Where to begin this project? On the road, of course! But which road? Well, my natural inclination is to travel the oldest roads as I often find them to be the most interesting, and I have some previous experience doing just that.
As I mentioned in my first post, I previously walked the Post Road from Boston to New York. In that project I followed the sole road out of Colonial Boston across the Neck (more on this later), out past the gate and on to the “mainland” at Roxbury. In the colonial era Roxbury was a separate town from Boston, as indeed was Dorchester and all the other neighborhoods that today constitute the City of Boston. In Roxbury the road split into three separate roads, all of which basically still exist and which wind through many of the neighborhoods of contemporary Boston. The first of these roads was the aforementioned Post Road, which headed right out of today’s Dudley Square to the Parting Stone, where the road branched again with the left fork heading to Dedham and the right fork heading to Brookline, and on to Cambridge. Both forks of this road eventually led to New York and each was called the Post Road (if this sounds confusing, it is! I will return to this subject in a future entry. For now just remember that this was the first of the three roads branching out of Roxbury). The second road headed more or less directly out of what is today Dudley Square along what is today known as Warren Street, snaking it’s way through Roxbury and Dorchester (where the road changes to Washington Street-not THAT Washington Street, another Washington Street! I know, confusing again. Again something I will return to another day) until it reached the bridge over the Neponset River at Lower Mills. This road was called the “Upper” Road to Braintree (or sometimes Plymouth) and was commissioned by the Colonial authorities in 1654 to make the trip shorter and more reliable than the original road to Braintree. This third road out of Roxbury branched left from the road out of Boston at the Burying Ground in Dudley Square roughly along today’s Eustis Street, running into what is now Dudley Street, then in Dorchester following Hancock Street and finally Adams Street until it reached the same bridge over the Neponset mentioned above. This road was the original road to Braintree and became known as the “Lower” road to Braintree.
The above image shows a map I carry with me when I wander the old roads. I have marked all the original roads in green on a modern map so that I can follow them easily when I am out rambling. The green lines I marked to represent these original roads conveniently meander through most of the city and to me are much like the frame of house; they provide the support structure onto which the modern city was built. I think the easiest and most pleasant way to begin the rambling part of my project is to wander along these original roads, describing their origin, their development, and the current state of the city at various points along route. By doing so I will be able to introduce many of the themes I would like to explore in future entries. The first of these entries will revisit the start of my original walk along the Post Road to New York.