Boston features prominently in Emilie Loring’s life and stories, so it’s no wonder that the city weaves its way into a lot of my posts about “all things Emilie.” But we haven’t yet taken a proper tour, so let’s get started!
Perhaps you have only a short day to spend, and you want to get a feel for the neighborhood where she lived and wrote. We can do that! (If you try this tour, please let me know!!!)
First, get a Charlie Card at the airport and ride the MBTA Silver Line bus to South Station. Then transfer to the subway’s Red Line and get off at Park Street. Remind yourself that the subway opened for the first time in 1897 when Emilie was thirty-one.
We’re at our starting point, the Boston Common. Look around a moment to get your bearings. Downtown, where Emilie’s father and husband worked, is to the east, and the Back Bay, where she lived as a child, is west. The golden-domed State House is north, looking just like it does in the picture postcards. We’ll take a moment to snap the requisite photos.
Now, let’s wander through the Common. The Boston Common has a legitimate claim to being the heart of the city, having carried on for nearly 400 years. I like to think of earlier times, when men wore top hats and long coats, and the frog pond wasn’t yet lined with concrete.
If we had more time, we could grab an ice cream and sit on the grass to enjoy a free Shakespeare play. The printed programs often carry advertising for “Baker’s Plays”–a company that Emilie’s father started, still in business today. On another day, we’ll walk up to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and then walk the Freedom Trail. But for now, let’s keep on, west, to the Public Garden, and appreciate that Beacon Hill is just across Beacon Street to our right.
Boston’s Public Garden consistently ranks among the most successful public spaces in the country. Lush gardens, trees, and statuary combine with paths, benches, and expanses of soft grass on a truly human scale. It’s easy to take a cup of coffee and stay to enjoy a book or a pleasant conversation. Even when I’m hurrying, I feel like lingering in the Public Garden. It was created shortly before Emilie was born, and the swan boats were introduced when she was eleven.
Between the Boston Common and the Public Garden, Charles Street leads north, across Beacon Street, to Beacon Hill. We’ve arrived. Emilie Loring published novels from 1922 to 1951, and she lived here most of that time, 1925 to 1947.
When Emilie and Victor Loring first moved to Beacon Hill, in the fall of 1925, Charles Street was lined with antiques shops. It’s tempting to turn up Chestnut to see their home, but let’s keep on and explore this busy street first.
DeLuca’s Italian Market has sold groceries in this same place since 1919, before Emilie and Victor moved back to the city from Wellesley Hills. I go there for excellent salads, breads, and cheeses–oh yes, and chocolate.
My other go-to place to eat is Cafe Bella Vita. Chowder, gelato, incredible Italian sandwiches… Yum. There are businesses that serve the needs of full-time residents and occasionally come in handy for travelers, like a crammed-to-the-gills hardware store, post office, and laundry. Still further on are a decadent-dessert shop, ice cream parlor, several wine stores, and Savenor’s grocery filled with exotic ingredients. I should never write a blog post when I’m hungry. There really are more kinds of businesses there, trust me.
At the top of Charles Street, where it intersects with Cambridge Street, is the John Jeffries House. In the 1800s, the Massachusetts Charitable Ear and Eye Infirmary was here. Frederick and Edwin Jack, both physicians at the infirmary, were ushers in Emilie and Victor’s wedding. The infirmary was replaced by a dormitory for its nurses, and that was later renovated to become the hotel that it is today.
The John Jeffries House is my first choice of places to stay when I come to Boston. Rooms are spare but pleasant, most with kitchenettes, and I like its tiny garden, comfortable parlor, and the offer of hot tea throughout the day.
Across the street is the “Charles-MGH” Red-Line subway stop. From there, we can go across the Charles River to MIT, Harvard, and Tufts, or back the other way to downtown, the South Station hub, and connect to the airport.
For now, we stay on foot and cross the concrete bridge that leads over busy Storrow Drive to the Charles River Esplanade, a long, grassy park that runs for miles along the Charles River. There are trails for walkers and bicylists, public bikes for rent, snack stands, children’s playgrounds, and a marina filled with mostly small craft at the Community Boating Center.
There are two Loring parallels here. The Community Boating Center opened the same year that Emilie and Victor sold some of their Blue Hill land to the Kollegewidgewock Yacht Club. Their missions were the same—sailing for all. Do you remember the other connection? The same architect designed both the Community Boathouse and Emilie’s Maine cottage, “The Ledges.” (See: “Traces of Gay Courage”)
Next along the path is the Hatch Shell, which hosts free concerts throughout the summer, including the Boston Pops’ Fourth of July extravaganza. The first Boston Pops Fourth of July performance was in 1929 and featured conductor Arthur Fiedler. I suspect that Emilie and Victor attended; they loved symphonies and usually waited until after the Fourth to head down east to Blue Hill.
We could walk all the way to the Back Bay, Boston University, and the Harvard Bridge from here, but let’s save that for next time. Instead, we’ll take the Hatch’s winding walkway back across to Chestnut Street and step back in time.
At this end of the street were the stables and livery that provided carriage rides for Beacon Hill residents. Opposite was the first public swimming pool in America, said to be where John Quincy Adams took lessons. Neither looks like its former self anymore, but that they exist at all triggers thoughts of the past.
We can imagine Emilie’s friend Clara Endicott Sears coming along on foot from her mansion on Beacon Street and stopping to collect Sara Ware Bassett from her house on West Cedar. At 25 Chestnut, they pick up Emilie, and the three continue on up the street. I wonder how often they remarked on Mrs. Swan who bought three houses in a row for her three daughters and promptly moved across the street into a house of her own, so she could keep an eye on them. There is no end to the variety of ironwork, window boxes, and gardens on Beacon Hill. They are as individual as the inhabitants.
Around the corner, we come to 3 Joy Street, our final destination today. The lower floors were the headquarters of the Twentieth Century Club, to which Victor and Emilie belonged, but the top floors held the meeting rooms for the Boston Authors Club, where we’ll leave our three authors. There’s a lot to share about the BAC and much more to see in Boston, but that will await another day. I hope you imagined the women bringing cakes, because that seems to have been their refreshment specialty. Here is Emilie’s recipe for date cakes: