The Place Where All the History Comes From

January 1, 2009 · 3 comments

We live in the Prospect Hill neighborhood of Somerville, just a block below the crest of the hill. There’s a tower at the top, with a flagpole flying an early American flag. It’s the Grand Union Flag, and it was first flown atop Prospect Hill on January 1, 1776, by George Washington, who was encamped there after his retreat from the Battle of Bunker Hill. The flag was raised in defiance of the British command, who could see it from Boston Harbor. I see it every day when I look out my office window:

Grand Union flag, Prospect Hill

Grand Union flag, Prospect Hill

Every year at noon on January 1 there is a re-enactment of the flying of the flag, complete with a George Washington on horseback:

A George Washington

A George Washington

This year we braved the freezing cold once again to watch the ceremony. The payoff is at the end, when the tower turret is opened and we can climb to the top for a panoramic view of the entire city and beyond. It’s no wonder the hill was considered a strategic asset; the view goes on for miles.

View from top of Prospect Hill, looking toward Charlestown.

View from top of Prospect Hill, looking toward Charlestown.

The tower itself was built in the 1800s to commemorate the importance of the site. It’s one of hundreds of historical markers scattered throughout the city.

Once I was driving my friends Scotty and Katrine to the airport. The both live in Las Vegas, but Katrine is from Amsterdam. As we drove, I pointed out various landmarks, including the Bunker Hill monument, which is illuminated at night.

Katrine asked me “How do you know all of this about where you live?”

I answered “You can’t help but learn it; you just absorb it after living here for a while. After all, this is where all the history comes from.”

3 comments

Bryan January 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I didn’t know they ever opened the tower. The view from the top probably approximates the view they had in ye olde days–the hill is flatter now, since some of the rock at the top was carted away for landfill.

David January 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

The view is amazing. I was tempted to shout “Enjoy it while you can!” while his honor the mayor was present, because if he has his way, most of that view will be disrupted by development in Union Square.

That possibility finally forced me into local activism: I’m a member of Union Square Neighbors (unionsquareneighbors.org), a group asking for more appropriate scale in the Square’s development.

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