The Paul Revere Restaurant

Did you go to the post office?” the old man called across the street to his friend.

“Yes!” said the other old man.

“Was there any mail?”

“No, just female!”

Drawing outside the Paul Revere Restaurant recently, I watched the midday characters come and go in the village of West Medford, a community in the greater city of Medford. The restaurant attracted my attention because this spring I’m doing a series of drawings along the route Paul Revere took on that historic night, April 25, 1775.

Founded in 1938, the restaurant places you immediately in a Norman Rockwell painting. The long lunch counter, hard stools, high-backed booths, tin ceiling and even some of the grit are all original, and in the back is a shrine of sorts to the restaurant’s namesake, Paul Revere. On the wall is a big photograph of the original owner, a woman who would find little changed since she left, five owners ago. Further down the wall is a long, framed group photo of the contestants in the 1965 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

This is the kind of place where the old guys go for breakfast or lunch. Cheap and cheerful. Nothing fancy. Never changing. Not retro: original. After drawing, I had the chicken salad club with fries for $6.50. The talk at the lunch counter between the owner and a regular was of the next Boston Bruins game: “I’m going to the game tomorrow night…should be some fights.”

As I left, I double checked the date of the restaurant’s opening which got the two guys talking local history. “I grew up in Arlington,” the owner said,  “which used to be called Menotomy. I think it was part of Cambridge before that.” He mentioned growing up near the Jason Russell House—which caught my attention, because although it’s miles away, it’s also on Paul Revere’s route and I’ll be drawing there in the coming months. I wonder if he realized how interwoven his life’s path was with Revere’s.

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The President Slept Here

This spring, I’ve started a new series of drawings, thanks to the generous support of Montserrat College of Art, who granted me a sabbatical from my teaching responsibilities this semester.

The project is called “Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited,” and I’ll be drawing along Paul Revere’s historic ride of April 25, 1775. The route took him from Boston to Lexington (and beyond), while he warned American Colonists of the coming British troops on the eve of the first shots of the American Revolutionary War. I’ll be drawing landmarks of the past and present, forming a visual essay that explores, documents and reveals history, preservation and change in America.

The weather has been historically warm this year, so I’ve taken advantage by hitting the streets and getting a good start.

Here’s one of my drawings from along the route of Paul Revere. It’s a perfect example of what I hoped would happen: drawings leading to discovery. This large and handsome brick apartment building sits on a busy city street in the Winter Hill section of working-class Somerville (sometimes insulted by the nickname “Slummerville”).

I found the building to be an unexpected gem on this street, and drew its profile, hoping to capture the warm afternoon light as it carved up the surface planes. Upon leaving the scene, I noticed on the front of the building—proudly spelled, but partially covered in ivy—the name “Langmaid Terrace.”

When I researched the name and address, I found some surprising history. President Barack Obama lived in that building! He had an apartment there when he attended law school at Harvard University in neighboring Cambridge. History rides on.