Shore Thing

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There’s a marker and an information display at Paul Revere’s landing site on the shore of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The only problem is finding them.

Here’s what the marker says:

At this site Paul Revere landed on the night of April 18, 1775 to begin his midnight ride. 

Dedicated by The Massachusetts Society Sons of the American Revolution April 1999                                                                                                                               

In this drawing, the marker and the display are behind the large vacant brick warehouse building, at the dead end of a waterfront walkway, next to a forbidding gate blocking one’s entrance to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Tourists following Boston’s Freedom Trail, the bright red line on the sidewalk which connects historic sites, pass by, to the left of the building, without a clue to what they’re missing. As I drew, a steady stream of tourists passed on my left, headed for the USS Constitution and The Bunker Hill Monument beyond.

The USS Constitution, a stone’s throw away from the Revere marker, is certainly worth a visit. The world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, built in Boston, the Constitution was launched in 1797. It was built to battle with Barbary pirates off the coast of Africa, but gained great fame in the War of 1812 when she defeated four British warships and earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.” The ship was taken out of service in 1855 and is now a museum, owned and maintained by the US Navy. At over 220 feet high at its highest point, it is only one foot shorter than Charlestown’s other most famous site, the Bunker Hill Monument. Both icons influenced the design of Boston’s newest icon, the nearby Zakim Bridge, which combines features of the two.

The less renowned building, which is the focus of this drawing, is referred to as Hoosac Stores 1 & 2. This warehouse was built in 1895 by the Fitchburg Railroad. At the turn of the century, Boston was the nation’s leading importer of wool, and Hoosac docks were where most of that happened.

In 1964, the building was sold to the W.F. Schrafft & Son Company, the large chocolate and candy company with headquarters further along Paul Revere’s route.

On the wall are large painted ads—the top one for White Star Line (known, too, as the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company). White Star Line was a prominent passenger shipping company, dominating the North Atlantic route to America. The Titanic was a White Star Line ship. From Liverpool to Ireland to Boston (and New York), immigrants from Ireland, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Italy started new lives via White Star and landed in this port in Charlestown at the height of American immigration. Some of my own Irish ancesters, the O’Connors and the O’Keefes, from Cork, may have arrived on these docks.

Hoosac Stores 1 & 2 is now owned by the National Park Service, and it awaits its transformation to a more modern usage.

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