A walk through four centuries of Boston politics
SADLY BOSTON’S DUCK Tours do not pass what former House speaker Thomas Finneran is said to have called “the best goddam bar in the world.” To find such landmarks, it helps to have a copy of Clint Richmond’s book Political Places of Boston, which was published just in time for the Democratic National Convention last summer. Author and publisher Richmond, who has also produced a guidebook to the Mohawk Trail, identifies the Eire Pub in Dorchester’s Adams Village not only as Finneran’s favorite watering hole but as a favored spot for political appearances, ranging from President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and presidential nominee Bill Clinton in 1992 to Mitt Romney in 2002.
Political Places includes concise histories of such downtown sites as Faneuil Hall, the Beacon Hill building that once housed John F. Kennedy’s bachelor pad, and the former Pilgrim Theater in Boston’s former Combat Zone, but it also directs to you to the James Michael Curley Mansion in Jamaica Plain (with its shamrock shutters, which Curley claimed — falsely — to be the cause of complaints from a Yankee neighbor).Richmond’s book also provides mentionable details about places that Bostonians may not think of as historic sites. If you’re having drinks at the upscale Federalist Restaurant and Bar on Beacon Street, you can remark that the building housed the Boston School Committee during the busing crisis of the 1960s and ’70s. If you prefer the libations at the nearby Parker House, you can point out that Ho Chi Minh was a “cook’s helper” there in 1913, around the time that the hotel was invaded every November by “mattress voters” (non-residents brought into Boston by ward bosses to vote on Election Day), many of whom brought their own bedding.
Richmond also has found some striking art to accompany his text, including photos showing the destruction of the West End in the late 1950s. The entry on Boston’s subway shows what would have happened if “streetcar king” Henry M. Whitney had been successful. After seeing this, you may never complain about the Green Line again.