from here you can see forever

pigeons in boston commonThe Granary Burying Ground is the third oldest cemetery in Boston and many local and national celebrities are buried there.  It was opened in 1660 when the oldest cemetery in the city, King’s Chapel filled up.  It was named after the granary building that once stood next to it (food storage next to a field full of dead people…what a novel idea.)  Today the cemetery is ringed with moderately tall high rises that may be apartments or offices.  They are not obnoxious or intrusive but seem almost to wrap the burying ground in a protective embrace.  The side fronting the street has an old wrought iron fence to which is attached various plaques commemorating famous personages buried there.  Nearly all the stones are slate are carved with some variation of the winged skull common on grave markers of the colonial era.

The cemetery occupies land that was once part of Boston Common and that was my next stop.  I am a sucker for public parks in big cities.  Central Park.  St. James Park.  Balboa Park.  Les Tuileries.  Golden Gate.  The Mall.  Of course, when Boston Common was established (mid 1630s) there wasn’t much to Boston and it was intended as a true common, a place where local citizens could graze their cattle.  Now it is one of the oldest public parks in the U.S.  And on a cold bright winter day it was packed.  It is not a large park.  It has a pond that now being used for ice skating.  It has a handful of large monuments.  It has various walking paths and big open spaces where people had their dogs off-leash in defiance of the signs posted everywhere.  There are large flocks of pigeons that look at all passersby hopefully.  There is a bandstand.

After walking through the park and watching the skating for a bit I walked up to the statehouse, which sits on a hill over the park, and then cut into the old streets of Beacon Hill.  Beacon Hill is the highest point in Boston, although since the skyscrapers of the financial district are now much taller it is hard to tell.  Traditionally though it was the pinnacle of Boston, up above the noisy, crowded, smelly, dangerous wharf areas, away from the mosquito-infested marshes, up where you could catch a nice breeze on a summer’s day.  So of course the rich gravitated up that way and there they remain, in charming old rowhouses sited along tree-lined brick sidewalks.  A few of the narrower alleys and side lanes are still cobbled.

At the base of Beacon Hill across from Mass General, I stopped for lunch.  Then I walked back over Beacon Hill to the Public Garden, a piece of land appended to Boston Common.  It also has a pond, or lagoon, which was entirely frozen over.  So frozen over in fact that people were walking across it, playing on it, using it as a shortcut through the park, etc.   After marveling at this for awhile I walked back up to the Common and passed by the Central Burying Ground.  This is the fourth oldest of Boston’s Cemeteries.  Although it sits on one side of the park there were no people in it and it was full of squirrels, fat sassy grave-digging squirrels…

By this time I had been on foot for most of seven hours, dusk was settling, and I was thoroughly chilled.  So back to the hotel I went, to warm up over a pint of Bodington’s.

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~ by gun street girl on February 15, 2010.

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