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This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Exploring Boston: Roxbury High Fort

Exploring Boston: Roxbury High Fort

My Boston apartment is on the 10th floor of my building, which is actually about 120’ (35-ish meters) above street level. I opted for elevation so I could help develop a better sense of relative geography and place: what’s what, where’s where, and what’s in between.
Figuring out the landmarks visible from my bedroom, I noticed this oddity. See it, to the left of the brownish building? (You can zoom in, if you view the photo at full res.)

I used the telephoto. See it now, the white tower in the distance?

I mean, what the heck is that? It looks almost Bavarian; or a misplaced Disney fantasy.

Checking Google maps, I saw it was on a low coastal hill called Roxbury Heights, a couple miles from my apartment. I decided to check it out on foot.

Some details along the way:

An odd chimney treatment:

And --- hey, it’s Boston, “… home of the bean and the cod…” ---  a peculiar weathervane:

It’s a giant school of metal codfish:

 As I walked, I kept trying to catch glimpses of my target tower between other buildings. At one point, another tower --- a minaret? --- caught my eye.

Zoom in:

This was one of several nice murals I passed:

Getting closer to the tower, the streets started to rise as I entered the Heights:

I liked the brick sidewalks. Boston is predominantly a brick city --- at least, older Boston --- with the blocks fired from the abundant local reddish and buff clays.

It makes for handsome streetfronts.

I liked this highly weathered African (?) totem:

I finally reached the tower, within this small but nicely-planted park at the top of the hill:

And here’s the explanation:


“Known as Fort Hill, the site once contained earthwork fortifications of the Continental Army during the Siege of Boston during the American Revolutionary War. At that time Roxbury was an independent town connected to Boston by a narrow neck of land. The hill offered a great vantage of the entire area.”



As part of that year-long Revolutionary War action, General Washington’s men captured several canon from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York and dragged the heavy canon through the trackless forests of New England to Boston, installing them on a neighboring hill --- Dorchester heights --- near Roxbury Heights.

Seeing that the Americans had the high ground and big guns, the British chose to leave the city by sea (the emplacements on the Heights prevented escape by land), an event still celebrated in Boston each March 17th as “Evacuation Day.”

But what about the tower? Here it is, from the hilltop:

 It’s worth a small laugh --- it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the High Fort, or the historic events here. It’s an abandoned water tower, built in the 1800’s and gussied up in pseudo-Victorian style!

Full-res vertical panorama:

t used to have an observation deck, long since removed, after the tower, the park, and indeed most of Roxbury fell into neglect and disrepair.

But times change, and things are much better now.

In 1973, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Note this more-recent plaque, from a few years after that:

Note the odd conglomerate “puddingstone” of the marker’s base. That puddingstone is why the hill exists: it resisted the erosion (especially the glaciers that scraped their way across this land 10K year ago) more than the softer soils of the surrounding land.

Even though the water tower is a rather silly and prosaic bit of architectural fluff, I’m glad it was there, so I could see it and seek out the hill’s geologic and human history.

Thanks for walking along!

Photobucket album: