Boston Harbor – George’s and Spectacle Islands 7/5/14

Fantastic day! Took the Boston Harbor Cruise’s ferry to George’s Island, only $15 per person. The Visitors’ Center is on the Greenway, across from Christopher Columbus Park – scenic in their own right – with lobsters on the carousel and jelly-fish in the water.

The ferry includes a narrated 40-minute tour of the Harbor, and those iconic only-from-the-water views of the Boston skyline. Families pack up picnic coolers, beach chairs, and more to enjoy a day at the beach – minus the traffic to the Cape! These are views from the ferry:

We reach George’s Island, one of five Atlantic coast harbors selected for fortification after the War of 1812. Fort Warren, built from Quincy granite, is a Civil War era fort with command over the the only deep-enough-for-a-warship channel into Boston Harbor. Enjoyed a free ranger-led tour of sections of the fort. You can climb up and walk along the ramparts of the fort, enjoying gorgeous views of the city and other islands.  The Fort is named for Dr. Joseph Warren who sent Paul Revere on his midnight right, and later died at Bunker Hill.

The Fort was used to train Union troops and house Confederate prisoners. When the Commander was asked if the Fort could house prisoners, he heard “60 prisoners” and said yes. The ship arrived with over 600 on board. Citizens of Boston quickly supplied the fort with hundreds of turkeys, bedding, clothing, and other essentials. The prisoners were treated so (relatively) humanely, unlike in other prisons, that only 13 died – two Union “bounty jumpers” who were executed for treason, the rest from diseases or wounds they arrived with. Also executed, perhaps, was the Lady in Black who supposedly haunts the fort to this day.

The Fort was also used in WWI and WWII, and was used to place mines in the harbor – great exhibits on its 20th century history in the Visitor Center.

One of the best parts of the visit was the free guided tour by the “spirit” of Dr. Charles Macgill, a Maryland physician kept as a political prisoner – no charges ever brought, no trial, no habeus corpus, effectively his Gitmo. In full 1860s wardrobe and accent, he led us on the tour of his quarters, and the Fort’s hospital where he was allowed to work. The actor portraying Dr. Macgill answered questions, frequently using language the Dr had used in his letters home. Fascinating and moving living-history experience.

Then we took the 1:00pm ferry (no fee) form George’s to Spectacle Island, so called because it was originally shaped like a pair of spectacles. It held a horse-rendering plant/glue factory, and was the city’s dump. The methane from the mountains of trash and then capped with landfill from the Big Dig. It has a public beach with lifeguards – very rocky, bring water shoes – and lovely landscaped trails to the highest elevation in the harbor. Just spectacular! Thank you, Tip O’Neill!

double-click each photo for large view. Views are worth it!

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