Visit Revolutionary Middlesex County

  • Each day as I commute from Newton to Lowell, I stay almost completely within Middlesex County.  I urge all visitors to my website to consider visiting the historic and scenic sites within the county.  Please start with the two newly named sites on the list of 1,000 Special Places in Massachusetts.  Although it’s listed under Needham, Hemlock Gorge where Echo Bridge spans the Charles River is clearly a part of Newton as well.  For more information, see the section of my website on Hemlock Gorge or go directly to the Friends of Hemlock Gorge website (www.hemlockgorge.org).  The Jackson Homestead is also described elsewhere on my website along with the historic Burying Grounds of the city. I am proud that I worked with the Homestead staff and Representative Barney Frank to get it listed on the Underground Railroad Itinerary of the National Park Service.
     

  • Also visit Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church at 270 Elliot Street in Upper Falls.  It is notable for its Romanesque architecture that echoes Wartburg Castle in Germany including its tower visible for miles around.   It features Stained Glass Windows by the F.X. Zettler Studio of Munich, Germany.  Many are based on paintings by Raphael, Michelangelo, and other Renaissance masters. Gonippo Raggi, known as the Michelangelo of North America, did the interior murals as he did for more than 100 other churches in the Americas and Europe.
     

  • Hemlock Gorge and Mary Immaculate of Lourdes are both included in the Newton Upper Falls Historic District. 
     

  • The rest of the County can be grouped by themes of Revolutionary Middlesex County: Political Revolution, Literary Revolution, and Industrial Revolution.

Political Revolution

  • The battle of Lexington and Concord ignited the American Revolution. “The shot heard round the world” commemorated by County resident Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” was fired at Lexington Battle Green.  At the North Bridge over the Concord River in Concord, Minute Men from “every Middlesex Village and farm” forced the British Regulars back to Boston and harassed them along the Battle Road back through Concord, Lexington, and even Menotomy (present day Arlington)
     

  • Minute Man National Park and the Lexington Battle Green should be recognized as a World Heritage Site.
     

  • George Washington used the Longfellow House in Cambridge as his headquarters after he assumed command of the Continental Army.  He finally forced the British Army to evacuate Boston by sending General Henry Knox to retrieve captured British guns from Fort Ticonderoga in New York State and haul them through the snow and ice of winter the length of Massachusetts including many communities in Middlesex County.  This route through both states deserves to be named the Henry Knox National Historic Trail,
     

  • In a final startling piece of military engineering, the cannons were installed virtually over night on what is now the Dorchester Heights National Historic Site overlooking the occupied city and leaving the British no choice but to evacuate the city on what’s still known as Evacuation Day,

Literary Revolution

  • Concord was the focus of the American Literary Revolution of the 19th Century.  After living for a while in Newton where he preached at the Methodist Church on Winter Street in Upper Falls (now a Buddhist Temple) and then dined at Sunnyside, the home of Upper Falls industrialist Otis Pettee which is now the Stone Institute across Elliot Street from Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church, Ralph Waldo Emerson moved to Concord and became the leader of the Transcendentalist Literary/Philosophical Movement.  He lived in the Old Manse and (of course) in the Emerson House, which are both still literary museums as is the Orchard House where Bronson Alcott raised his family.  His daughter Louisa May Alcott based her masterpieces “Little Women” and “Little Men” on their family life in Concord.
     

  • Emerson’s contemporary Henry David Thoreau wrote his seminal environmental work “Walden” based on his time spent in a cabin at Walden Pond in Concord.  His “Civil Disobedience” also written in Concord inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King in their efforts to win independence for the nation of India and Civil Rights for Americans of African Ancestry respectively.  When Thoreau was thrown in the Concord jail for refusing to pay his taxes in protest against the Mexican-American War, Emerson supposedly visited him and asked “Henry, what are you doing in there?”  Thoreau supposedly rebuked him by asking “Ralph, what are you doing out there?”
     

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne achieved most of his fame writing in Salem about Salemesque themes, but he and his wife lived in the Old Manse in Concord while he wrote “The Blithedale Romance”, a novel based on the Transcendentalists who lived for a while on the West Roxbury/Oak Hill Park border in Newton.
     

  • Though Edgar Allen Poe’s literary heritage is hotly disputed between his birthplace in Boston (“The Cask of the Amontillado” is based on a story he heard in Boston) and his two major homes in Richmond and Baltimore.  However, at the height of his career, he lectured in Lowell where he supposedly fell in love and wrote his poem “The Bells”. An old Lowell bar the “Old Worthen” commemorates his alleged visits with a raven on its signs. He also waged a blazing literary feud with Longfellow and other established literary figures from Concord and Boston.
     

  • Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne and their contemporaries created the first distinctly American literature and philosophy in Middlesex County in the 19th Century.  Jack Kerouac of Lowell brought a new literary consciousness to the American Scene that reverberates to this day in the work of a variety of later writers.  A park in downtown Lowell commemorates his writings.   Fans still visit his grave in Edson Cemetery with its remembrance “Tio (little) Jack; he honored life.” Others trace his steps through his old neighborhood on the north side of the Merrimack River that he documented in his Lowell novels.   His best known work is probably “On the Road” telling of his travels across the U.S.A. with his literary friends including Allen Ginzberg, the author of the poem “Howl”.  Kerouac wrote it in a creative frenzy on a single role of typing paper that still visits Lowell occasionally. (Another controversial literary figure Truman Capote of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood” fame dismissed “On the Road” as “typing, not writing”, but Capote and Kerouac subsequently made up.)
     

  • His health broken by hard living (he drank at the Old Worthen too), Kerouac returned to Lowell for his declining years before his death in his forties.  His fame has grown since his death and many writers have acknowledged him as a direct or indirect inspiration.

Industrial Revolution

  • Just as the residents of Middlesex County helped to invent a new country and new literature, they also invented new industries.  Scattered mills across the county used the power of the Charles, Merrimack, Concord Rivers and their tributaries to turn wheels that turned agricultural products into food for the hungry masses and primitive industrial goods.  The site of the Mill Falls complex on the Charles River in Newton Upper Falls has been in commercial use since 1634.  But the birth of the American Industrial Revolution can probably best be seen in the Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham where Francis Lowell and other industrialists first put to work the principles Lowell had observed in his tours of British factories.  The factory owners forbid note-taking or sketching, but Lowell returned to his quarters to record his observations that he put into action first in Waltham and later in the city named for him where he and his friends developed their ideas on a grand scale and with high ideals.   The poet William Blake denounced the British mills as “Satanic”, and the great novelist Charles Dickens documented the pitiful state of British mill workers in many of his books including but not limited to "David Copperfield", "A Christmas Carol"., and "Hard Times"  The Lowell industrialists were determined to be different.   They wanted to create places of business where Yankee farm girls could earn an honest living without the degradations of the British mills and even improve their minds at the Lyceums sponsored by their masters who even built churches for their workers as well as themselves. For a while, it worked.  The pre-War Lowell mills were one of the wonders of the world attracting visitors from across the country including upward bound Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Dickens himself who marveled the beauty of the “miles of mills”  in Lowell and the good condition of their workers.  Eventually, the cutthroat competition of the slave labor in the American South and the virtual slave wages of the southern mills after the Civil War made it impossible for the Lowell leaders to compete and maintain their high labor standards.  Irish, French,  and Greek immigrants among eventually supplanted the Yankee farm girls and found less competitive wages than their predecessors but still more than they could make in the starving Ireland of the Famine of the 1850’s and the other privations of Europe.   Immigrants came and worked often in very difficult conditions so that their children and grandchildren could do better.  Senator Paul Tsongas of Lowell is perhaps the archetype of these successors. As a City Councillor, County Commissioner, Member of Congress, and United State Senators, he tirelessly pushed the establishment of the Lowell National Historic Park. This idea of former Superintendent of Schools Paul Mogan is now a living reality that thousands of tourists visit each year.
     

  • My more than thirty-five years in Lowell have also taught me in great depth how historic preservation can be a tool of civil revitalization.  In my support for the Newton Upper Falls, Chestnut Hill, Auburndale, and Nortonville Historic districts, the revitalization of Hemlock Gorge, the sponsorship and amendment of Newton’s Demolition Delay Ordinance, Historic Preservation of City Hall, the Jackson Homestead, and the Burying Grounds, the image of Lowell has been at the back of my mind.  You can read the details of these programs elsewhere in this site. You can be inspired by visiting Lowell.

Information

Brian E. Yates
Alderman at Large
Ward 5

1094 Chestnut St.
Newton, MA 02464
617-244-2601
briyates5@gmail.com

My campaign for re-election in 2015 is now underway. Please look through this website for information on my qualifications, viewpoints, and accomplishments.

 

Brian E. Yates Alderman at Large