Our cloudy, somewhat rainy day in Boston started out with breakfast for 3 at the Busy Bee Diner, an old city diner owned by Greek immigrants with strong Boston accents on Beacon Street in Brookline. The narrow place had bright turquoise seat booths and an extensive menu.
Our order came with a surprising amount of food of eggs, potatoes, toast and blueberry pancakes. The food was not served all at once so we each ate our serving as delivered but, all in all, the food was great and the prices were cheap. It was a great start to our busy day.
The MBTA train took us to Haymarket Square for us to walk to the North End to see the house of Paul Revere and a statue of him on his horse. We learned that day that Paul Revere left the Old North Church and first took a boat across the Charles River to Charlestown before he set on his famous ride on horseback.
The Old North Church and the Paul Revere house are now part of the city’s oldest residential neighborhood in Boston since 1630. The North End is famous for its Italian heritage and restaurants, with numerous bakeries full of tempting desserts sat in some of the windows as we passed by.
From the North End of Boston, we walked to Charlestown to see the Charlestown Naval Yard where the USS Constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy was docked. Built in 1797, the USS Constitution was most famously named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America.
We started with a quick look at the Charlestown Naval Yard Visitor Center which is part of the Boston National Historical Park. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world but was under restoration and closed for us to board.
Also displayed is the destroyer, Cassin Young, equipped with torpedoes, guns, and other weaponry. The USS Cassin Young refitted and modernized in the yard’s dry-dock, represents the type of ship built in the yard during World War II. Our self-guided tour allowed us to explore the main deck of the radio room, officers’ dining hall, galley, laundry, and captain’s deck. The Cassin Young was the last ship hit by kamikazes in the vicinity of Okinawa before the Japanese surrender. During the war, there was a tremendous explosion amidships but the crew contained the damage, restored power in one engine and got the ship underway within twenty minutes. Casualties were 22 men dead and 45 wounded. The ship is now maintained and staffed by the National Park Service and volunteers.
Afterwards, a walk along the harbor towards the city took us to take the train to Harvard. Harvard University has the Mark I, the first programmable computer. Grace Hopper was a programmer of the Mark I who coined the term there is a bug in the system. The term ‘bugs in a computer’ had been used before, but after Grace Hopper wrote in her diary “first actual case of bug being found” the term became really popular, and that’s why we are still using it today.
The Science building is home to the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, which showcased machines dating back from 1400 to the present in astronomy, navigation, horology, surveying, geology, calculating, physics, biology, medicine, psychology, electricity, and medical, such as: telescopes, clocks, microscopes, compasses, sundials, and the Grand Orrery by Joseph Pope of Boston. This mechanical model of the solar system was acquired by Harvard with funds raised by a lottery in 1788. The celestial dome is supported by bronze figures cast by Paul Revere. This large wood and glass structure reveals the planets rotation inside.
Most of the items were presented in glass modules that reminded me of a time capsule. The collection now has more than 20,000 objects.
The level above the Putnam Gallery is the Special Exhibitions Gallery that featured Radio Contact: Tuning in to Politics, Technology, & Culture. This exhibition examines the evolving technology and cultures of listening, tinkering, and broadcasting. Radio introduced millions to jazz, the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, Edward R. Murrow, and the shock therapy of talk radio. Radios, transmitters, phonographs, receivers, and antennae were some of the items displayed. Iconic radio shows, and 50’s music played aloud as we looked at the timeline of communication.
As we walked through the grounds of the campus, we saw a beautiful church with stained glass windows now used as a dining hall, but we opted to leave the Harvard campus to find something to eat.
Our choice, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage at Harvard Square, was full of a wacky decor of posters, bumper stickers and funny signs and has fed celebrity customers to include Johnny Cash, Jacqueline Onassis, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bill Belichick, Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, and Katie Couric. This restaurant is famous for its burgers and also the unusual names for their burgers. Ours included “Our Next President (God Help Us). The Viagra, Caitlyn Jenner (You Go Girl), and Taxachu$ett$, were a few of the titles of other burgers.
Afterwards, we walked the street finding the Curious George store on the corner so we curiously walked in to see the kind of merchandise for sale.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was our next stop to see the campus museum. The MIT museum had a lot of hands-on exhibits from how the internet worked, how holograms were made, and robotics. There was a section of kinetic sculptures that required the visitor to activate the mechanism for them to move. An example of such art was the “Machine with Wishbone,” a sculpture of wheels, gears, chains, and a small motor that was pulled by a wishbone stepping forward strapped to the machine. Arthur Ganson is the designer of this art in motion and was artist-in-residence at the Mechanical Engineering department of MIT for awhile.
I saw another mechanical sculpture that lubricated itself by a moving conveyor to the top of the structure and pouring it on the gears. A lovely exhibit of scraps of paper moved up and down in a wing-like motion of a bird by pumping rods connected to a turning axle. I really enjoyed watching these machines that were so ingenious and fun to watch. We saw most of the museum but left to catch a bus to get to the Christian Science Center before it closed.
The Mapparium is a three-story-tall globe made of stained glass that is viewed from a 30-foot-long bridge through its interior designed by Chester Lindsay Churchill. It is an exhibit at The Mary Baker Eddy Library and part of the Christian Science Center building. Built in 1935 and based upon Rand McNally political maps published the previous year, the Mapparium shows the political world as it was at that time.
The tour allowed us to experience the Mapparium in an accurate geographical relationship to each other, in a concave reversal of the Earth, viewed from within. Standing on the clear catwalk within the globe places the eye at the same distance from every point on the globe.
The illuminated 608 panels of the globe built to scale of approximately 22 miles to the inch were originally designed to be replaceable as the political boundaries of the world changed. There have been several points in the Mapparium’s history where the discussion of updating the map arose. The final time was in the 1960s, when it was finally decided that the Mapparium was a priceless work of art and history, and so should never be updated.
A modern sound system and light system of 206 LED light fixtures can be programmed to produce up to 16 million colors. Our guide controlled the background and lights producing different effects. The hard spherical surface of the globe reflects sound and forms a remarkable whispering gallery so that visitors standing at opposite ends of the bridge can speak softly to each other and yet be heard as if they were standing next to each other.
The Boston Public Library McKim Building in Copley Square opened in 1895, it is a stone building built by the people and dedicated to the advancement of learning. Below each second-story arched window on the three façades are inscribed lists of the names of great historical writers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and statesmen.
Upon entering the building you are met by two stone lions on pillars and paintings of the muses in niches that lined the upper floor. The next floor hung murals by John Singer Sargent as we walked into Bates Hall, the great reading room, with an apse on each end and a series of double coffers in the arched barrel vaulted ceiling of the room. A series of green lampshade desk lamps provided light at each library table.
The library has an impressive collection of art, manuscripts, early editions of Shakespeare, and Defoe, records of colonial Boston, and volumes of John Adams’ personal library. This branch has the Norman Levanthal Map Center but it was not opened; disappointing to a map junkie but at least the walls of the cafe were covered in large maps.
There was also a nice garden with a fountain in a courtyard surrounded by an arched walkway.
The train took us back to Brookline for an early dinner at Fairsted Kitchen on Beacon Street. We did not want to eat tapas for dinner again but the restaurant did indeed turn out to be another tapas restaurant (must be a hipster thing). We tried pickled vegetables, Israeli salad, meatballs, and pork kabobs. The portions were very small and costly. We were still a bit hungry so we got frappes at Emack and Bolio’s ice cream store and waited for the train to take us back to our hotel. It was great to spend the day in our daughter’s hometown of the last 6 years.