The Somerville Times Historical Fact of the Week – July 8

On July 8, 2015, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

eagle_webEagle Feathers #82 –The Invitation

By Bob (Monty) Doherty

It began where the Wellington Bridge crosses over the Mystic River, and it ended where the Harvard Bridge crosses over the Charles. It was to be a ”day of all days” for the people of Somerville. For weeks in advance, the residents, ranging from age five to one hundred and five, had been preparing for this special day. Red, white, and blue bunting and flags blanketed the city and adorned its public buildings in anticipation. It wasn’t that they hadn’t had parades before, but the 4th of July observance in 1910 became the city’s most boastful. The President of the United States, William Howard Taft, had accepted an invitation from the City of Somerville to visit, to partake, and to preside over its nation’s birthday celebration.

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The parade eclipsed itself with military and civilian units that year. Security was tight and patriotic enthusiasm was at an all-time peak. Veterans of the Civil War, the China Expedition, and the Spanish American War were marching to honor their special guest. Earlier, the President’s limousine and a motorcade with over two dozen automobiles toured the city. Their route began on historic ground on the Somerville side of the Mystic River, which is now the entrance to Assembly Square. It is also the site of the building of the Blessing of The Bay, New England’s first constructed ship and the predecessor to our Navy. Coincidently, Governor Winthrop launched the ship on the 4th of July, 1631. This date’s significance would not occur until 145 years later on July 4, 1776.

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The presidential party, led by the National Lancers’ cavalry in their bright red uniforms, proceeded onto Broadway. From there, the motorcade traveled to the top of Winter Hill where Paul Revere’s ride took place, and then on through Magoun and Ball Squares to visit the historic Powder House. It then rolled though Davis Square and the length of Highland Avenue to City Hall. The reviewing stands at Central Hill held hundreds of invited guests and dignitaries such as Governor Draper, Congressman “Sam” McCall, Mayor John Woods and the Somerville Aldermen. Also present was the Mayor of Boston, John F. Fitzgerald, father of Rose Kennedy, and the President’s bodyguard, Captain Butt, who would later die a hero on the sinking of the ship, Titanic.

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One hundred five years ago this week, Somerville citizens experienced a day to remember. To describe it in today’s terms, it was their Macy’s or Rose Bowl Parade. Two hundred thousand people lined the motor and parade routes throughout the city that day and enjoyed the fireworks that night. That number represents three times the population of the city today. After viewing the parade, the President was treated to another tour of Prospect Hill and Union Square.

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To say that President Taft was impressed with the outpouring of the citizens in the area would be an understatement – so much so that he returned for two more visits to Somerville after his administration had ended. This remarkable man is the only person to have held the office of the presidency and the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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