Monday, July 20, 2015

Finishing up Lexington

 After leaving Cape Cod, we returned to the Boston area do to our major sightseeing (the previous stop here was just a layover).  Before heading to the big city, though, we finished up the last two historic buildings in Lexington that were featured on the Minute Man National Historic Park trail.

The Hancock-Clarke house was built by John Hancock's grandfather in 1737 as a parsonage and has several interesting stories surrounding it.  When seven-year old Hancock's father died, he came here to live with his grandfather for three year's until he was adopted by his uncle and moved to Boston. The house remained in the Hancock family until 1752 when the grandfather died and Reverend Clark succeeded him.

The structure itself was purchased by the Lexington Historical Society in 1896 when it was in danger of being demolished by the property owners and moved it across the street.  In 1974, the original property was also purchased and the house was moved back to its original location.  We jokingly called it "the first mobile home!"

Another surprising fact I learned while visiting this house involved Paul Revere.  Did you know that his original mission was to ride to Lexington for the purpose of getting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who was staying with the Clarke's at the time, to move out of the line of the British troops?  Seems Hancock had a price on his head and it was critical that he not be captured by the British to be tried for treason!

And, speaking of Paul Revere, the legend of his ride is almost complete fiction, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860!  In addition to the purpose of his ride being different that what I learned in history class when I was a child, Revere certainly did not go shouting "The British are coming!" since the warnings were supposed to be covert and the colonists still considered themselves to be British.  Too, William Dawes had been sent on the same mission by a different route and when they met up in Lexington, decided on their own to continue to Concord. 

The Monroe Tavern, built in 1775, is about a mile or so from the Hancock-Clarke house and is situated right on the original road used by the British on their march to Concord.  Interestingly, the original builder of the house, William Monroe, was the grandson of a man who came to this country as an indentured servant.  This house is in its original location, but was extensively remodeled in the 1800s.  The historical society has spent the last hundred years removing many of the renovations and restoring it to as original a condition as possible.

The house was used as a field hospital for the British soldiers as they marched back to Boston from Concord.  Although they torched other houses in the area upon leaving, luckily they restrained themselves to only destroying all the furniture in this one.

In 1789, in probably the first ever presidential PR tour, George Washington dined at the Monroe Tavern.  He was on a circuit to "meet and greet" his constituents and, in an effort to preclude any appearance of favoritism, Washington refused to dine at any individuals home, preferring to pay his way by dining in local taverns.  The chair in which he sat is proudly displayed in an upstairs room.

Lexington is a charming little town and I'm sure we only touched on a fraction of the history here. But there are so many more places on the bucket list that we can only spend so much time in one place. Next up, we're going to tour the city of Boston!

Until next time...

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