Generations of pride built on a brick foundation
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Louisburg Square: Noted residents have been William Dean Howells, author and editor of the Atlantic; Louisa May Alcott (after she became wealthy) and her father, Amos Bronson Alcott; Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, who was married from a house in the square.Skip to next paragraph
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Chestnut Street: To reach it, walk down short, narow Willow Street. By Frank the Tailor's shop, pause and take a look down slim, cobbled Acorn Street, with its narrow brick houses. Once this was called Kitchen Street, for these small mews-like houses were lived in by servants. Walk ahead and you are on the hillside of Chestnut Street. At No. 17 Chestnut is the magnificent home lived in by Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic," later the residence of John Singer Sargent, the famous artist.
On this street look for the purple window-panes. Because of a chemical imperfection in their making in London, they turned their present color with an assist from the sun. At 29 1/2 Chestnut is the home of Shakespearan actor Edwin Booth. It is the only house on the street with a main entrance facing on the side, complete with small lawn and garden (Most of the houses have their gardens in the rear.). At No. 50 is the Francis Parkman House -- he was the historian -- built in 1824. You will note that some of the larger houses have wrought-iron balconies, as do other homes on the hill.
West Cedar Street: It tuns into Chestnut Street, and most of its houses, while elegant, are medium size. Go right. By the time you reach No. 63, once the home of author John Marquand ("The Late George Apley"), this street is not too attractive.
Pinckney Street: From the corner of Charles Street and running uphill, you pass some fine examples of late Federal architecture, but by the time you reach Revere Street the area disintegrates, although efforts are under way to restore this slice of land.
Lower Chestnut Street (and streets on either side of it): The old stables have been converted into studios, houses, apartments, antiques shops, decorators' salons. The rest of this particular area is Neo-Federal.
Charles Street: It gives purists a wrench to see some of the old mansions -- gems -- with shops at street level. However, Charles is lively, clean (except for some littering), and has a wide variety of specialized business places, also restaurants, expensive markets, and four florists. It's usually busy with lots of young people, a scattering of old-line family ladies shopping carefully, a stream of antiques shops. If you are doing a foot tour, you might as well eat here; there is everything from a snack to meal. The restaurants are all on a par, nothing too sensational in the way of cuisine.
Upper Beacon Street: Start at 10 1/2 Beacon Street, the Boston Athenaeum, which well may be said to be the country's outstanding private research library. It was from this library that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts was founded. The Athenaeum is open to one-time visitors. Check in at the front desk and inquire about the guided tour. It is also famous for its fine period paintings, sculpture, furniture, and objects d'art. Go a few yards to your left and enter the main part of the State House, built in 1795, probably Bulfinch's greatest work. Get a guide map from the information desk in the lobby and make a tour.
Opposite the front entrance of the State House is the St. Gaudens statue in relief of Colonel Shaw, his horse, and the black regiment he recruited and commanded during the Civil War.