Many of us are familiar with Boston’s Freedom Trail – a walking tour that takes one to famous sights ranging from Paul Revere’s home to the Old North Church to the Boston Massacre site to Bunker Hill. Virtually anyone growing up in the United States would recognize these places.
Lesser known is Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail which highlights many of the people and places (some being the same as found on the Freedom Trail) that are important to the city’s strong Irish heritage. Given our family’s proud Irish heritage, my wife and I found this trek to be quite moving.
In particular, one cannot help but to be impacted by the Irish Famine Memorial. When a nation loses one-third of its population to starvation and/or immigration, it has a profound effect. The sculptures depicting despair and triumph are powerful testaments to the strength of the Irish people. Other aspects of the trail celebrated famous Irish citizens of Boston and their many accomplishments.
My lone quibble with the trail itself is needs to be better marked and publicized. The only map we could find was available online (see above) and it occasionally presented logistical problems as it was hard to pinpoint the exact location of certain statues or monuments. Green bricks along the trail and more detailed brochures at local hotels and visitor centers would help a lot. Lastly, I would like to see additional and more varied points of interest along the way, including churches, homes, and neighborhoods that were/are important to Boston’s rich Irish history.
As an urban planner, the Irish Heritage Trail also sparked the idea that similar tours would be a positive and informative addition to a number of cities around the country. Here in Michigan, I would love to walk a Motown Sound Heritage Trail in Detroit. Other cities would certainly have interesting heritage trails to offer such as a Jazz Heritage Trail in New Orleans, a Beat Generation Trail in New York or San Francisco, a Blues Heritage Trail in Memphis, or an Hippie/Flower Power Heritage Trail in San Francisco.
Local planners, historians, and tourism officials should seriously consider such trails as they are a great economic development engine.