For Boston Tourists: Something old. Something new.

By David Currier -

Boston Common Swan Boats

Boston Common Swan Boats


Can travel always be exciting?

When traveling, life’s rhythms frequently take us back to some of the same places – over and over again. Our iPods begin to auto-play Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” (Even if it’s not on your play list!)  Thankfully, in most cases, the answer for Peggy and us is “no, there is lots more!”

Regardless how many times we visit a place where we do not live, there are likely interesting and exciting things for us to see and do – that we have not seen or done before.

Boston is one of my favorite cities to visit – for work or play. Boston is pedestrian friendly, compact, teaming with history, entertainment venues, and fine dining options. The red bricks of the Freedom Trail might cause you to think that you just heard the echoes or “one if by land, and two if by sea” or even the horse hoofs of Paul Revere riding into the darkness. Can you smell the exploded gunpowder in the breezes drifting in from Concord?

If walking is not your idea of a good time, or if you want to get a new perspective of what’s to see in and around Boston, The Duck Boats and Old Town Trolley Tours ensure that you get a glimpse of the soul of this great American destination. And (in season) don’t forget the swan boats on Boston Common.

Churches, whether you believe or are from a different religion, showcase a group’s dedication to a common ideal. The architecture, whether simple or ornate, speaks volumes about the times and the congregation’s understanding of honoring their god. …. of the congregations that have worshiped within its walls, perhaps for hundreds years.

Old North Church

The Old North Church (1723) is the oldest church in Boston, and the nearby Granary Burying Ground serves as the resting place for several of America’s “immortals” including John Hancock, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams.

For me, one Boston religious landmark frequently missed by tourists, and which provides a memorable visit is The First Church of Christ, Scientist. In the 21st century, when women still struggle to be successful and be recognized in our male dominated society, the devotion of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) to communicate the healing power she found in the Bible (See her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) and to found The First Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879 remains a beacon for women’s determination.

(From Wikipedia: Christian Scientists believe that sickness and disease are the result of fear, ignorance, or sin, and should be healed through prayer or introspection. Christian Scientists believe that the use of medicine is incompatible with Christian Science healing methods. Many Christian Scientists use prayer as their first choice for treatment over medical treatments such as drugs and surgery. They believe that healing only occurs through complete submission to God.)

In Boston, the Mother Church of Christian Science structure is a remarkable Romanesque Revival style structure of New Hampshire granite completed in 1894. The sanctuary seats about 900 people.

The floors and lower parts of the walls are covered with hand-laid Italian marble mosaics. Windows are decorated with Phipps and Slocum stained glass, employing “drapery glass” to provide texture and refined dimension. Each piece illustrates a story of Christian healing.  The upper walls have a ceiling border of intricate fresco work. The electric lighting is original, being new to Boston when the church was completed. The organ in the old church has 2,825 pipes.

Christian-Science-Mother-Church-InsideThe massive extension to The Mother Church was completed in 1906 after only 23 months. Indiana limestone was used to build this domed church in Byzantine and Renaissance styles. The Byzantine dome rises 108 feet above the congregation and is 90 feet in diameter. Over 3,000 parishioners can be accommodated beneath the dome. Since no columns were required to support the dome, everybody has an unrestricted view of the pulpit. With 13,290 pipes, the pipe organ is one of the largest working organs in the United States. Some pipes are as small as one inch in length.

Guided tours of the both churches are free.

plaza 3

I. M. Pei designed plaza.

Aside from the church’s contemporary, fourteen-acre, I. M. Pei designed Christian Science Plaza and reflecting pool (with the Prudential and John Hancock Insurance skyscrapers hovering to the East), visitors to Mary Baker Eddy’s First Church of Christ, Scientist will want to visit the Mary Baker Eddy library next door.

For visitors who arrive with time to study the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science Church, the library provides an extensive collection of her works.

For me, however, the most memorable part of my visit to the library was the tour (small fee) of the renowned Mapparium. Imagine that globe you twirled in your geography classes during primary school. Then imagine that same globe 30 feet in diameter, and that you can walk across a thirty-foot bridge from one side of the equator to the other.  (In reality that’s 7,926 miles!)


Your classroom globe has now become a three-story, spherical room. Looking up, out, down and even under the bridge, you see the continents mapped out in stained glass. Architect Chester Lindsay Churchill constructed the Mapparium in 1935, and the decision was made to not change the original design even as history changed country’s borders and names. The over ten million visitors to the Mapparium have observed political boundaries as they existed over 75 years ago.

Take a walk on the wild side; walk to the center of the earth. Look around. Then speak. You think you paid for the best “surround sound” with your Bose speakers attached to your flat-screen TV set-up? You ain’t heard nothing yet. This is a must to experience.  Then, if your tour is small, arrange for a person to be at each end of the bridge. One person whispers to the other. It’s like the whisperer is in your ear!

The Hall of Ideas and the Fountain within the hall deserve a visit if you have some extra time (perhaps waiting for your Mapparium tour to begin).  The hall and fountain provide a remarkable combination of architecture and technology that showcases famous quotes and ideas about religion, politics and human existence.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is a cost effective and educational opportunity that may fill in the blank on your “what-one-thing-will-I-visit-in-Boston-when-I’ve-seen-so-much-already-and-my-time-is-limited to-do list.”