The West Side of Boston

            When you think of Boston history you instantly think of its role in the American Revolution.  Boston National Historical Park covers a lot of this ground.  However, if you search in the western outskirts of Boston, you will discover that the National Park Service preserves Boston history running over multiple eras at three other park sites.

The Longfellow House where George Washington once stayed

            The first one I was able to visit was the Frederick law Olmsted National Historic Site, which is located in Brookline.  I made a visit last year after helping my sister move to the area.  It’s a small place with very little room for parking (the parking issue is a reoccurring theme at all three of these parks).  At the park, you can explore the grounds and home of Frederick Law Olmsted, who was a leading architect for the country and a major promoter of needing open spaces in neighborhoods.  The home has numerous displays in every room that showcase the many innovations in architecture that Olmstead used, and outside you can explore a nice but small garden.  Ultimately, this is a site you probably won’t be spending more than thirty minutes at.

Entrance sign for Frederick Law Olmsted NHS

            This past month I went a little further north in Brookline to visit John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site.  This site preserves the home that JFK was born in.  The only thing to really do here is the tour as the house is preserved in its original location on a now packed-in residential street.  The tour, however, is quite worth it as you learn a lot about JFK’s early life and the many methods the Kennedy family used to preserve this home (their efforts were almost as unique and as extensive as the Roosevelts’ efforts to preserve Springwood and the surrounding area of Hyde Park).

The steps to JFK's childhood home

            The final site on the western side of Boston might just be the jewel of the entire Boston area.  Earlier this month I also visited Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge.  It’s an odd name, but the place holds as much history as the name suggests.  When you walk up to the site you see a beautiful house before walking into a garden almost as good as the ones at the Vanderbilt Mansion.  It’s past these gardens that you reach the visitor center where your tour begins.  It’s here that you learn that this house was where George Washington decided to base his headquarters for the Siege of Boston.  Our tour guide did a terrific job of explaining what rooms he might have walked through and what he might have been doing in them.  Our tour guide, however, made note that the person who had the most impact on this site was famed author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  While Washington was certainly the more interesting character, the Longfellow history on this site was far more interesting as we learned about Longfellow’s life as well as the life of his children who lived quite liberal lives (tattoos, travel to China and a daughter with a female lover just to name a few things the children were involved in).  The interior of the house is also stunning with a plethora of paintings that seemed like they were straight from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  If you are going to visit any site in the Boston area make sure it’s this one.

Entrance to Longfellow House - Washington's HQ NHS

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