Monday, August 16, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 61: Hingham, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 61:  Hingham, Mass.
July 8, 2010

            On these travel trips I tend to have a pretty good idea of what I am going to see when I visit a certain place.  It is not often that I am totally surprised by something that I come across.  This is exactly what happened when I visited the town of Hingham and came face to face with Abraham Lincoln.
Hingham Bathing Beach
            Hingham’s Main Street was nicknamed ‘The Main Street of America’ by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II because of her belief that it embodied the typical American town during wartime.  To celebrate its 375th anniversary as a town Hingham painted the center line on Main Street red, white, and blue.  It was something so simple but it helped add to the ‘American town’ ideal that Mrs. Roosevelt had alluded to.
            Despite the plethora of historical sites to visit I began my visit to Hingham along the water.  With a great view of Hull, the Hingham Bathing Beach and Town Landing provided a relaxing walk and a cool breeze.  There is a great view out toward Boston Harbor and a green area to the east which is home to a cool statue of a barefoot man on a horse on top of a hill.  I have been trying to find out whom the person on the horse is but it has been to no avail thus far.  The Bathing Beach on Otis Street is very popular for those trying to escape the rush of Boston, but folks from any neighboring town make it a point to partake in its relaxing beauty.
Old Ship Church
            After leaving the Bathing Beach it was time to enjoy the history that Hingham has to offer.  The best, and easiest, way to enjoy this is to take a walk on Main Street.  There is an abundance of historical homes each complete with a white plaque featuring the name of the original owner and date in which the home was built.  There is plenty of street-level parking which makes it even easier to just park and go. 
            A spot that needs to be checked out is the Old Ship Church.  It is very difficult to miss this amazing piece of American history with its peach coloring and the fact that it sits on top of a hillside along Main Street.  This is the oldest continuously used church as well as the only remaining 17th Century Puritan meetinghouse in America.  The color is just as unusual as the shape of the building as well.  The Hammerbeam roof, a type of open timber roof meant to give the inside of a building a more spacious look, gives the church the feeling that you are inside an overturned ship. 
The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Hingham
            It is easy to see why the church was built where it sits as it has a great vantage point overlooking what is currently Main Street.  Located behind the church is the Old Ship Burying Ground which is sixteen acres in size.  The earliest burials date to 1672 and the cemetery lies on rolling hills which makes for an interesting historical walk.  Also on the grounds of the Old Ship Church is the Hingham Memorial Bell Tower.  The red brick tower was dedicated to the original settlers of Hingham in 1912 and stands what looks to be close to fifty-feet tall.  It is hard to see from street level which makes taking a walk on the Old Ship Church grounds even more rewarding.
            Only a short drive from the Old Ship Church I came face to face with Abraham Lincoln.  On a small shaded green area, bordered by North Street and Lincoln Street sits a bronze statue of the 16th President looking much the way he appears at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  I had no idea of the connection that one of the most celebrated Americans in history had with Hingham. 
            Lincoln’s 4th great-grandfather, Samuel Lincoln, came to Hingham, Massachusetts from Hingham in Norfolk, England.  Samuel Lincoln is considered to be the father of the most prominent branch of Lincolns in the United States.  The bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln sits facing the home built by Samuel Lincoln’s grandson, also named Samuel, in 1721.  This home stands out due to its powder blue color.
Home of Samuel Lincoln III
            It was quite a thrill for me to get to stand before such a legendary figure, even if it was a bronze statue.  The area surrounding the statue, encompassing several streets, is designated as the Lincoln Historic District.  Places like the New North Church, built by Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln as a rival to the Old Ship Church, as well as the Old Ordinary, a home turned tavern built in 1688, sit within sight of the Lincoln statue.  The history Hingham holds is too much to fit in one article, a walk down Main Street will give visitors a much better grasp of what I have seen.
            That being said I finished my trip to Hingham by visiting Wompatuck State Park.  Named for a Native American chief known to settlers as Josiah Wompatuck, this amazing park has about 400 campsites and twelve miles of paved bicycle trails.  Encompassing more than 3500 acres Wompatuck State Park stretches from Hingham into Cohasset, Scituate, and Norwell.  It is home to Prospect Hill which is the highest point in Hingham and also Mount Blue Spring.  This is a natural spring providing fresh water, any and all visitors can help themselves for free.  I took advantage of this and filled my water bottle in a small shed with a few steps leading down to a series of faucets.
            During my drive along the roads of Wompatuck I happened upon a deer crossing in front of me.  I was lucky enough to get a great look at it before it vanished back into the forest.  This was the perfect capper to a great trip to Hingham.  The history of this town is incredible, its connection to Abraham Lincoln is something that makes it stand out even more.  I definitely recommend paying a visit to Hingham and checking out the historical homes as well as the natural beauty of Wompatuck and the Bathing Beach.  Have fun and happy traveling!
DirectionsHistoric Main Street:  From Rt. 3A heading north, upon entering Hingham take 2nd exit in rotary for Otis Street, turn left onto North Street.  At the fork turn left for South St. and a quick left onto Main Street.  At the fork turn right for North St. and turn right on Lincoln St. for Abraham Lincoln statue.
            Wompatuck State Park:  From Rt. 3A heading north, upon entering Hingham take 2nd exit in rotary for Otis Street, turn left onto North Street.  At the fork turn left for South St. and a quick left onto Main St.  Follow Main St. to Pleasant St. and turn left.  Turn right at Union Street and follow it into the park.
            Hingham Bathing Beach:  From Rt. 3A heading north, upon entering Hingham take 2nd exit in rotary for Otis Street.  Bathing Beach is on the right.
            Old Ship
            Hingham Historical Society              

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