10 Wacky Facts about Boston We Bet You Didn’t Know

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Whether you live here or are visiting, it’s easy to see that Boston is steeped in history. It’s everywhere you turn. So we thought it would be fun to round up some Boston trivia you might not know. Impress your friends and stump your kids with these little-known Boston facts. How many do you know?

1. We’re number one. Boston is home to lots of firsts. The city boasts the first public beach—Revere Beach in 1896, the first subway—Tremont Station in 1897 and the first public park—Boston Common. In 1634 Bostonians paid six schillings each in taxes to purchase William Blackstone’s farm, now Boston Common. Two other fun firsts include the first lighthouse on Little Brewster Island and the first formal fire department in 1679.

2. Record-setting heights. We’re sure your kids recognize the John Hancock Building along the city skyline. But do they know the building is also the site of the greatest grape catch in history? In 1988, Paul Tavilla caught a grape in his mouth that had fallen 788 vertical feet from the top of the building.

3. World’s biggest burglary. If you’ve visited the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum you and the kids have probably noticed the empty frames—evidence of 13 paintings stolen from the museum in 1990. Thieves posing as police officers cut them directly out of the frames, making the heist the largest property theft in the world! So what’s with the blank frames? Before Gardner’s death, she insisted that the museum remain exactly as she had arranged it—that means no replacement paintings or moving things around.

4. Bowled over. Candlepin bowling was first played in Worcester in 1880; the sport is a true Boston original. And families and friends have been rolling strikes and spares at the Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley since 1907, making it the second oldest candlepin alley in the U.S.

photo: Karin Hansen

5. Don’t cry over this. The story behind the giant milk bottle outside of the Boston Children’s Museum is an interesting one. It was donated to the Boston Children’s Museum in 1977 when it sailed aboard a barge through Boston Harbor to what’s now Children’s Wharf. How much could it hold you ask? If it were real, the bottle could hold 58,620 gallons of milk.

6. A sticky situation. Next time the fam is in the North End neighborhood, tell your kids the story of the Great Molasses Flood that happened along Commercial Street, near Keany Square in January 1919. A 50-foot high tank, filled with molasses exploded unleashing the viscous substance, moving at 35 m.p.h., through the neighborhood streets. The giant wave crested at 25 feet high and left streets flooded with anywhere from two to three feet of syrupy mess.

7. Nope, it’s not a pineapple. Although it may look like a pineapple, the gilded object on top of the Massachusetts State House is actually a wood pinecone. It symbolizes the importance of the lumber industry in the state during colonial times.

8. An H2O-mazing law. It may sound more like an urban legend than an actual law, but apparently this one’s still on the Boston books. In Boston, it’s illegal to go to bed without having a bath. Pull this one out and make your case the next time your kids need a little extra incentive at bath time.

9. Play ball. You probably know that the Red Sox have played in 13 World Series and won nine titles. And that the Red Sox have a patent on the "Fenway Green" paint color. But not everyone knows about Fenway’s rooftop garden, Fenway Farms. Located on the third base side of the park, it was planted in 2015 and can produce over 6,000 pounds of organic produce each year.

10. What’s in a name. Boston goes by many names: Beantown, The Athens of America, even the Cradle of Liberty. But before it was any of these it was called Tremontaine by the Puritans.

—Allison Sutcliffe

Feature image: iStock

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