John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
The literary, charitable, and humane institutions of Boston are numerous and well endowed; and the buildings with which many of them are furnished, are among the handsomest ornaments of the city. The Boston Athenaeum, incorporated in 1807, has a library of about 50,000 volumes, which, in value as well as in size, is hardly surpassed by any other in the country. Its regulations are framed with the design that it shall answer the highest purposes of a public library. Besides the bound volumes above enumerated, it possesses 20,000, or more, unbound pamphlets, between 400 and 500 volumes of engravings, and the most valuable collection of coins in this part of the country. It has lately received an important accession to its treasures in the purchase of about 450 volumes, and from 800 to 1000 pamphlets, which once formed a part of the library of Washington. This important acquisition was secured to the Athenaeum through the liberality of about 100 gentlemen of Boston, Salem, and Cambridge. There are also connected with the Athenaeum a fine sculpture gallery and a gallery of paintings. In the latter is to be seen Belshazzar's Feast, the great historical picture of Washington Allston, which, although many years under his hand, was never entirely finished; also, a valuable series of sketches by this great artist.
Hon. James Perkins gave for the use of the Athenaeum, in 1821, his own costly mansion in Pearl Street, which was occupied until it became necessary, in 1849, to change the location. The beautiful building which it now occupies is on Beacon Street, a short distance east of the State House, a situation most highly eligible for such an institution. The edifice is elegant, spacious, and convenient. The front is in the later Italian style of architecture, resembling some of the works of Palladio in its general arrangement; constructed of the Patterson freestone, of a light gray color. The length is 100 feet, and the height 60. The main entrance opens into a pillared and panelled rotunda, from which the staircases conduct above. The sculpture gallery, 80 feet by 40, is on the first floor. The library occupies the second story, which is divided into three rooms, two in front and one large hall in the rear, 109 feet by 40. This hall is beautifully finished in the Italian style, and admirably fitted for the purposes of its design. The picture gallery is in the upper story, divided into six apartments, each lighted by a skylight. An annual exhibition of paintings is open here, during the winter
The Massachusetts Historical Society, founded in 1790, occupies a suit of rooms in the granite building, on Tremont Street, between the Stone Chapel Cemetery and the Boston Museum. It has a valuable library of 7000 bound volumes, besides 450 volumes of manuscripts, and a large collection of pamphlets, maps, charts, coins, and other interesting relics of antiquity. The manuscripts of the historian Hubbard; of the first Gov. Winthrop, 11 vols.; of Gov. Hutchinson; of the first Gov. Trumbull, of Connecticut, 23 vols.; and the manuscript of Washington's Farewell Address to the Officers of the American Army, are in possession of this society. One of its rooms is adorned with the portraits of about 70 distinguished personages, mostly the worthies of New England. This society has issued a series of Historical Collections, in all amounting to 30 volumes.
The library of the Boston Library Society, founded in 1792, occupies a hall over the centre of the Tontine Buildings, as formerly denominated, in Franklin Place. This hall was a donation to the society by Bulfinch, (the architect of the Capitol at Washington,) Vaughan, and Scollay, the three proprietors of the Tontine. This library has over 12,000 volumes.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780, is next in age to the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, which is the oldest of the scientific associations of the country. Its library, of 8000 volumes, contains a valuable collection of the memoirs and transactions of learned societies, and other scientific publications. It is kept in the N. wing of the Athenaeum, on the lower floor.
The Mechanics' Apprentices Library Association, in Boston, claims the distinction of being the first of its kind established in the world. It is due to the wise suggestion and philanthropic energy of Mr. William Wood, now residing in Canandaigua, N. Y.; whose exertions have been extended, with the like success, to most of our large cities, and even to the cities of the old world. Lord Brougham remarks, that, " Although the remote origin of these institutions may be traced to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Wood has the merit of establishing them on their present plan, and adapting them peculiarly to the instruction of mechanics and apprentices. He founded the first in Boston, in 1820." The library contains about 4000 volumes, and was the gift of the Boston public to the apprentices of the city. It was originally intrusted to the care of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, a society of established reputation, founded in 1795. This society, which is still prosperous, has handsome funds, which have been recently invested in the Revere Hotel. Its income is employed for relieving the distresses of unfortunate members and their families, and to stimulate, by premiums, inventions, and improvements in the mechanic arts. For this purpose it provides for those frequent and extensive exhibitions of the products. of manufacturing skill and industry which have been so highly successful in Boston. In 1828, the Apprentices' Association was organized as distinct from that of the Mechanics, and the library committed to their entire control.
The Mercantile Library Association, of Boston, instituted in 1820, is a large and useful society, composed of merchants' clerks and others, which has a library of over 7000 volumes, and maintains an able and popular course of lectures. Their hall is on the corner of Bromfield and Province Streets.
Efforts are now making to establish a free City Library, and several handsome donations have been already made for that purpose.
But the most munificent foundation of this character, in Boston, is that of the Lowell Institute, established by the princely liberality of JOHN LOWELL, Jr., Esq. By a legacy amounting to about $250,000, this gentleman has provided for the maintenance of public lectures, of the highest order, which are to be free to all the citizens, on the great subjects of natural and revealed religion; on the literature and eloquence of the English and other languages; on the various sciences in their application to the arts, and other relations of utility to man; and on such other subjects as the wants and taste of the age may demand. The Lowell Institute, by its ample income, is able to command the services of men of the highest talent in the country, and to furnish them with the fullest means for illustrating the subjects of their various discourses. The lectures are given on Tuesday and Friday evenings, in a spacious audience room, fitted up for the purpose, and leased by the Institute, in the rear of the Marlboro' Hotel. None of its income can be expended in the erection of buildings.
There are other literary societies in Boston which we cannot speak of in detail. Such are the Boston Society of Natural History: the American Statistical Association; the New England Historical and Genealogical Society; the American Oriental Society; and the Boston Lyceum. All these have valuable libraries, cabinets, and collections. The Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Academy of Music, and the Musical Education Society, are well-conducted and efficient associations for the cultivation of musical science and Christian psalmody.
Among the numerous charitable and humane institutions of the city are the Boston Lunatic Hospital, and the Houses of Industry and Reformation, each of which has a commodious and handsome edifice, located at South Boston; the Quarantine Hospital, delightfully situated on Rainsford's Island; the New Almshouse, on Deer Island, for which a most splendid, capacious, and well-constructed building has been erected, which is in the form of a Latin cross, having its four wings, three stories high above the basement, radiating from a central building four stories high,- the Boston Eye and Ear Infirmary, with a beautiful structure lately erected in the W. part of the city; the Boston Female Asylum, founded in 1800, for assisting, instructing, and employing female orphan children, for which a new and substantial brick building, with ample grounds and some peculiar arrangements for warming and ventilating, has been provided at the south end ; also the New England Female Medical College, established by the exertions of Samuel Gregory, for the qualification of females to nurse and attend upon the sick of their own sex. Besides these there are several societies for the benefit of seamen; among which are the Boston Port Society, and the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, which has provided an excellent Home for Sailors.
The Massachusetts General Hospital, situated on an open plot of ground of four acres, on the banks of Charles River, at the W. part of the city, is one of the noblest, best endowed, and best furnished institutions of the kind in the country. This beautiful edifice is of Chelmsford granite, 274 feet in length by 54 in breadth, with a portico in front of eight Ionic columns. Connected with the building in the rear is a kitchen and laundry of the most approved construction. The whole interior arrangement is according to the most perfect system. The premises are decorated with ornamental trees and shrubs, and laid out in gravel walks for those patients who are able to enjoy exercise in the open air. This institution has found many munificent patrons in Massachusetts. Its capital, now yielding income, exclusive of the large amount invested in the buildings, grounds, &c., is $171,119. It has several other sources of income, making its whole receipts, in 1850, $38,517. The number of patients received the same year was 746.
The McLean Asylum for the Insane, so called from JOHN MCLEAN, Esq., an eminent merchant of Boston, and a liberal benefactor of the General Hospital, is a branch of that institution, having a separate location on a delightful eminence in Somerville, about 1 mile N. W. of the city. The establishment, consisting externally of a group of five elegant buildings, makes a fine appearance from whatever direction it is viewed. As an example of the noble manner in which such institutions are sustained by the Boston merchants, it maybe stated that, in 1843, Hon. William Appleton gave $10,000 "for the purpose of affording aid to such patients in the McLean Asylum as, from straitened means, might be compelled to leave the institution without a perfect cure;" and, in 1850, the same gentleman contributed the further sum of $20,000 " for the purpose of erecting two additional edifices, sufficiently large to accommodate eight males and eight females, with such conveniences and facilities as shall enable each to have not only the care, attention, and comforts, but the luxuries and retirement which they have been accustomed to enjoy at home."
The Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind is another of the great eleemosynary institutions originated by Boston liberality. It was first opened as an experiment, in 1832, under the superintendence of Dr. Samuel G. Howe. In 1833, Col. Thomas H. Perkins made a donation of his valuable mansion house in Pearl Street, other gentlemen in Boston $50,000, the ladies $14,000, and the legislature $6,000 annually, for its permanent establishment. It now receives from the state $9000 annually. Its average number of pupils is about 100, who are from many different states of the Union. The rapid growth of the institution having rendered its removal necessary, the estate in Pearl Street was exchanged for the present large and beautiful edifice at South Boston, formerly known as the Mount Washington House. To this splendid building, five stories high, and from its lovely eminence overlooking the city, harbor, and surrounding region, many conveniences have since been added, making the establishment, in respect to its accommodations, all that can be desired. It is open to the public on the afternoon of the first Saturday in each month.
Several of our national societies for religious and benevolent purposes have their seat of operations in the metropolis of New England. Among these are the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the American Baptist Missionary Union, the American Education Society, the American Peace Society, the American Unitarian Association, the Prison Discipline Society, and the old Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North America. Several others, though not national in their organization, are truly such in the extent of their operations; such as the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society, the American Tract Society of Boston, and the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society.
There are upwards of one hundred churches in Boston, of the different denominations; 98 of which have their regular places of worship. Of these, the Unitarian Congregationalists have 22; Orthodox Congregationalists, 14; Baptists, 13; Methodists, 12; Episcopalians, 11; Roman Catholics, 11; Universalists, 6; Presbyterians, Swedenborgians, and several other denominations, one each. Most of the church edifices are venerable and costly structures, which contribute in no small degree to beautify, the city. Several have lofty spires, which have a fine appearance on an approach to the city by land or water. That of the Park Street Meeting House, north of the Common, rises to the height of 218 feet above the pavement, and is one of the most beautiful examples of this description of architecture in the country. The Gothic style, in dark colored sandstone, has been adopted, with fine effect, in the erection of several of the more recent structures.
The oldest church edifice in Boston, still standing, is that of Christ Church, (Episcopal) at the north end, built in 1723. In the steeple of this church is a peal of eight bells, on each of which is an inscription. Two of these are as follows: " We are the first ring of bells cast for the British Empire in North America. A. R., 1744." "God preserve the Church of England. 1744." The initials A. R. are those of the founder.
The Old South Meeting House, on Washington Street, is the next building in age, having succeeded to two others of wood on the same spot. It was opened for worship April 26,1730. There is great historical interest connected with this sacred edifice. "Here was delivered, in defiance of the threats of authority, and in presence of marshalled soldiery, Warren's fearless oration, on the anniversary of the massacre of the 5th of March, 1770. Here were repeatedly held the meetings of oppressed freemen, which called forth those peals of patriotic eloquence which moved the whole country, and shook the British throne." When the British troops occupied Boston, the whole interior of the Old South, except the sounding board and the east gallery, was dismantled by them, and converted into a circus for their dragoons. About two feet of earth was spread upon the floor for their horses to exercise upon. Large portions of the invaluable historical library, collected by its former pastor, Rev. Thomas Prince, they used for kindling their fires. This desecration of the Old South excited universal indignation. Happily, the interior was afterwards fully restored in its former style, with its two tiers of galleries, &c., and has been carefully preserved to this day, at once a venerated specimen of the elegance of ancient times, and a sacred shrine of patriotic and religious memories. In keeping with these associations, the Old South has long been the place where the annual election sermon is delivered before the governor and General Court.
The public schools of Boston, next to her religious institutions, and in harmony with them, have, from the first, been her most cherished care. The records of the town afford evidence, as early as 1635, of the establishment of a " Free School." From that hour to the present, Boston, in this respect, has held an honorable preeminence. The system of the public schools has here been brought to a high degree of completeness and perfection. It comprises schools of four different grades, viz.: I. The Primary Schools, each taught by one female teacher, for children between 4 and 8 years of age. 2. The English Grammar and Writing Schools, into which all the children pass from the primary schools. 3. The English High School. 4. The Latin Grammar School. The two last are exclusively for boys. A public high school for girls is, perhaps, a desideratum ; though the deficiency is supplied, to a great extent, by excellent private schools in the city. The number of primary schools, in 1851, was 188; and of the English grammar schools, 22; with a corps of 370 teachers, whose Salaries amount to $183,898. The buildings for the use of the high and grammar schools are the most perfect in their kind, and in their style of architecture at once neat and ornamental. Their cost, with that of the primary school houses, including the ground, up to May 1, 1851, is estimated at $1,210,110. About one quarter part of the population of Boston is kept at school throughout the year, at an annual expense to the city of about $250,000; which, including the heavy investments for buildings, apparatus, &c., involves an outlay for this important public interest without a parallel in the world's history. It is, however, a part of the encomium due to the merit of the public schools of Boston, that many of her sister cities are now emulating her wisdom and liberality in this particular.
As a branch of the same enlightened philanthropy, the Boston Farm School for Indigent Boys, on Thompson's Island, should be mentioned; the object of which is "the education and reformation of boys who, from loss of parents or other causes, are exposed to extraordinary temptations, and in danger of becoming vicious and dangerous, or useless members of society." This institution, with 140 acres of land and suitable buildings, can accommodate 300 boys, who are to be trained with a view to promote at once their physical, mental, and moral welfare. This is virtually the Boston “College for Orphans." It has been in operation since 1835. There are likewise the House of Correction, and the House of Industry and Reformation, at South Boston, the latter designed for juvenile delinquents, and having a branch at the hospital on Deer Island, in which excellent schools are maintained. The State Reform School, at Westboro, also receives a large number of this class of children from the city.
The institution of the Franklin medals, awarded annually in the Boston schools, was founded by Dr. Franklin. The following is from the clause in his will, in which he makes the bequest, and defines its object: —
"I was born in Boston, New England, and owe my first instructions in literature to the free grammar schools established there. I therefore give one hundred pounds sterling to my executors, to be by them, the survivors or survivor of them, paid over to the managers or directors of the free schools in my native town of Boston to be by them put out to interest, and so continued at interest forever, which interest; annually shall be laid out in silver medals, and given as honorary rewards annually by the directors of the said free schools, for the encouragement of scholarship in the said schools," &e. To the proceeds of this benefaction the city adds an annual sum sufficient to procure six silver medals, which are inscribed "The Gift of Franklin." The first pupil of the Boston schools, who received the Franklin medal, was Dr. John C. Warren, in 1792.