In My Footsteps
Trip 25: Plymouth & Duxbury, Mass.
February 19, 2010
It is one thing to discover the amazing historical sites that nearly every town in New England has to offer, it is another thing all together to go to where the history of the country began. Sure Jamestown, Virginia was technically the first settlement in the New World but the spot where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 is overflowing with history and that is Plymouth, Massachusetts. One only has to round the corner on Water Street and come face to face with the Mayflower II or the granite monument housing Plymouth Rock to realize that you are in a very special place.
Before hitting the two main attractions of Downtown Plymouth there is another area that needs to be seen. Located diagonally across from the parking area for the Pilgrim Memorial State Park is the Elder Brewster Gardens. This park which runs along both sides of Town Brook is on the original grounds of the garden land given to Elder William Brewster in 1620. There was a huge congregation of ducks on this day despite signs telling visitors not to feed them it is safe to assume that people still do as these ducks were quite docile and showed little fear of humans.
The park grounds include a paved pathway that travels underneath both the Market Street and Route 3A bridges. The water rushing by echoes against the walls of the bridges as it heads down toward Plymouth Harbor. The end of the pathway is the Jenney Grist Mill(left) and Museum. Built in 1636 by John Jenney the mill is still operational. It was strategically placed along Town Brook because the drop in elevation of the river allowed for a great amount of power in the water flow. The river is spring fed which meant in times of drought for the Pilgrims the river never would run dry; also Town Brook is home to ample amounts of herring during the warmer months. The Run of the Mill Tavern is located next to the mill and is a great family place to stop for lunch or dinner. This park is a great first stop on a walk through downtown, but it is only the beginning of a magical trip through American history.
Across the street from the Brewster Gardens is the Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Here you can see not only a replica of the ship the Pilgrims took from England to America, but also the spot where they landed. Plymouth Rock(right) is located on the shore of Plymouth Harbor at the foot of Cole’s Hill and is an amazing symbol of our heritage. Although it is open to debate as to whether the rock is actually on the exact location where the Pilgrims disembarked one cannot deny the rock’s meaning. The current granite house that covers the rock was built in 1920.
Sitting a few hundred feet north of Plymouth Rock is the replica of the Mayflower called Mayflower II. The ship was built in a joint effort between Englishman Warwick Charlton and Plimoth Plantation in 1955-56, and used 17th Century building methods. It was also built using Plimoth Planation’s Mayflower blueprints and is considered to be a nearly exact replica but for small enhancements like electric lights. The ship is only 106 feet long and 25 feet wide which makes it even more amazing that such a vessel carrying about 130-135 people made the voyage across the Atlantic nearly 400 years ago. The ship can be toured during the warmer months and I highly recommend it.
The whole of Plymouth’s downtown is a great way to spend a day from Brewster Gardens to Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II(left). However there is much more including several monuments to 30-time Governor of Plymouth, William Bradford and Wampanoag Indian legend Masasoit who is credited as being a ‘protector and preserver of the Pilgrims.’ Plimoth Plantation, a faithful recreation of the first colony at Plymouth, is also a must see. It is located on Warren Avenue and is made a memorable experience thanks greatly to the folks who are completely dedicated to portraying their 17th Century counterparts.
Another legend of American history, Myles Standish, has his own monument located a short drive north of Plymouth in Duxbury(below). Located on Crescent Street atop the 200 foot Captain’s Hill, the 116 foot granite shaft is topped by a fourteen foot statue of Standish. Myles Standish was hired to be a military advisor for Plymouth Colony and served as Plymouth’s representative to England. He also helped found Duxbury and named it after Duxbury Woods in Chorley, Lancashire, England.
The monument itself can be seen from miles around as it rises high above the trees. During the summer months it can be climbed and rewards those who do climb with an amazing view of Kingston Bay as well as Duxbury Bay and Clarks Island. The forest surrounding the monument is beautiful and even on a winter day the sweet pine scent filled the air and made me hopeful for a return trip in the spring.
Plymouth is the Holy Grail, if you will, of historic towns. No other place in the United States can top being basically the starting point of all that we are today in this country. It goes deeper than just Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II, there are many other historic places and monuments to see but those two should be first and foremost on any visitor’s list. Take an amazing trip back through the first period of American history and visit Plymouth. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Plimoth Plantation: From Rt. 3 take Exit 5, turn right at South St., take 1st right at Obery St. Take slight left at Sandwich St. Turn right at Rt. 3A/Warren Ave. Plimoth Plantation is on the right designated by a sign.
Plymouth Historic Downtown: From Rt. 3 take Exit 5, turn right at South Street and keep right on South St. Turn left at Rt. 3A North, take 3rd right onto Water Street. Parking is available at Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II are on the right side, Brewster Gardens is on the left side diagonal from the parking area.
Myles Standish Monument: From Rt. 3 take Exit 10, turn right at Rt. 3A. Turn right at Chestnut St., right at Standish St. Take slight right onto Crescent Street. Parking area for monument is on a hill on the right, if gate is closed road must be hiked to the top.
References: Plimoth Plantation