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by Jacob Marmor (pseudonym)

Friday, February 27, 1942

in What's New In Town

W. J. Sidis


        Changes in the names of some of our city’s streets have broken up some of the group namings that have been so frequent in Boston. Thus any Bostonian knows that Milk and Water Streets are neighbors. But very few are aware that there used to be, in company of those two, a Bread Street (the lower end of Franklin Street). Likewise, old-time Bostonians will remember when part of the present Arlington Street bore the name of Ferdinand Street; which may account for the side streets called Isabella and Cortes.


        The Old South Church has always been a point of interest to anyone seeing the sights of Boston. Founded in the middle of the 17th century as a Puritan Church, it became a storm center almost from the beginning. It was in the days when Puritans were persecuting Quakers [who] were staging demonstrations against Puritans with predictions of dire calamities to come. On [Sunday,] July 8, 1677, a group of Quaker women staged such a demonstration by barging into the Old South while a meeting was going on, predicting a day of equality and tolerance to come. As they were being taken away, they added that the idea of freedom and equality would not so easily be gotten out of the building. The prophecy has come down to us in the form of verses entitled:

“So long as Boston shall Boston be,
      And its bay tides rise and fall,
  Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church,
      And plead for the rights of all.” 1

        The building thus dedicated to the spirit of Liberty later became the location of a long series of town meetings protesting against acts of abuse of authority, and winding up in open revoltthe American Revolution. In the Great Fire of 1872, the raging conflagration raced directly toward the Old Souththen suddenly ceased advancing at Milk Street, where a change of wind shifted the flames across Washington Street and consumed the Province House, the former headquarters of the Royal Governors. The news “The Old South stands” went out, and was received as good tidings all over the country. When the city was rebuilt, the congregation had already moved out to their new site in the Back Bay (the so-called New Old South Church), and arrangements were made to sell the old building to be torn down to make room for an office building. Appeals by the poets Whittier and Holmes aroused public sentiment, and funds were raised to save the old building as a historical museum. It is now used for public forums, as befits the building “from whose walls the impulse went that set free a continent.” 2


        America’s first shipbuilding was in Medford. It was on the Mystic River, a short distance below the Craddock Bridge (Main Street), toward the inlet that bears the picturesque name of Labor-in-Vain.


        Boston had the first glass works in this country.



1.   W. J. Sidis, MARGARET BREWSTER'S PROPHECY, in America's Search for Liberty in Song and Poem.

2.   John Greenleaf Whittier, THE LANDMARKS, http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/wit2410.txt


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