Boston was once called Trimountaine after the three hills which dominated the peninsula. Beacon Hill was the highest of these, so named because of the beacon that was placed on its summit to warn the citizens of attack. It was once so high it looked down upon the State Building, where now they sit side by side.
Beacon Hill is intrinsically Boston. The red brick turn of the century buildings, the narrow tree lined streets, the cobbled stones and the gas lamps are all symbols of Boston's most prestigious district. It's out of place in the centre of such a big, sprawling modern city, but that's part of its charm. Stepping off Beacon Street and up the hill through the narrow streets is like stepping back in time, even stepping across to a different continent, more old Europe than flashy new America.
It's not a big space, combined with the Back Bay the population is around 20,000 people. Some of the highlights are the broad Charles Street with its laid back cafe culture, the claustrophobic little Acorn Street with its creeping vines, and the elegant and sombre Louisberg Square.
At one point, this street has earned the honor as "the most civilized street in America" (always thought it was Sesame Street when I was a kid!). The evidence is clear: graceful homes, pretty facades, well-tended gardens, flower pots all abloom - all pointing to old rich money. Within this area, the most exclusive is Louisburg Square, which until this day remains as one of Boston's most sought after addresses.
Charles St is Beacon Hill's main street and is worth a stroll. Catering mainly to the surrounding affluent neighborhood are wonderful deli shops such as De Luca's, a Boston institution, antique stores and quaint cafes and restaurants. The area is also a treasure trove for fans of the famous local architectural icon, Charles Bulfinch (the man behind the nearby State House, among others), who designed many of the patrician homes on Beacon Hill.
Beacon Hill is one of Boston's historic neighborhoods and most expensive. While wandering Beacon Hill you notice the narrow streets and lines of Federal style row houses.
The most notable building of Beacon Hill is the State House with it's large Golden Dome.
At one point in its history, Boston was referred to as “Athens” because of the concentration of well-respected cultural and intellectual institutions. One such institution is the Boston Athenaeum, which, despite the fact that it is not a major tourist attraction, is still a centre of the city’s cultural life. The Athenaeum is located steps from the Massachusetts State House and is essential a specialized collection of various artistic and intellectual works. From time to time, special exhibits of paintings or sculpture are organized in the Athenaeum, and the fifth-floor library is fabled to hold a large number of rare works not found elsewhere in North America. The institution itself was founded in 1807, but the current building, designed by Cabot, dates from 1849. The library holds 700 000 books, including about half of George Washington’s personal library. Visits to the Athenaeum are permitted and, I gather, free. The exhibit that was arranged on the first floor didn’t appeal to me, so I didn’t visit it, but I gather that those with a keen interest is rare and antique books will be very pleased by a trip to the Athenaeum.
This is an area not very long of deep. Bordered by Beacon and Cambridge Streets, it is a residential neighborhood with up and down slightly steep mounds. The brick fronts are nice to stroll through and the streets are quite with every day living going on. CAmbridge is the commercial avenue with upscale shops and restaurants. Beacon is bordered by Boston Commons park.
A couple of sites in the area is Acorn St, small picturesque, Charles St meeting Hall; now an office building and coffee shop, and a few houses of vintage Brownstone/brick period.
The walk through the side streets is interesting. The area is mostly urban, and not much shopping of shops except for on Cambridge and Beacon Streets. Then it gets commercial. There are antique shops. Most is styled for more upscale.
Beacon Hill was my favorite neighborhood in Boston. It's quaint, pretty and bustling in some places but still and serene in others. Really a magical little area.
There are quite a few historic homes and museums to see in the neighborhood, and shopping along Charles Street is certainly something to do, but it's important to just relax, walk around and enjoy your surroundings.
For most of the 19th century, Beacon Hill was Boston's most wealthy and popular neighborhood - even today it remains one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States. One of the reasons that can explain its lasting popularity is that a lot of attention was paid to architectural details during the construction of the streets and houses of Beacon Hill, with an effort to make it as eye-pleasing as possible. As a result, Mt. Vernon Street was once described by novelist Henry James as "the only respectable street in America", and he along with many other writers chose to live in this area of the city. It is possible to go on a guided walking tour of the Beacon Hill area (http://www.historictours.com/boston/), which will take you to some of Beacon Hill's most famous spots, including Acorn Street, one of the most photographed streets in Boston, and Louisburg Square, home to Senator John Kerry.
Charles St. is a great place to go shopping or antiquing, or to grab a coffee and a bite to eat at a bakery or cafe! The street is lined with real gas lamps and plenty of charming shops. It also is home to one of the few hardware stores in the downtown area! Handy for lunchtime errands!
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