Sunday, October 7, 2007

Rowes Wharf

Rowe's wharf has a lengthy history (see below), and today is home to the Boston Harbor Hotel. During the summer you can sit on the steps overlooking the harbor (just through the archway pictures here) and enjoy free live music (soul, swing, or blues depending on the night) or enjoy Movies by Moonlight - a classic film series that is projected onto a screen at the end of the wharf.

Here's the lowdown on the history of the location:

In 1666 a protective battery called the Sconce, or the South Battery, was built at the foot of Fort Hill in the area now known as Rowes Wharf. In peace the Battery had a company assigned to it in case of invasion, but had only one gunner. During the 1740's, the Battery was extended into the harbor and was manned by thirty-five guns. In the early 1760's, Rowes Wharf was built on the site of the old Battery. John Rowes' ships sailed the ocean filling his shop and two warehouses with imported silk stockings, ribbons, Spanish silks, linens, woolens, Indian and English taffetas and salt. His whaling sloops brought in oil, and he also dealt successfully in coastal fishing. In July 1767, Rowe notes in his diary that his "warehouse fell in with fish." He was also the owner of a tea ship which had its cargo dumped during the Tea Party in 1773.

In the early 19th century, schooners imported fruit and other products and continued the salt fish trade with the West Indies and the British Maritime Providences. Though the big sails could be seen at the wharf, by the 1840's and 1850's packet ships predominated. Packets set sail for coastal points south and north from Rowes Wharf while they plied the route to Liverpool, England, from Foster's Wharf. By the last part of the 19th century, the steamship had taken over the seas. The south shore was served from Rowes Wharf by the side-wheeled steamboats of the Eastern Steamship Line from the 1860's to 1940. The Boston and Bangor Steamship Company debarked from Foster's Wharf at 5 p.m. every afternoon in the summer and semi-weekly in the winter. In 1879, the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroads built their wharf and ferry terminal between Rowes and Foster's Wharves, where for more than 40 years their ferries serviced East Boston.

Boston's waterfront began to show signs of decay by the 1930's. At Rowes Wharf, the wood piers began to rot and ramshackle sheds lined the docksides. Even so the Bay State Navigational School at Rowes Wharf and the Cape Cod Steamship Company at Foster's Wharf stayed through the 1940's. At the time of the urban renewal in the 1960's, maritime activity, such as James Bliss and Co., ship chandlers and Boston Yacht Club, left Rowes Wharf. However not all activity ceased. The Massachusetts Bay Lines has operated boats from Rowes Wharf for more than 20 years and the Boston Harbor Commuter Service started service from Rowes Wharf in 1984. Now with the revitalization of the waterfront, Rowes Wharf is one of the most distinguished addresses in Boston. The Boston Harbor Hotel stands as a gateway to and from the harbor. Private yachts from around the world and events such as Operation Sail and the BT Global Challenge call the wharf home. Once again, Rowes Wharf has become an integral part of the city of Boston where "merchants" of the financial world meet.

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