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Friday, March 20, 1942
in What's New In Town
W. J. Sidis
The famous expression about Bostonians thinking that Boston is the hub of the universe was originally not written to indicate an actual Boston attitude, but rather as a bit of ridicule against the ignorance of outsiders who insist on railing without knowing whereof they speak. In Holmes’ book, the wisecracker who gets off this bit of insolence is properly met with being shown that every place has its local pride, and that small towns possess it to a much greater extent than Boston. Actually, present-day Bostonians seem to have even an “inferiority complex” about their city, while the “hub of the universe” attitude is to be found most strongly in New York. (There is actually a part of the Bronx called “The Hub.”) A bit more local pride would not hurt the average Bostonian.
It may interest some to know that the Old North Church, celebrated in the poem of “Paul Revere’s Ride” is no longer standing. The church was chopped up into kindling wood by the British the following winter. And tourists in Boston are now being shown through a different church (the old Christ Church) as the place where the signal lights were set. And, incidentally, can anyone explain just how an attack “by sea” could be launched against the interior of Middlesex County?
An interesting bit of the landscape of our metropolis is the “Private Way―Dangerous Passing” signs visitors have so often found strange about Boston. This custom has arisen in Massachusetts cities and towns because Massachusetts law (Chapter 187, Section 3 of the General Laws, to be specific) permits the owner of real estate to prevent the public from acquiring a right of way over his land by posting a notice challenging the public’s right to pass. In other States, the owner could not protect his rights except by actually blocking off the passage. These notices also serve the purpose of informing the public that the city is not responsible in case of accident.
Only three of the old Puritan “meeting houses” still stand in the present city limits of Boston. One is in Dorchester, at Meeting House Hill (obviously named for the edifice); another is at Eliot Square in Roxbury; and the third is the famous “Old South” on Washington Street downtown. The Dorchester and Roxbury meeting houses are now Unitarian churches; while the Old South is used for a different kind of meetings. (Puritan meeting houses were not only churches but also town halls.) The churches in Dorchester and Roxbury both date to 1630, the Old South being some thirty-odd years later. It was from the Roxbury church that “Apostle” Eliot went as missionary to the Indians of Massachusetts; the square in front of the church is named for him. That same church in Roxbury is also alleged to have been the original model for the first Christmas-card church drawings.
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