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Day of the Locust
May 14, 2012 5:14 AM   Subscribe

A grasshopper weathervane has sat atop Boston's Faneuil Hall since 1742. The grasshopper through its glass doorknob eyes (scroll down), witnessed the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and the siege of Boston. On January 4th, 1974, the grasshopper was stolen but returned and repaired.
posted by Mayor Curley (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was living in Boston when they turned Faneuil Hall into an urban shopping mall. In a burst of street-entreprenurial spirit, for a little while I sold Bloogles there (plastic tubes that you spin around - they make sound in an overtone series as you spin them faster or slower). I had bought a few hundred of them for about 25 cents each, sold 'em for a buck. They sold pretty well, too.

Never knew there was a grasshopper up on top of the place. Thanks for the post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was living in Boston when they turned Faneuil Hall into an urban shopping mall.

My friends and I refer to it as Boston's Butthole.
posted by pwally at 5:32 AM on May 14, 2012


Nice post, thanks. Never knew about this.
posted by Gator at 5:33 AM on May 14, 2012


During the War of 1812, the weather vane was used as a lie-detector for potential British spies. An individual was suspect if he did not know the identity of the unique item atop Faneuil Hall.

Suspect of what? Not being from Boston? I guess in the early days in the Republic anyone not from Boston was considered suspect. Now it's kinda the other way around.
posted by three blind mice at 5:33 AM on May 14, 2012


My friends and I refer to it as Boston's Butthole.

Guess y'all never been to Southie then?

actually, in the years that I lived there, I never went, myself, but I always heard it was pretty awful, and you could get your ass kicked for looking like you weren't from there
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:38 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Faneuil Hall. Always go and eat far too much whenever I'm in the US.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:39 AM on May 14, 2012


The Cape Codder sitting beside me on the couch didn't even know what was atop Faneuil Hall when I asked...now I'm wondering if he really is who he says he is.....

okay, I've been visiting the homestead (and Beantown) with him for the last 23 years, but still....
posted by squasha at 5:46 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


and now I'm really craving Durgin's Indian Pudding.
posted by squasha at 5:47 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It turned out that the [thief] was a former steeplejack

I hereby nominate this for Coolest-Sounding Profession of the Day.
posted by argonauta at 5:50 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hereby nominate this for Coolest-Sounding Profession of the Day.

Steeplejack/Thief sounds like a sensible career progression in Warhammer Fantasy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 AM on May 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, is it just me, or does "Knowledge of the Grasshopper" sound like a track from a second-string Goth band?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least it wasn't plowed under like The West End.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:01 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My friends and I refer to it as Boston's Butthole.

My late Boston-born grandmother, who winced when anything changed, believed that if Quincy Market wasn't overtly commercialized, it would have been destroyed or turned into housing so that the public couldn't see it at all. Urban mall was an ugly compromise, but it's the only reason that you can still visit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:03 AM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


During the War of 1812, the weather vane was used as a lie-detector for potential British spies. An individual was suspect if he did not know the identity of the unique item atop Faneuil Hall.

While admittedly not very foolproof, you have to give them credit. The first World Series wouldn't be played for another 91 years, so it's not like they had any useless foolproof baseball trivia with which to ferret out potential spies.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:08 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I was down there on Saturday to visit the Bell in Hand (oldest bar in the US!) and didn't notice. Don't know if I'll be back in that part of town before I leave, but I'll definitely take a look if I find myself around those parts.
posted by smirkette at 6:14 AM on May 14, 2012


Quincy Market is a little cheesy, but at least people go there. Growing up in St. Louis, I got to watch St. Louis Centre die a slow death, and when I last visited Union Station, it wasn't doing so great either.

Besides which, it us completely surrounded by awesome bars and restaurants (Union Oyster House!) even if there is a bar in the basement of Faneuil Hall made to look like the set of Cheers! Is that still there, even?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


My late Boston-born grandmother, who winced when anything changed, believed that if Quincy Market wasn't overtly commercialized, it would have been destroyed or turned into housing so that the public couldn't see it at all.

One of my Historic Preservation professors was closely involved with the rehab of Quincy Market, and so I've seen some photos of the conditions that those buildings were in just before they were rehabbed, and I'd guess that demolition would have been much more likely than housing, especially considering they were so close to the elevated Central Artery. Given the other possible outcomes, it's hard for me to see the current state of that area as anything other than an absolute success.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:43 AM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Technically, the faux-Cheers is in Quincy Market.

People will use "Quincy Market" and "Faneuil Hall" interchangeably to refer to the whole area though.
posted by helicomatic at 6:44 AM on May 14, 2012


Oh man, I was down there on Saturday to visit the Bell in Hand (oldest bar in the US!)

Sorry, Boston, while a tavern that opened in 1795 is pretty old for the US, the White Horse in Newport, RI has been serving alcohol since 1673.... (It may have been closed during the British occupation of Newport, so I am not sure if that it continuous service, in the spirit of full disclosure.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:45 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


actually, in the years that I lived there, I never went, myself, but I always heard it was pretty awful, and you could get your ass kicked for looking like you weren't from there

Holy codfish, Batman! Everybody in Quincy Market looks like they're not from there, because they aren't. Not too much ass-kicking goes on, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:06 AM on May 14, 2012


methinks flapjax was talkin' Southie, but I could be mistaken....
posted by squasha at 7:16 AM on May 14, 2012


in 2172 someone somewhere will get rid of the disgusting remains of Damien Hirst's Shark. In 2272 no one will post anything about having gotten rid of it.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 7:20 AM on May 14, 2012


Oldest bar/tavern in the U.S. (in Boston, in New England, in the original colonies, etc.) continues to be disputed. There's The Warren Tavern (1780) Charlestown -- one of the first buildings constructed after the British had burned and razed the area during the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill (1775). It was a favorite of Paul Revere's. But, Fraunces Tavern (originally Queen's Head) in lower Manhattan, which is New York's oldest building and tavern (1762), claims to be older, but nitpickers point out that the building is a reconstruction and not the original. It's the same sort of attempt at 'bragging rights' I've seen when visiting the U.K. How many pubs/taverns take claim of being "the oldest"? I've visited a few who argue that they can take the claim.
posted by ericb at 7:21 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, Southie.

Move over 'Jersey Shore.' Southie, You're a Stahh! -- "A&E and TLC are both filming shows in the neighborhood."
posted by ericb at 7:29 AM on May 14, 2012


The actual tavern room of Fraunces Tavern is (or was 5 years ago) a severe disappointment. A friend and I were pretty psyched to have a drink at George Washington's favorite watering hole (reconstruction or not) but the neon Bud Light signs and strains of Michael Sambello's Maniac coming from the radio sort of destroyed the effect.
posted by usonian at 7:36 AM on May 14, 2012


Ten Oldest Bars in the United States.

And, in this list Newport's White Horse Tavern does indeed come in first.
posted by ericb at 7:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lost my last reason to visit Faneuil Hall when Ned Divine's stopped serving their breaded and fried goat cheese bites about two years ago.

The closest I've come recently is walking by Union Oyster House and the other establishments on that row on my way to Haymarket Station. The last time I did so, in fact, while in Boston for PAX East, I found a hole-in-the-wall establishment that serves French-Canadian poutine with authentic cheese curds... which was awesome, even though I was too inebriated and full (tasting menu @ No. 9 Park) to really enjoy it.
posted by The Confessor at 7:39 AM on May 14, 2012


If the grasshopper wasn't already interesting enough, it contains a time capsule.

Here's a grasshopper eye view of the city in 1971.
posted by zamboni at 8:07 AM on May 14, 2012


I'm not sure the White Horse Tavern counts:
During the American Revolution, Tories and British troops were quartered there around the time of the British occupation and the Battle of Rhode Island. After years of neglect as a boarding house, Newport's Van Bueren family donated money to the private Preservation Society of Newport to restore the building in 1952. After the restoration, the building was sold and once again operated as a private tavern and restaurant.
According to the tavern's web site, the building was a boarding house between 1895 and 1954 and reopened as a tavern in 1957.

posted by kirkaracha at 8:09 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not a euphemism: Firemen washing the grasshopper.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:10 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure the White Horse Tavern counts

I think it comes down to whether you want a bar or a historic building. The White Horse Tavern (well, as of a decade ago, I've been by hundreds of times since but never in) still required jacket and tie for admittance.
posted by yerfatma at 8:13 AM on May 14, 2012


People will use "Quincy Market" and "Faneuil Hall" interchangeably to refer to the whole area though.

Oh, yeah they do. People generally call the whole mishegas "Faneuil Hall" and look at me funny when I specify that something is in "Quincy Market". I also pronounce it with the more traditional "fan'l" pronunciation, not the more common "fan-yoo-ul" which gets me further quizzical glances.

That area of Boston, from City Hall Square out to Long Wharf used to be my old stomping grounds when I worked in an office way out on Long Wharf, but I haven't been back since the Expressway came down, so I bet I wouldn't recognize it anymore.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:21 AM on May 14, 2012


I also pronounce it with the more traditional "fan'l" pronunciation, not the more common "fan-yoo-ul" which gets me further quizzical glances.

But do you say "Quin-see" or the local variation "Quin-zee"?

but I haven't been back since the Expressway came down, so I bet I wouldn't recognize it anymore.

For anyone who grew up around here with the elevated highway always there, it is nothing short of breath-taking how much open space there is now.
posted by briank at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2012


...it is nothing short of breath-taking how much open space there is now.

Yesterday The Boston Globe Magazine had a nice feature on how much the waterfront has changed over the past few years: The Boston Waterfront Has Arrived.
posted by ericb at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it comes down to whether you want a bar or a historic building. The White Horse Tavern (well, as of a decade ago, I've been by hundreds of times since but never in) still required jacket and tie for admittance.

Maybe for dinner. They are more casual at lunch. Still, you can booze in front of the fireplace where Washington boozed, for what it's worth.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2012


I grew up in Massachusetts and lived Boston for (1983-1993) 10 years and haven't been back much since. . The last last 2.5 were spent in the North End. I sadly haven't been back to Boston in years, probably over 10 years. It's hard for me to imagine that part of the city without the expressway, especially since it was right outside my bedroom window. Indeed in those pre-cell phone days, I occasionally called 911 to report an accident that I'd witnessed.

Once Christmas I worked at the Crate and Barrel in Quincy Market. However my favorite anecdote about Faneuil Hall is via a friend I met in grad school (the reason I left Boston in the first place). Originally from San Diego she'd just moved to Cambridge and was telling me about what she'd done in the area and mentioned going to Nathaniel Hall (she had no idea it was Faneuil). She also thought that a Nor'easter, was a storm that happened after Easter.
posted by kaybdc at 11:30 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also pronounce it with the more traditional "fan'l" pronunciation, not the more common "fan-yoo-ul" which gets me further quizzical glances.

According to Wikipedia,

"There is some evidence that it was pronounced quite differently in Colonial times, as in funnel."
posted by birdwatcher at 3:38 AM on May 15, 2012


That is what the historian Samuel Eliot Morison asserted.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:41 AM on May 15, 2012


How Did People Pronounce “Faneuil Hall”?
posted by ericb at 10:51 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Peter Faneuil’s Tombstone.
posted by ericb at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2012


The Grasshopper on Faneuil Hall.
posted by ericb at 7:25 AM on May 24, 2012


Faneuil Hall visitor center opens Friday.
posted by ericb at 7:00 AM on May 25, 2012


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