Boston, Massachusetts: Found the Bomber, found Church, found Troopers, and found the Revolution.
I finally found my way to the Capital of Massachusetts on the day after Police found and captured the Boston Marathon bomber. Getting to Boston while the search was on for those responsible seemed to be impossible. This church and state detective was not going to interfere by poking around state grounds looking for church clues. I stayed as a guest at my former bosses residence in Maine. After a fine dinner, we were watching the news coverage and lo and behold, they find the last culprit in a stored boat in a backyard near Boston. Saturday morning, I carefully ventured toward the Massachusetts State House. At the same time, Neil Diamond decided to fly in from California to sing Sweet Caroline at Fenway park.
State troopers greeted me at the fence in front of the state house. I gingerly asked if I could take a picture. One trooper quickly corrected me. "Don't you mean May I take a picture?" Yes sir. "May I take a picture?" I sheepishly asked. He smiled, stepped aside and allowed me to proceed. I then tried to explain my project and asked if they knew where the closest church was. Another trooper stepped forward and said "There is only one church in Boston today and that's a few miles away in Fenway" Of course he was right, The Boston Red Sox were hosting the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. David Ortiz was declaring that no one was going to mess with this bleeping city, Neil Diamond was going to sing Sweet Caroline in person during the eight inning stretch, and the Red Sox were going to win and celebrate all things taking a turn for the better. At the Church of Boston, Fenway Park before a sold out crowd singing praises skyward. So there is no separation of church and state in Massachusetts. At least while the Red Sox are playing.
After chuckling at our jokes, the Troopers stood their ground and pointed to the right side of the Capitol. I walked over and found I sign on the side street pointing to the Church on the Hill. Literally a couple of shuffle steps across the street from the wall of the statehouse. Now, this did not look like any of the churches I found along my states journey. It look like an apartment house. Brick with a moving van in front and Boston Society of New Jerusalem on a small placard over the door. It's history is long and fascinating. churchonthehillboston.org will give you all you need to know about it's founding and beliefs. For my research, it is the closest church church physically residing next to a state Capitol. On Bowdoin street in Boston. Established in 1823 based on the Theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Who knew? Here in the belly of the American Revolution, the closest church is a handshake away from the state house but the only church in Boston is Fenway Park. I'm sure Paul Revere would be shocked. Certainly a day that I did not see coming along my path. Speaking of paths, it was time to follow a path blazed many years earlier by a man named Roger Williams, as he was expelled from this area around Boston. South I must head to Rhode Island.
A thirteen mile seacoast separates Maine from Massachusetts today. It took 44 years before Maine was able to separate from Massachusetts Bay Colony and become a state in 1820. The first capital city was Portland but from the beginning the contest to build a more centrally located Capitol included 7 cities. Portland, Brunswick, Hallowell, Waterville, Belfast, Wiscasset, and Augusta. Built in only one year after becoming the state capital this beautiful Capitol building has been steady and sturdy since 1832.
3 miles north of Augusta on the Kennebec river a chapel was built in 1646 on Gilley's point and dedicated to St. Mary of the Assumption. The Catholic population was growing rapidly from 1820 to 1836 with the lumber industry near Augusta. A Unitarian church on the East side of the Kennebec river was purchased for a growing St. Mary church for 10 years until the new St. Mary Church was built on State street in 1846. In 1887, St. Mary of the Assumption was dedicated in the memory of the first Indian chapel built 220 years earlier on the Kennebec river. Multiple Catholic churches have sprung up from the roots of St. Mary's throughout Augusta and surrounding communities as far away as Bangor.
A steady and sturdy Capitol and a steadily growing church community stand in the shadow of each other in Augusta, Maine. The Kennebec river connects their history while State street separates their proximity. Both stand strong over time. As I finish my story in Maine, back in Massachusetts another story is coming to a conclusion. That discovery will be next in Boston.
When one thinks of the image of the perfect New England town, Montpelier, Vermont should be at the top of the list. It's small, in fact the smallest state capital in population. It has snow, fall colors, mountains and picturesque river valleys. The State House is centrally located between two Christ churches along State street. Life appears to be simple and cohesive, at least from the perspective of my one day visit in the spring of 2013.
The Capitol building is pure white and the third in Montpelier since the Capital was moved here from Windsor in 1808. The first building was turned into the state Supreme court in 1833. The second was mostly destroyed by fire in 1858 but the Portico was saved and todays structure includes that saved portion. You can drive right up to the front on state street, throw a few quarters in the parking meter and enjoy it's simple beauty.
The two churches closest to the state house are both Christ denominations. Christ Church Episcopal built in 1868 to the right, and First Church of Christ, Scientist to the left , one of many Christian Scientist Reading rooms established by Mary Baker Eddy at the turn of the 19th century. Christ Church Episcopal has survived fire in 1903, flood in 1927, and a steeple failure in 1963. First Church of Christ, Scientist has multiple resources and services coordinated with it's Mother Church Campus in Boston.
Church and State, all in proper alignment in this quaint state Capital. So quaint, that it is the only state capital that you will not find a McDonalds restaurant within it's city limits. For that experience, you will need to wander over to Interstate 89. I-89 will take me to the most Eastern continental capital in Augusta, Maine.