Charlestown is Boston's oldest neighbourhood. It was a separate city and the first capital of Massachusetts. It lies across the Mystic from today's city centre, in a quiet, laid back neighbourhood filled with beautiful Colonial architecture and a number of significant historic sights, like Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution.
It wasn't always so gentile. Charlestown became a popular neighbourhood for Irish immigrants escaping the famines. By the 60s it had become synonymous with Irish mobs. War broke out between rival factions which carried on through the next couple of decades. Only in the 1980s did gentrification kick in and turn Charlestown into the neighbourhood it is today.
The Charlestown City Square is a bit less impressive that the Charlestown Commons, in part because of the heavy traffic flow that exists around it. This is where you get off the Charlestown Bridge when coming in from Boston, and it is very close to an expressway on-ramp. Nevertheless, if you are interested in the historical roots of Charlestown, you should make a stop here. Beyond the Paul Revere memorials, you will also find various engravings of famous citizens of Charlestown. Across the street from the Square is the Town and what was the first Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Of course, the Supreme Court is now located much closer to the centre of State government, near the State subway station on Court Street, but it is instructive to see where the people of Massachusetts once had their highest legal authority.
The “Commons” appear to be a pretty standard part of any New England town. Cambridge, Boston and Charlestown all have their particular Commons, and I think I liked the one in Charlestown the best because of its high concentration of monuments and memorials. There is, most noticeable, the large statue in the middle of the commons, but even more interesting are the two tablets at the entrance to the Commons that faces the Bunker Hill Monument. These slabs contain the names of various regimens of Patriot troops that fought in the Revolutionary War as well as the names of some of the individuals who took part in the battles. It is interesting because it gives you a sense of the very regional nature of the conflict, and also of the roots of the strong state identities that exist in the United States.
Charlestown is a great little city incorporated in Boston, across the river from North End. It was, in fact, the first capital of the Colony of Massachusetts and was founded in 1628. In 1847 it was incorporated as a city and recently absorbed into Boston. Charlestown’s historic character is quite evident from the core set of buildings around the Bunker Hill Monument and leading down toward the Navy Yard. The houses are preserved in that sort of typical wooden-slat style that I have come to associate almost exclusively with the North-Eastern United States (although I’m sure it’s probably common elsewhere, and in many areas it’s a sign of less than sturdy building materials being used). In all, there few blocks around the Bunker Hill Monument are quite picturesque, including the old firehall. It’s hard to believe that this area has a seedy underbelly, once synonymous with the Irish mob – maybe that means you should only plan to visit during the day!
The USS Cassin Young is not nearly as old as USS Constitution, but it is still a fairly interesting site to visit at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The ship dates from the early 1940s, and saw active (and heavy) duty in the South Pacific during the Second World War. USS Cassin Young was involved in the gradual American advance through Micronesia towards the Philippines and, from the Philippines, onto Okinawa and attacks on Honshu (Japan’s largest island). In 1945, the ship came under attack from kamikazes and, although human casualties were light, serious damage was sustained when one of the planes managed to hit the foremast. After WWII, the ship was involved in patrolling duty around Florida, in the Mediterranean and in the Asia Pacific Region (around Korea especially) until it was decommissioned in 1974. A visit to the USS Cassin Young can be quite interesting. Apart from the dioramas of wartime activities in the various parts of the deck (i.e. the communications room, the mess hall, the radar post), there are also great views of the Charles River from the machine guns.
This is a real history trip to see the USS Constitution and Destroyer USS Cassin Young. An adjacent museum has a fair amount of good displays to take you through the times of the Constitution period on the seas. It is still an actively used area and shipbuilding/repair being done on the wharfs, and is a Navy shipyard.
AT the north end is the Bunker Hill monument that can be seen for a long distance. Be aware, the visitor center is not open; says renovation, but it looks like it will not open for quite some time. Parking seemed to be okay to find a spot
Most people go to Charlestown to see the USS Constitution. It is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Affectionately called “old Ironside”, it was first launched in 1797. The Navy Yard was one of the first shipyards built in the US. Today, thirty acres of the Navy Yard are preserved by the National Park Service as part of Boston National Historical Park. If you go, the guided tours are free and you’ll learn some fascinating history. Also, from time to time they have visiting ships in as well and sometimes you can go aboard them, too. If you’re a ship person, or even a big history buff, then I would definitely recommend putting this on your list of things “to do.”
Head over to this neighbourhood, across the Charles River from Boston's North End. Charlestown was the original settlement of John Winthrop, a Puritan leader looking to found a colony in Massachusetts Bay. Disliking Salem, Winthrop settled in Charlestown where there was no fresh water. Because of this, he migrated across the river and founded Boston. Today Charlestown is beautiful and historic. Old wooden homes still survive here. One of my favourite Boston memories was descending through the twisting streets and alleys from the top of Charlestown's Bunker Hill through foggy squares and past centuries old shops. City Square, just rebuilt, is a particularly nice area, as is the hard-to-find enclave of Charlestown Common, which is particularly Old Worldesque in its design. Charlestown's most famous landmark is the Bunker Hill Monument, rising over 200 feet above Charlestown on the crest of the hill (see photo). The Monument was built in the 1820s to comemmerate the Battle of Bunker Hill, a Revolutionary War conflict which actually took place on Breed's Hill. Climb to the top for panoramic views of Boston or peruse the small museum. In the harbour the Charlestown Navy Yard offers a glimpse at the historic USS Constitution, which has called Boston home for over 200 years.
This is in my opinion the most beautiful old-style neighborhoods. It is located close to Bunker Hill and Constitution. A stroll through its streets is very recommended.