Friday, September 1, 2017

For What the Bell Tolls

From Dave Brigham:

It's human nature, I suppose, to ignore the history in your backyard that folks travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to see. I've lived in the Boston area 27 years and have yet to set foot in the Bunker Hill Monument, for instance. Or Paul Revere's house. Or Old South Church. Or the liquor store where Whitey Bulger conducted his heinous affairs.

As regular readers know, I seek out the hidden history, the decrepit buildings, the rusting heaps in the woods. But recently my family spent just a small amount of time in nearby Lexington, Mass. ("The Birthplace of American Liberty") and checked out the American Revolution-related plaques and memorials around the famous Battle Green.

I won't lie to you: this was an outing taken as a result of the need to get out of the house, rather than an insatiable thirst for historical knowledge. My kids rejected a walk in the woods, said they wanted to do a "city walk." Well, we've spent a lot of time in Boston and Cambridge over the years, so I thought of Lexington, with its quaint shops and restaurants (most importantly, an ice cream parlor). I figured strolling through a few sights from the American Revolution would be gravy.

The historical markers around the Green -- related to meeting houses, the first casualties of the Revolution, and the iconic Minute Man -- were of some interest, as was the massive flagpole in the center of it all. But when I saw a sign for "The Belfry," I knew I had found my true destination.

Located just a musket-shot away from the Green, the belfry was built in 1762 in its current spot, and moved to the Green in 1768, per the Lexington Historical Society web site. The bell was used to summon folks to worship, and tolled upon the deaths of townspeople. But on April 19, 1775, the belfry realized its greatest glory: sounding the alarm calling the local militia men to the Common in advance of the approach of the British Redcoats.

Eventually the belfry was moved back to its original location. The original was destroyed in 1909 either by fire or by a strong gale, depending on which historical account you believe, and the town had a reproduction made in 1910. The bell tolls each year to signal the start of the Patriots' Day reenactment on the Green, according to the historical society.

As for that ice cream parlor, we ended up there after our less-than-stressful adventure. Rancatore's is pretty good, and is located in a nice old circa-1903 building known as the Hunt Block.

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