuse the crowds.(1)
There’s all sorts. Musicians, rappers, break-dancers, now and then a magician. There’s more behind the main building and at various spots along the way. And they don’t just show up and busk, by the way. You have to audition to be Faneuil Hall performer. I gather it isn’t an easy process.
About the photos: First, we have a rarity. I’m not running one of my photos today. This is a stock image I’ve purchased, but it is a great shot of Faneuil Hall showing Sam Adams at his revolutionary best.
Anyway, we passed by the performers (I don’t recall what they were that day. Things are a little confused in retrospect) and made our way to the Hall itself. Inside that main building, there are a few displays of historical interest and some shops. We always start there and give our regards to a place that really is a major part of American history. As I say, it was here that many of the meetings were held that ultimately led to things like the Boston Tea Party, and, eventually, the Revolution itself. For that reason, the Hall came to be called (rightly or wrongly) the Cradle of Liberty. (2)
Then, not that many decades later, the Hall became the center of Boston’s abolitionist movement. It was here, in a building constructed by a man who had made his vast fortune in the slave-trade, that Bostonians frequently rallied against slavery. Indeed, in some ways, the Hall became the functioning capitol of the anti-Slavery movement.
After the Civil War, the Hall would be the place where women’s suffragists (Lucy Stone, for instance) would call for votes for women, while immigrants and unionists would spread the word of economic and social equality. More recently, Gay and Lesbian Americans have had their political gatherings here. And, just last year, in October of 2022, three activists chained themselves to the doors of the Hall, demanding that Faneuil Hall’s name be changed to something which did not reflect a legacy of slavery and racism.(3)
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I suppose I understand the desire to remove the symbols of an horrific past. But...I wonder, too, if there aren’t more pressing problems to be dealt with. Like, dealing with the direct and human tragedies arising from that past and which are present today--like dealing with poverty, pain, hunger (and, yes, it exists in this country), and injustice.
But maybe that’s a discussion we can have some other time.
We exited the main building and went behind it--going East, or towards the sea. When you exit Faneuil, you enter another open space, which is usually also occupied by an entertainer or two. Again, I don’t quite recall who was performing that day. Perhaps it was a juggler. I do have memories of a juggler in that space--quite a good one!--but I’m just not sure whether he was there on that visit, or another.
Honestly, I think my absent mindedness arises from the fact that the crowd of tourists was so large. It was hard to keep track of everything. And, honestly, that is a little distressing, because it reminds me that we were part of that crowd...that is, we were, like them, out-of-towners, no longer locals, looking up at the tall buildings, a little dazed and a little overwhelmed.
Anyway, we passed through that open space, and that brought us to Quincy Market. You have to understand, “Faneuil Hall” is actually only one small part of Faneuil Hall...or, more precisely, only one part of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which contains four different buildings, plus various other passages and shops located here and there.
Second, a picture that has nothing to do with the story but one which I happen to like. This is Martha at the top of Sandia Peak from some years ago. I’m writing this in the depths of the Texas summer, so I’m posting this with the lovely coolth of a New Mexico winter in mind.
The next building in “the Marketplace” is Quincy Market. What’s that? Well, it is a long, large, two story building extending some 500+ feet towards the sea. This makes it much bigger than Faneuil, and it is honestly the real heart of the market place. It’s here that you go to actually, you know, buy things.
The Market itself is, as I say, long and lean, and is mostly full of places where you can buy food--everything from clam chowder (“Chowdah”) to enchiladas. These are mostly standing restaurants--that is, they don’t have tables. You buy your food and take it elsewhere. There are some tables and chairs in the middle of the building, and on the second floor, but these are overwhelmed quickly--all those tourists, you see--and it can be difficult to find someplace to sit.
Or, if you prefer to sit-down, there are here and there in Market, and in greenhouse-like structures attached to its long sides, a few traditional restaurants. While we still lived in the Boston-area, we did sometimes eat at those restaurants and bars, but, honestly, it wasn’t really part of our tradition. If we ate at a restaurant, then we did so at one of the places in the general area...not at the Marketplace itself.
More often, we had finger food. We would go to Quincy and come back with something clutched in our hot little hands, and we’d find a place to sit...usually not in the market, but outside, at one of the benches, enjoying the sunshine and the air and the view of so many different people, from so many different places, all at once and for one time only sharing the very same space and the very same day.
And that was what we intended to do today. We were would going to do as we always did...as we had for decades...our lunch would consist of sandwiches or gyros, maybe chips or french fries, cans of soda, and a great wad of paper napkins for when (inevitably) we spilled something.
But that’s for next time.
Which is also when I’ll talk about who Quincy was, and why he has a market named for him.
More to come.
1. It is called “Dock Square” because at one time it was on the water. Remember how I said that Boston owes much of its land to the sea? Well, this is one such place. It was filled in. Where tourists now tread, once ships came to rest.
2. For more Faneuil Hall’s history and present uses, see the National Park Service page on the structure: https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/fh.htm
3. For a news account of the affair, see “Activists chain themselves to Faneuil Hall in protest of its slaveholding namesake,” by Amelia Mason, WBUR coverage, Oct 19, 2022, https://www.wbur.org/news/2022/10/19/activists-chain-themselves-to-faneuil-hall-in-protest-of-its-slaveholding-namesake
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