One could argue that history is made at Faneuil Hall bars every weekend.
Revelers eat sausages at 2 a.m. at record speeds. They make out publicly, testing rules of decency. They push the limits of fashion by sporting Abercrombie & Fitch tops with popped collars and spiked heels.
But back in the day (the Colonial day, to be specific), real history was made at the taverns weve come to know as weekend party spots. The bargoers who gathered at venues such as the Bell in Hand in the 1700s sipped beer as they planned a revolution.
If the American Revolution proved anything, it proved that a man with a good stout can do anything, says Kim Carrell, an actor who leads a new pub crawl sponsored by the nonprofit Freedom Trail Foundation. He overarticulates his speech, seeming undecided about whether hes going to fake a British accent for his tour group.
But I dont want you to think it was all about drunken debauchery and violence, he says, sarcastically. Thats not true. I mean, its only partly true. Mostly true. All right, its true.
Really, this new pub crawl has nothing to do with debauchery or the kind of behavior you might associate with an activity that involves stopping at four bars in one night. The tour is led by the people who preserve the Freedom Trail in an attempt to liven up the Freedom Trail Foundations historical programs.
Sam Jones, the organizations creative director, decided to capitalize on Bostons historic spots that people seem to appreciate most: the bars. A pub crawl was also a good winter activity, Jones says, since tourists shy away from walking the Freedom Trail when its cold but are always open to warming up in a pub.
As a tour guide, I was very frustrated that there was plenty of work in the summer, but there was little to do in the winter, Jones says.
For about a month now, the Freedom Trail has tested its new tour on Thursday evenings. From 5:30 to 7, an actor dressed in Colonial garb has pretended to be a Revolutionary War personality, leading small groups to bars around Union Street. The actors have perfected the script. Theyve gotten into character (and made it less obvious when they hand the bartenders their modern-day credit cards).
Now the organization is inviting the city to its next pub crawl, which will be held on Thursday and costs $39 per person. If all goes well, there will be crawls every other Thursday.
During the last event, held earlier this month, Carrell was the guide and wore full military gear as Captain Silas Talbot, a real-life officer from Dighton, who once commanded the USS Constitution.
The crawl started at the ticket booth by Quincy Market, where Carrell emerged with a lantern. He led the group through the narrow Scott Alley, which was technically the first street in Boston and is now a somewhat unnoticeable path on North Street near the restaurant Naked Fish.
The first stop was the Green Dragon Tavern on Marshall Street, a bar that is also known as the Headquarters of the Revolution. After about seven minutes of history, the group was given small plates of baked beans and Samuel Adams 375th Colonial Ale, about a Dixie cup full of the brew. As soon as the beans were gone, it was off to the Union Oyster House, where the group got a brief lesson about The Massachusetts Spy, a newspaper that was published on the second floor of the restaurant in the late 1700s.
It enjoyed what was, for the time, a very large circulation, Carrell said. Can you guess? 3,500. At the Oyster House, the group also got some modern history. Carroll said the spot is a favorite of Senator John F. Kerry, who has waited at the bar for his election results. Well, every election but one.
Guess which time he went somewhere else, Carroll said, coyly.
As Carrell finished his captain routine, Rebecca Butler and Carolyn Hoffman, two tour testers, began snacking on raw oysters and more Sam Adams.
This is cool, said Butler, who designed costumes for the tour guides. Ive lived in Boston for six years, but I didnt know any of this.
The group then made its way to the Bell in Hand, where participants learned about Revolutionary town crier Jimmy Wilson and sampled Bell in Hand Ale. The last stop on the tour was the Point, a fairly modern-looking bar near the North End. Owners of the bar claim that the Boston Stone, the alleged center of the city, is inside the tavern. Although some historians argue that the real stone is actually down the street from the bar, the Points Boston Stone is in its bathroom, right next to the toilet.
The tour was a surprise hit with a few folks who had considered themselves history experts. Daphna Sage, who participated in the pub crawl representing the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, confessed that even though she directs tourists around town, she had never been to three of the four bars.
Attleboro resident Anna Whalen, who brought her 23-year-old history buff son on the tour during his short break from serving in Iraq, said she would consider doing the crawl again with girlfriends.
Were always looking for fun things to do, she said. This would be good. We could take the train up.
To sign up for Thursdays pub crawl, call the Freedom Trail Foundation at 617-357-8300.
Meredith Goldsteins column on going out runs every Tuesday. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Jones, the Freedom Trail Foundations creative director, said that if distance and time werent an issue, he would have added a few more bars to his new historic pub crawl, including:
The Chart House, 60 Long Wharf, 617-227-1576. www.chart-house.com
Its the oldest building on Bostons Long Wharf, the spot where Thomas and John Hancock once had offices. The Hancock safe is still upstairs.
Warren Tavern, 2 Pleasant St., Charlestown, 617-241-8142. www.warrentavern.com
This Charlestown spot was a hangout for Paul Revere. Its named after Joseph Warren, a leader of the Sons of Liberty who was killed in the battle of Bunker Hill.
Doyles, 3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2345.
This place isnt Colonial, but Jones recommended it for a quick lesson in 20th-century Massachusetts politics. The spot, which was featured in the movie Mystic River, is like a museum of Bay State politics with plenty of Kennedy memorabilia.
Omni Parker Houses Parker House Bar and Last Hurrah, 60 School St., 617-227-8600.
Its the oldest continuously run hotel in America and was once the meeting spot for the Saturday Club, a group of writers who tested their material on one another. Members included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Durgin Park, 340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 617-227-3028. www.durgin-park.com
Although Durgin Park is often crowded with tourists, Jones says its worth a visit because its so old. The bar, which boasts that it was established before you were born, is actually one of the newer bars on this list. It has been open since 1827.