Neponset River Greenway

The Neponset River Greenway is a plan to connect existing and proposed Boston parkland stretching across Hyde Park, Mattapan and Dorchester and the Town of Milton. When complete, the Neponset River Greenway will be a ten mile multi-use recreational trail from the mouth of the Neponset River to the 894-acre Fowl Meadows at the city limits. The Greenway will also connect to the 5,800-acre Blue Hills Reservation, the largest open space within thirty-five miles of Boston.

The most accessible part of the Greenway is the Pope John Paul II Park on the mouth of the Neponset River. The park consists of three former uses: the former drive-in movie site,
the former Hallet landfill site, and a former lumber yard. The old Hallet Landfill site had pollution in the soil that could run into the river, so four feet of clay and soil was added as a protective layer.

The Neponset River Greenway may be a bit premature to be on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts because it’s not done yet. But the pieces that are in place are great places.

Old North Church

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;

– excerpt from “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So is the claim to fame of Boston’s Old North Church as the starting point for Paul Revere‘s ride.

The enduring legend of the Old North Old Church began on April 18, 1775. Robert Newman, the church’s sexton, climbed the steeple. Having seen the British and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land.

Actually “sea” is only sort of right, although more poetic. The British could have marched down the long peninsula or crossed the Charles River to start their march toward Lexington and Concord. The two lights alerted the militia that the British troops were taking the boat route to land in Charlestown.

Revere rode out through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, warning towns along the way. William Dawes rode the land route to get out the warning.

The church was built in 1723 and survives as the oldest standing church building in Boston.

With its history and its legend, the Old North Church is an obvious choice for inclusion on the list of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

Mary Baker Eddy Historic House

Stoughton has a single entry on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. The Mary Baker Eddy Historic House sits on the busy Central Street, just west of the Christmas Tree Shoppes retail road.

The story of the house (from the Longyear Museum):

Having been deserted by her husband, Daniel Patterson, the future Mary Baker Eddy reverted to the name of her late first husband, Glover. In late 1868, after staying in a series of boarding houses and friends’ homes, Mrs. Glover arrived in this country home south of Boston. Her stay was a year-and-a-half respite from all the packing and unpacking.

Alanson Wentworth’s wife, Sally, invited Mrs. Glover to live here in exchange for Mrs. Glover’s teaching her the art of healing through Christian prayer — after which Sally eagerly took up the healing work on her own. It provided her with a purpose and an income for the rest of her life.

Here in Stoughton, Mrs. Glover’s treatments through prayer healed Alanson Wentworth of sciatica — healed his wife of a chronic throat ailment — healed one of their daughters of partial deafness — healed neighbors of enteritis, pulmonary disease, and addiction to medicinal drugs.

The house is only open by appointment. My visit was brief since I failed to make an appointment.

Personally, I would have preferred Town Spa over a vacant house that is usually closed.

Sullivan’s on Castle Island

There are very few restaurants on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. The ones that are on the list, as far I’ve seen so far are contained in buildings of historic significance. Somehow, Sullivan’s made the list. Castle Island was already on the list, so it seem strange that to also name Sullivan’s to the list. In large part it’s the snack bar for the visitors to Castle Island.

They do make a good lobster roll.

Castle Island

Castle Island is the most mis-named of the place on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. It’s neither a “castle” nor an “island”.

We should forgive the “island” label since it once was an island. Boston has a long historic of filling in the harbor and its rivers to create new livable land areas. That occurred here as South Boston grew bigger and bigger and finally reached the old fort. As far back as 1892 it was were connected to the mainland by a wooden footbridge. This was replaced by an earthen causeway in 1925 and an automobile road in 1932.

In 1634, Governor Dudley selected the spot for the sea defense of Boston Harbor. The first fortification were built in 1644 and consisted of a pine log fort, some earthworks, and three cannons. It eventually earned the nickname of “The Castle”. Since then, it has been rebuilt seven times. The current structure was built in 1851 with granite from the quarries in Rockport, Massachusetts.

In 1798 Massachusetts gave the fort to the United States Government. President John Adams dedicated it as “Fort Independence” in 1799. It was given back in 1962.

The park offers a great view of Boston, Logan Airport, and the harbor islands. If you visit on a summer weekend, you can take a tour of the fort from noon until 3:30.

Borderland State Park

In 1906, Oakes Ames and his wife Blanche purchased land on the border of Sharon and Easton. The country estate they named “Borderland” remained in the family for 65 years. In 1971, two years after the death of Blanche Ames, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the estate and opened it as a state park. The family’s home, a three-story stone mansion built in 1910, still stands.

Even though the park resides in Easton and Sharon, it get listed only in Easton as one of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

Ames Free Library

I restarted my quest to visit the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts by visiting the Children’s Museum of Easton. The Ames Free Library was only one block away, so I needed to pay it a visit.

Oliver Ames II left $50,000 in his will for the construction and support of a library for the benefit of the inhabitants of Easton, Massachusetts. The main building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in 1877 and first opened its doors in 1883.

Given that they have the same architect, you probably see some similarity between this library and Trinity Church in Boston. The similarity goes deeper. The library is built of Milford granite with the same Longmeadow trim used on the church.

The children’s wing at the rear was built in 1931. The construction was funded by a gift from Mrs. William H. Ames (Fanny Holt Ames), a member of the Board of Trustees for 40 years, in memory of her husband William Hadwen Ames. The addition was designed by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge of Boston, the architectural firm formed by three members of H.H. Richardson’s office upon his death in 1886.

The Children’s Museum of Easton

In addition to getting back to writing for GeekDad, I’m also trying to continue my quest to visit the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. How about combining the two?

The Children’s Museum of Easton has been on my list of places to visit for several years and I finally got around to making the trip on a rainy June day. You can read more at GeekDad Visits the Children’s Museum in Easton.

Higgins Armory Museum

With all the snow on the ground, I was getting a little snow crazy. So it was back to the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

I packed up the kids in the family truckster and we ended up in Worcester at the Higgins Armory Museum.

It had caught my eye, but I have to admit that I was skeptical. I figured it was just some crazy guy’s collection of swords and some beat up armor.

I was wrong. I came away impressed.

The kids had a great time. I had a great time. I figured it would make a decent story for GeekDad, so you can read more about it over there on GeekDad Visits the Higgins Armory Museum.

What really surprised me was that I didn’t know about this place. It had first come to my attention as a comment to my 2009 list of 100 Geeky Places to Take Your Kids this Summer. Higgins has been around for decades and I have been in Massachusetts for decades. So how did I not know about this place?!?!

Now I know and now you know.

Standing on Top of the Hub at the Prudential’s Skywalk

With all my decades living in Boston, I had never been to the Skywalk at the top of Boston’s Prudential Center. I had been to the top of the Hancock Tower next door. But that was ten year’s ago. Before they shut it down their observatory level for “security concerns.”

The Boy and I had some time to kill waiting for our next train home after the LEGO KidsFest at the Hynes. So I dragged up 50 floors to take in the stunning 360º view of Greater Boston. It is a stunning. Stunning enough to get included in the 1,000 Great Place in Massachusetts.

Gravestone Peeping at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery is America’s first landscaped cemetery. Apparently that distinction entitled it to two entries on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. Most of the cemetery is located in Watertown, though the entrance lies in Cambridge. That must be why only Cambridge claimed it.

Aside from the list-makers’ failures, Mount Auburn Cemetery is a magnificent place to visit. The cemetery is credited as the beginning of the American public parks and gardens movement. It was the first large-scale designed landscape open to the public in the United States.

I’m not sure I understand why they allow cars to drive on the cemetery’s road, but prohibit bicycles and motorcycles.

Given its stature, there are many prominent residents:

I had never visited before and did so just to put another checkmark on my list. Even The Boy said the place was “pretty cool.” He wants go back there again and see more.

Historic Franklin Town Common

Franklin’s town common was established in 1787 as a place for the townspeople to let their cows graze. It was the local Congregational Church that first owned the land. They sold it to the town in 1868.

The common and its surroundings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The historic district includes the common itself and over 74 other buildings, objects, and structures.

The brick bandstand on the Town Common was dedicated in 1917 and contributed by the Hayward family.

It’s historic enough, green enough, and good enough to make it onto the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

Wondering about Holliston’s Arch Bridge

I’m not sure what to say about this entry on the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

The sole entry for Holliston is the “Arch Bridge.” Is this really the greatest place in Holliston? It’s an unused bridge in a swamp.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good-looking bridge. At least is was. According to the Town of Holliston, the Arch Bridge is one of only three 8-arch bridges in the Commonwealth. It was constructed in 1847 from local granite.

If you happen to be in Holliston, take a turn down Woodland Street and admire the Arch Bridge as it spans the Boggastow Brook.

Central Square

Head east from Harvard Square down Mass. Ave and you quickly arrive in Central Square. The section of Central Square along Massachusetts Avenue between Clinton Street and Main Street is designated the “Central Square Historic District,” and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 2, 1990.

Now, like Harvard Square, it has made it’s way onto the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

That makes it greater than Kendall Square or Porter Square, since they did not make it onto the list.

Harvard Square

It’s an intersection. Massachusetts Avenue meets Brattle Street. Life intersects with shopping, education, transportation, and red bricks. Lots and lots of red bricks.

Harvard Square began in 1630 as the Colonial village of Newtowne. In the early years of settlement, the future Harvard Square lay on the outskirts of the village. It was merely a passing for travelers along the Charlestown-Watertown path.

Harvard Square has grown along with the Harvard University.

Now, it’s one of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

Looking at Lookout Farm

I’ve ridden by the Belkin Family Lookout Farm dozens of times and have been meaning to stop and explore. From the road you just see the farmstand and it doesn’t seem like much.

You would be mistaken. The farm owners apparently sold off the lots with road frontage over the years. There is 180 acres of beautiful farmland tucked in behind the farmstand.

One of the reason I’ve been visiting the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts is to get off the couch and take the kids (and myself) to new places. Lookout Farm should definitely be on you list of places to visit with your kids.

There is plenty of U-pick with great looking apples, peaches, and plums. They grow their trees in the espalier method so the trees are shorter, making it easier for kids to pick the fruit.

They also have a great children’s play area. We were there for a birthday party. The area had climbing structures, petting zoo, pony rides, camel rides, a maze, a tram, and a maze.

Climbing the Maze at Boston Children’s Museum

I have to admit that I had been a negligent parent. I had not taken my kids to the Boston Children’s Museum. I fixed that problem when I finally brought them to Boston’s waterfront last Friday.

There is plenty for young kids to experience and enjoy. I shouldn’t have waited so long.

Right at the entrance is the three-story climbing maze. The Boy went charging right in and up. The Girl had second thoughts and came right back out. We continued on while he continued to go up and down.

The Girl went to the KidPower exhibit next door and started pulling, pushing, and climbing.

I was surprised that The Boy was intrigued by the flying leaf machine in the “Out on a Limb” exhibit. He kept grabbing the fabric leaves and throwing them into the plastic tube over the fan. He spent an hour throwing the leaves in and watching them float up.

The only miss at the Boston Children’s Museum was the “Japanese House.” It’s a fully equipped 100-year-old Japanese House reconstructed in Boston by Japanese carpenters inside the Museum. Given the age of the structure, it’s mostly a no touch zone, standing out in sharp contrast to the rest of the museum. The Japanese House off the main traffic flow at the back of the third floor.

There are plenty of other exhibits and things to do. Bring your young kids. They will have a great day.

It’s easy to see why the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

You Can’t Park Your Car in Harvard Yard

Harvard Yard

I don’t think anyone is surprised that Harvard Yard appears on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. It’s the centerpiece of Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to establish the institution in 1636.

It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard. When he died in 1638 he left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard. Rubbing his foot for good luck is long standing tradition. (You can see how shiny his foot is from all the rubbing.)

I stopped by early in the morning. Under the dawn light, there was only one other person around. That young student had the dazed look of not knowing whether it was very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon.

Davis Mega Maze

One of the reasons I’m continuing on my quest to visit each of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts is to introduce the kids to new and fun places. A new discovery was Davis Farmland in Sterling. I’ve passed by the place during the Climb to the Clouds, but never visited.

So I decided to drag along The Son and one of his friends. When presented with the choice of Davis Farmland or Davis Mega Maze, they chose the maze. So we took a right-hand turn instead of a left hand turn. We will have to come back another day to visit farmland.

We had such a great time at the Mega Maze that I decided to turn it into a story for GeekDad: Lost in a Cornfield Maze.