King’s Chapel (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)

King’s Chapel

The King’s Chapel, proudly one of the 16 historic sites (the fifth stop) on Boston’s Freedom Trail, is housed in what was formerly called the “Stone Chapel,” an 18th-century structure. The chapel, an independent Christian unitarian congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the first Anglican church in colonial New England and overwhelmingly Puritan Boston, was founded on June 15, 1686 by Royal Governor Sir Edmund Andros  during the reign of King James II. Notable members and attendees included George Washington, Paul Revere, Thomas Hutchinson, Charles Sumner, Charles Bulfinch, Oliver Wendell Holmes  and many more

The exterior columns of chapel colonnade

The chapel was originally a wooden church built in 1688. The present larger stone (made with Quincy granite) chapel building, started in 1749 (its cornerstone was laid on August 11) and completed in 1754, was built around the wooden church.

One of the finest designs of the noted colonial architect Peter Harrison (dubbed as “America’s first architect”) of Newport, when the stone church was completed, the wooden church was disassembled, removed through the windows of the new church and the  wood shipped to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where it was used to construct St. John’s Anglican Church.

National Historic Landmark Plaque

During the American Revolution, the chapel sat vacant or a few short months as Loyalist families left for Nova Scotia and England, but reopened, following the loss of its minister (the Rev. Henry Caner), for the funeral of Gen. Joseph Warren who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775). In 1782, those who remained reopened the church. In 1960, the chapel was designated a National Historic Landmark  for its architectural significance. On Halloween night of 2001, the church was destroyed by fire but has since been rebuilt.

The chapel’s magnificent interior

The chapel bell, cast in England and hung in 1772, cracked in 1814 and was recast by Paul Revere (the largest bell cast by the Revere foundry and the last one cast by Paul Revere himself) and rehung. Ever since, it has been rung during Sunday morning services.

Plaque commemorating congregation members who died during the American Civil War

The exterior columns of the colonnade (completed after the American Revolution), which appear to be stone, are, in fact, wood painted in a cost-saving trompe-l’oeil.

Plaque commemorating congregation members who died during World War I and World War II

The magnificent interior, considered the finest example of Georgian church architecture in North America, features wooden columns which have Corinthian capitals hand-carved, in 1758, by William Burbeck and his apprentices.

The wooden columns with hand-carved Corinthian capitals

The current uniform appearance of the seating, in box pews, dates from the 1920s. The pews were mostly originally owned by the member families who paid pew rent and decorated the pews according to their personal tastes.

The box pews

The chapel first organ was acquired in 1723. The present organ, the chapel’s sixth, was built by C.B. Fisk in in 1964. Decorated with miters and carvings from the Bridge organ of 1756, it is slightly below average in size compared with most mid-1900s European chapel organs.

Within the King’s Chapel is a monument to London merchant Samuel Vassall, brother of the colonist William Vassall (who frequently clashed with John Winthrop, and eventually removed himself to Scituate, Massachusetts), a patentee of the Massachusetts Bay Company (also named a member of the company in its 1629 Royal Charter), an early deputy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a Member of Parliament (1640–1641) representing London.

Monument to London merchant Samuel Vassall

Kings Chapel: 58 Tremont Street cor. School Street, Boston, Massachusetts, MA 02108,  U.S.A. Open daily, 10 AM – 4:30 PM.  Tours: 10 AM to 5 PM, Mondays through Saturdays; and 1:30 PM to 5 PM on Sundays. Tel:+1 617-523-1749. Website: www.kings-chapel.org.

Granary Burying Ground (Boston, Massachussetts, U.S.A.)

Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground, the city’s third-oldest cemetery, dates to 1660. A major stop in our Freedom Trail Tour, it is steps away from Boston Common and is shadowed by the towering skyscrapers of the city’s Financial District (however, just a few moments here made me forget that I was in the center of a large city). It was Independence Day when Jandy and I visited and the graves of famous personalities buried there where marked with US flags and floral wreaths. Guides, in American Colonial attire, were busy touring visitors around the cemetery.

The Egyptian Revival-style gate

This cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Revolutionary War-era patriots such as Paul Revere (pedestal-shaped gravestone behind the Franklin Memorial) , the five victims (including African-American Crispus Attucks) of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre (in a common grave near the Tremont Street entrance) and three signers of the Declaration of Independence – Samuel AdamsJohn Hancock and Robert Treat Paine (at the side of a brick wall).

Lady guide, in American Colonial attire, touring visitors around the cemetery

As such, because of its historical connections, this quiet but fascinating, tree-filled, shade-dappled ground has been sometimes called the “Westminster Abbey” of Boston. After 1856, most burials were prohibited here.

Tomb of John Hancock

The cemetery, adjacent to Park Street Church and immediately across from Suffolk University Law School, has 2,345 grave-markers and 204 tombs but historians estimate that as many as 5,000 people are buried in it.  The reason for this is that, to save money and space, many of the graves have multiple bodies buried, four deep, under one headstone, something that was common in most old burial grounds.

The pedestal-shaped tomb of Paul Revere

Formerly known as the New Burying Ground and South Burying Ground, in 1737 it took on the name of the Old Town Granary, the granary building which stood on the site of the present-day Park Street Church. An attempt was also made to change the name to “Franklin Cemetery,” to honor the family of Benjamin Franklin, but the effort failed.

The Franklin Memorial

The cemetery’s striking and imposing but decidedly uncolonial Egyptian Revival iron gate and fence along Tremont Street, designed in 1840 by Boston sculptor and architect Isaiah Rogers (the supervising architect of the Ohio State House, he also designed an identical gate for Newport’s Touro Cemetery and the Bunker Hill Monument), was built at a cost of US$5,000 (half paid by the city and half by public subscription).

Samuel Adams Tomb

A 21-ft. high obelisk, constructed with granite from the Bunker Hill Monument quarry and dedicated on June 15, 1827, was erected to replace the original gravestones (which had been in poor condition) of the parents and relatives of Benjamin Franklin (he was born in Boston but is buried in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania). Josiah Franklin, Franklin’s father, was originally from Ecton, Northamptonshire, England while his mother, Abiah (Josiah’s second wife), was born in Nantucket.

Robert Treat Paine Tomb

The second oldest memorial, for John Wakefield (who died on June 18, 1667, aged 52), lies near the Franklin monument. Many of the 17th century grave stones are carved with elaborate letters, death’s heads, and fruits of paradise.  The oldest grave stone, that of the children of Andrew Neal, was carved by the ‘Charlestown Carver’ and dates to 1666.

Children of Andrew Neal Tomb

Other prominent people buried here include:

Common grave of the 5 victims of the Boston Massacre

Granary Burying Ground: Tremont Street an Bloomfield Street, Boston MA 02108, Massachusetts. Open daily, 9 AM – 5PM. Tel: 617-635-4505.  Admission is free. To keep the burial ground protected, please make sure you stay on the designated paths.

How to Get There: If you are arriving by public transportation, take the Red and Green Lines/Park Street, the closest T station, to Boston Common and walk northeast on Tremont Street towards the Park St Church. Past the church you’ll find the Granary Burial Ground.

Park Street Church (Boston, Massachusetts)

Park Street Church

The Park Street Church, an active, thriving missionary-centered Conservative Congregational church with 2,000 in Sunday attendance and around 1,000 members, is a historical stop on the Freedom Trail located next to the historic Granary Burying Ground.

Its cornerstone was laid on May 1, 1809 and its construction, under the guidance of architect Peter Banner (his design is reminiscent of St. Bride’s Church in London by famous British architect Christopher Wren), chief mason Benajah Young  and woodcarver Solomon Willard, was completed by the end of the year. On January 10, 1810, it had its first worship service.

The church became known as “Brimstone Corner,” in part because of the fervent missionary character of its preaching and, in part, because of the gunpowder stored in its crypt (which gave off a ferocious smell of sulfur) during the War of 1812.

The church’s beautiful white steeple, a landmark visible from several Boston neighborhoods, rises to 66 m. (217 ft.), making the church the tallest building in the United States from 1810 to 1828. The red brick façade has white accents.  There is a little museum on the first floor.

The church is the site of a number of historical events:

Park Street Church: 1 Park St. cor. Tremont St.Boston, Massachusetts 02108. Tel: (617) 523-3383.  Website: www.parkstreet.org. Open Wednesdays – Fridays, 9:30 AM -3 PM. Worship services: Sundays 8:30 AM, 11 AM and 4 PM. Admission is free.

How to Get There: The church located right across from the Park Street subway stop (Red Line) at the edge of Boston Common.

Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History (Boston, Massachusetts)

RH Boston – The Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History

This stately Neo-Classical, red brick and-brownstone building, commanding a park-like block of Berkeley St., between Newbury and Boylston in Boston’s Back Bay, was designed by architect William Gibbons Preston in 1863.  Originally the Museum of Natural History, it was known, over the years to Bostonians, as the Bonwit Teller building and later the  home to the clothier Louis Boston.

The Neo-Classical, red brick and brownstone facade

Now Restoration Hardware’s (a California-based home-furnishings company) Boston flagship store, it was redesigned by AD 100 firm Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, the designers of numerous other RH stores. To approximate the original interior, the designers consulted old photographs and architectural drawings.

In a renovation work that was, more or less, a complete gut requiring 15 months, they took out mezzanines inserted by previous tenants, removed an elevator bank that blocked the central axis through the building and painstakingly restored and recreated original millwork, plaster and steel details.

The Central Atrium

Wall, ceiling and decorative surfaces were coated in neutral gray. Most significant, to recapture views from the ground floor all the way to the gilded, coffered ceiling, they opened up the 70 ft. high, 3-storey central atrium.

The glass and steel traction elevator

Unveiled spring of 2103, the 40,000 sq. ft. RH Design Gallery is the largest outpost for this expanding retailer whose product categories includes tabletop goods (Chinese porcelain dinnerware, Belgian linens, etc.) and “objects of curiosity” (architectural fragments, faux antlers, iPod-compatible reproduction Victrolas, etc.).

When I entered glass and steel entry pavilion of this Civil War–era structure, I was enthralled by its graceful Corinthian pilasters, Romanesque arches, and monumental interior atrium. Gliding up and down the atrium is the store’s pièce de résistance – a new, custom glass and steel traction elevator modeled after the one in Los Angeles’s 1893 Bradbury Building.

The store’s four floors (including a basement level) offer a florist and a dedicated area for RH’s Baby & Child collections (featuring pint-size leather chesterfields and armchairs). In addition, there’s masculine spaces such as wine bar run by Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley (of Yountville, California).

There’s also a quartet of club rooms – a billiard lounge with a rehabbed Brunswick pool table, a cinema room where TVs play classic movies, an inviting library packed with vintage novels and design books, and a pub serving craft beers at a century-old bar surrounded by Motown and rock-and-roll memorabilia.

Sharing the floor with the club rooms is a Paris-themed “conservatory and park.” Here, outdoor furniture is displayed among artificial olive trees and a 24 ft. tall steel replica of the Eiffel Tower (a flea-market find and a fitting totem of RH’s Francophile design impulses).

Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History: 34 Berkeley St., Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Website: www.restorationhardware.com.