January 23, 2014
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Boston
by Danielle DiCenso
Boston is a city rich with history that most people learn about in elementary school. U.S. history books cover game-changing events like the Boston Tea Party, when the Sons of Liberty dumped an entire shipment of tea into the harbor during a protest. And who can forget Paul Revere and his infamous ride to warn the colonists that the British were coming? Although a great deal of Boston’s history is fairly common knowledge, there are still some interesting facts that may come as a surprise to most. For instance, did you know that if you go to the basement of Trinity Church, you can see the tide come in? Here are ten not-so-well-known truths about Boston:
1.) The first chocolate factory in the United States was built in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester. It was part of Walter Baker & Co., established in 1780. The factory functioned all the way until 1965. You can still buy Baker’s chocolate today, but it is now owned by Kraft Foods. As for the factory itself? It was converted into loft-style condo apartments and studios.
2.) Fenway Park’s bullpens used to be in fair territory near the foul lines before being moved to right center field in 1940. Some say the bullpens were moved to help Ted Williams’ home run numbers. The addition of the bullpens reduced the distance from home plate to 23 feet, and became known as “Williamsburg.” Williams has the most career home runs at Fenway, clubbing 248 of his 521 career home runs at Fenway Park. Most Sox fans know about the single red seat in right field; section 42, row 37, seat 21. It marks a 502-foot home run hit by Ted Williams in 1946, the longest one hit in Fenway history.
3.) On January 15, 1919, a storage tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, sending a 25-foot wave of the sticky substance gushing through the North End of Boston at an estimated 35 mph. Twenty-one people and several horses were killed and another 150 people were injured as hot molasses crushed, asphyxiated, and cooked many of the victims to death. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 feet. To date, it is the worst molasses-related disaster in recorded history. Some residents claim that on a hot summer day, the sugary scent still looms in the air.
4.) The early history of Newbury Street all took place under water. Up until the mid-1800′s, the area was actually a part of Boston Harbor. Starting in 1857, part of the harbor was filled into what would become the Back Bay section of Boston (where the Westin Copley Place would eventually call home). The area was finally completed in 1882. The very first building completed was Emmanuel Church at 15 Newbury Street, where it still sits today.
5.) The New England Aquarium’s right whale research project is one of the longest running whale studies in the world. For 35 years, the program has been searching for ways to prevent the extinction of the species (there are only 500 left in the world). The Aquarium has lead the way using Geographic Information Systems to track the movement patterns of right whales which prevents ships from colliding with them.
6.) Faneuil l Hall (named after merchant Peter Faneuil) is well-known for its vibrant nightlife by locals and tourists alike, however this status isn’t something that was recently acquired. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty planned the American Revolution over beers at what is now the Green Dragon, and it is said that George Washington toasted the nation on its first birthday in Faneuil Hall. Daniel Webster, Paul Revere, and William McKinley were known to frequent the Bell in Hand Tavern, which is the oldest tavern in America. There is so much history in Faneuil Hall that the Freedom Trail Foundation holds weekly historic pub crawls!
7.) The Atlanta Braves lay claim to the oldest continuously playing team in all of American professional sports. Before they moved to Atlanta, the Braves called Allston their home. The team, which originally went by the name “Boston Red Stockings,” played at what is now Boston University’s Nickerson Field. The now-Boston Red Sox scooped the name after the now-Braves switched their nickname to the Boston Beaneaters.
8.) “Allston Rock City”, as it was fondly known, was the center of Boston’s rock music scene in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Harpers Ferry and Paradise Rock Club attracted the likes of Aerosmith, Boston, and other big names from all over the world. There are countless tales from that time period, but here is one that really stands out: Janis Joplin was booked as part of a summer concert series in 1970, but someone stole her band’s equipment before the show. Still, she managed to gather enough equipment to play the show that would unfortunately become her last. She died two months later.
9.) Chelsea native and M.I.T. alumnus Herbert Kalmus was part of a trio of inventors who opened a Boston-based business in 1912 called Technicolor. The trio invented Technicolor film, which was the first commercially successful color film. To this day, this film type is still occasionally used.
10.) Another first in the nation came in 1903, when Massachusetts began issuing driver’s licenses and registration plates. Back then, it didn’t matter how bad your driving was, you could still get a license because there was no driving test. It wasn’t until 17 years later that Boston started requiring a test before issuing a license. Maybe there is a reason Boston drivers have such a bad reputation …
Whether it’s your first time visiting our dynamic city or your tenth, there is always something new to uncover. Small boutiques, remarkable entertainment, and legendary restaurants are sprinkled amongst ghosts of times long past. So leave your books at home, make your own discoveries, and create some new history.
(Source Credit: CBS Boston http://boston.cbslocal.com/tag/5-things-you-didnt-know)