Architecture Tours

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Renzo-Piano-Gardner-Museum-WingFrom the oldest wood-frame building in the United States built in 1636 to the newest local structures, we have buildings spanning 5 centuries to show you. We can take you for a tour of Gropius House, where Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus School of Architecture) lived during the last 30 years of his life after fleeing Nazi Germany. We also have buildings by Renzo Piano, Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, LeCorbusier, Frank Gehry, and more.

New England Literary Tours

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The Old ManseSee sites related to some of the following authors – Ann Hutchinson, Cotton Mather, Phyllis Wheatley, Thornton Wilder, Margaret Sydney, Robert Frost, James Russell Lowell, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, E.E. Cummings, Saul Bellow, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We can also visit the homes of Henry David Thoreau (including Walden Pond), Ralph Waldo Emerson, David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patricia Cornwell, Greg Maguire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, John Updike, Isaac Asimov, Joe Haldeman (sci-fi), Herman Melville, Alan Lightman, Noam Chomsky, David Allen Sibley, and Rudyard Kipling (yes, the author of Gunga Din) – he wrote his Jungle Books while living with his American wife at their home in southern Vermont, near the Massachusetts border.

Please note that it is impossible to see all of these homes in one day.

Civil War Boston

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charlestown-navy-yardSee sites related to the American Civil War, such as the bookstore where Harriet Beecher Stowes’ incendiary book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published; sites where Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Charles Sumner, Jeff Davis, and John Wilkes Booth stayed in Boston; visit the Navy Yard where the USS Merrimac was launched (re: Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac), and see the elegant statue in honor of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment made famous by the film “Glory” (1989), starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman; and see Underground Railroad stops and the only existing slave quarters north of the Mason-Dixon Line (Massachusetts didn’t abolish slavery until 1783, and John Hancock was a slave-owner).

massachusetts-state-house-hall-of-flagsOn this tour, we take you into our “new” State House, built in 1795, so called because we still have the old State House that was built in 1711, and we’ll take you in through the Hooker Entrance, named after a Massachusetts General who didn’t do all that well in the war.  You’ll see the States Hall of Flags, and much more.

within-the-walls-of-fort-warrenIn season, if you’re interested, you can request a tour of Fort Warren on George’s Island in Boston Harbor.  We rent spaces on a ferry to the island, so getting there is a piece of cake.  This fort was used as a P.O.W. prison during the Civil War and it is where Mason and Slidell were held during the Trent Affair.  Union soldiers at the fort created the lyrics and the song “John Brown’s Body Lies a’Molderin’ in the Grave” here inside the old Fort, and on Beacon Hill in Boston, you’ll see the home of Julia Ward Howe, who used the music and created the lyrics for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

charles-francis-adamsAcross the street from Julia Ward Howe’s home is that of Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams.  Charles was very intelligent and worldly and married an upper class Englishwoman.  Lincoln appointed Adams as our ambassador to England, and his wife was able to gain introductions for Adams into high society in London, which eased the way for the United States to get out of a prickly mess they’d created when the US Navy boarded an English vessel (an act of war) to remove Confederate agents Mason and Slidell, who were en route to England with the goal of getting the Confederacy recognized as an independent nation.

Adams, thereby had the ears of important Englishmen, who were able to diffuse the situation upon the release of Mason and Slidell from this Boston Fort.

A few doors away from the Adams’ home is the home of Senator Daniel Webster.

Industrial Revolution Tours

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Lowell-canalThe American Industrial Revolution began in Lowell, Massachusetts (settled in 1646).  By the 1820s, Lowell was the largest industrial complex in America.  Come with us to tour the old mills, see the canals built starting in 1792 – which were dug to get the products to market in Boston 26 miles away, see the old Boott Cotton Mills and mills where parachutes were made during World War II, take the “Mill Girl” Experience tour – learn why more than half of these young girls lost their hearing within a few years of working in dangerous and very loud factories, hear about the “Guns and Roses Strike” and the advent of the American Labor Movement and see where unions took root – teachers take note – we can plan a full day to include very interesting, nearby, and related side trips.

Lowell was the first city in the world to have telephone numbers, and much of the wiring apparatus was personally crafted by Alexander Graham Bell, who made the world’s first phone call in Boston, in 1876, just two months before Custer’s Last Stand.

bruckmann-poe-portraitThis city was the home of James McNeill Whistler (Whistler’s Mother) and Jack Kerouac, Bette Davis, Ed McMahon, and Milton Bradley – who created toy factories.  Boston-born author Edgar Allen Poe wrote “The Raven” while living here in Lowell.

Margaret Sanger and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, both socialist leaders, set up soup kitchens and medical care stations for the Mill Girls as they tried at the same time to unionize them.  Half the workforce were boys and girls under 18 – and more than half of them lost their hearing after working there just 3-5 years.  36% of these child workers died by age 25 from cotton-lung disease or workplace accidents, among other causes.

The Mill Girls were required to live in dormitories owned by the Mills, and they worked 6 days a week, up to 12 hours per day.  This housing was not free, and the girls had to pay rent – which was deducted from their pay.  During factory change-overs (of products) and during large repair jobs, the girls were not working, but were still required to pay full rent.  On Sundays, their only regular day off, they were taken to lengthy, mandatory church services.

lowell-mill-girlSince this was a time when America was hungry for cheap labor, 50% of the Mill Girls were foreign-born by 1900.  Factory owners and bankers pressured Congress into opening the doors to America so that they could benefit from cheap, immigrant labor.  There was no minimum-wage law, women could not vote, in most states women could not own real estate, and the Statue of Liberty invited all who sought freedom from oppression to enter America (so long as they were healthy).

Millions of immigrants flooded the United States, having no real papers or passports.  Immigration marked them down as WOP, meaning “without papers”, and thousands and thousands of poor immigrants poured into the mill towns of New England, hoping for a better life.

Quirky & Curious Tours (Mix & Match)

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Deer-Island-Wastewater-Treatment-facilityVisit with us, the Boston Harbor Oceanfront Sewage Treatment Facility – which isn’t nearly as yucky as it sounds – and learn what happens when you flush a toilet.  Afterwards, you can take a break and sip a Sam Adams Beer at a pub with seats facing the grave of Sam Adams himself – which happens to be just 200 feet from the grave of John Hancock.

Mr. Hancock, the wealthiest man in Boston at the time, was buried with an expensive ruby ring on his left hand – a year after his death, grave robbers dug him up and fled after tearing off the entire hand that bore the ring.  The cemetery staff arrived the next morning to find the remains of John Hancock reposing on the grass.  It would be interesting – to say the least – to find out where that ring is today!

In those days, doctors and hospitals hired “body snatchers” to dig up fresh graves, so that student doctors would have corpses to dissect – dissection was considered an abomination in the law and in the minds of citizens and churches 200 years ago, and was legally forbidden.

Nearby, in the same cemetery, visit the grave of Mother Goose – and later visit the area where Boston hanged witches, pirates, and petty thieves.  Learn the grisly tale of what they did with unclaimed bodies of hanged criminals and witches.

etherdomeNext, we can take you to the Etherdome, where the first use of anesthesia took place in 1846, and you’ll learn about the very high death rate that occurred back in the “good old days” when doctors thought nothing of using the same old scalpel for days without washing it.  In 1846, sterilization was completely unheard of.

How about a poignant visit to the National Braille Press?  The press was founded in Boston by an Italian immigrant in 1927.  Here you can see a 3-foot-tall stack of books printed in Braille, which represents just one of the Harry Potter books.  You’ll learn the Braille alphabet, see charts and graphs “printed” in relief, and observe the Braille “printing” presses.  Here, about ¼ of the staff is completely blind.  This is a very touching tour – no pun intended – and very memorable.  We can also show you where Helen Keller lived and Radcliffe College from which she graduated.  It’s an especially appealing tour for young people and children.

anne-sullivan-and-helen-keller-tewksbury-maWe have had parents and grandparents request this tour, and the feedback we receive is that the children and grandchildren recall this tour more than they do most of the other tours.  We also receive comments to the effect that the children really come to appreciate not only the needs of the blind, but also thereafter recognize the special needs of the handicapped.

On the same day, we can take you for a nearby walk through a 30-foot high stained glass globe!

The globe is 28-feet in diameter, and is a historical artifact itself – it’s over 75-years-old.  A sound and light show accompanies your walk right through the middle of Earth.  This “interior view” of Earth gives you a unique, eye-opening perspective of our home planet.  This globe has a whispering-gallery acoustic effect, so while inside the globe; you can talk and then hear your own startlingly clear voice projected back towards you in surround sound.  This is one of the largest globes ever built, and in which the creator used 608 convex panels of stained glass.