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.