Faneuil Hall: Paths, Layers, and Nodes

Some of Faneuil Hall's many visitors explore the space in different ways.  In the foreground is Boston's Freedom Trail, discussed in this essay.  Faneuil Hall is seen in its current form, as a museum and souvenir shop. 

The area around Faneuil Hall is dotted with buildings from near the beginning of Boston’s history, seemingly anachronistic structures such as Old South Meeting House (built in 1729) and the Old State House (built 1713) that today stand amid the skyscrapers of the Financial District.  Faneuil Hall itself faces forty-story towers on one side and the imposing, brutalist City Hall on another.  Are buildings such as Faneuil Hall, then, totally out of context, obsolete relics of the past?  Boston has built up in such a way that there are distinct layers through time and space, almost like the rings on a tree or the striations in sedimentary rock.  Unless we come to know the reason for Boston’s many architectural quirks, and appreciate, in Italo Calvino’s words, what “invisible landscape conditions the visible one,” it will be hard to judge the context of such historical structures (Invisible Cities 20).  In this essay we will explore how best to understand Boston’s most visited tourist site through spatial and temporal layers, paths, edges, nodes, and ways in which this locale has shaped the people of Boston and been shaped by them (an idea also expressed by Calvino).