Last Updated on February 18, 2023
What follows is taken from the account of my travels in New England earlier in the year. My travelling companion Sam L Page is also writing about our visit and we’ll put out a zine telling all later in the year. A few people have asked what this travel zine will be like, so here’s a taster;
We left the Granary burial ground and followed the red bricks in the pavement left along Tremont Street. Ipswich streets at eye level can look fairly uninteresting, but crane your neck a few degrees upwards and you’re likely to discover something special. This was also the case in Boston, proven by an unusual building that caught my eye as we left the cemetery; the logically named Tremont Theatre. The ground floor is a series of unexceptional arched windows, above which is a row of Romanesque arches reaching across the middle of the frontage between two small balconies. Looking further upwards the next ten or twenty metres of the front of this great building was solid brick, set in diamond shapes. Between the Romanesque arches just above street level to two stories of windows at the very top of the buildings there are no windows, just this expanse of ornamental brick. There are no windows, but right in the middle is a small balcony, protruding from the middle of the building like a sulking mouth. Accompanied on either side by modern tower blocks this building looked entirely out of place, like a beauty queen standing in line at a knobbly knees competition.
I had no idea what this building was called until a few months after I returned to England. I was ploughing through the hundreds of photos I took on my trip and the photo of Tremont Theatre leapt out at me, but I had no idea what the building was or what it was called. I wrongly guessed that it was a Synagogue. I posted a photo of the theatre on the photo sharing website Flickr, with the caption ‘can anyone tell me what this building is?’ Within hours a fellow user going under the name ‘sw_awesometown’ gave me the building’s name and a helpful link to find out more. It turns out although I was wrong about it being a Synagogue I was in the right ball park, ecumenically speaking. Built in 1827 as a theatre it was bought a few years later (in 1843) by the ‘Free Church Baptists’ and renamed Tremont Temple.
Between then and now it has burnt down a remarkable three times. Debunking the myth that Americans don’t get Irony, someone staged the play ‘The Burning Fiery Furnace’ there in 1985. The staging of this play gives me a tenuous and coincidental link with the building; the play was written by Benjamin Britten, who lived in the town of Aldeburgh, a handful of miles from where I grew up. In another tenuous twist Benjamin Britten died in 1976, the year I was born! This proves two important facts, the first being that stopping and absorbing your surroundings (albeit with a little research) can reveal some fascinating facts. Secondly this episode illustrates how ready we are to celebrate coincidences, the history of mankind is so packed with detail you’re bound to find links and coincidences wherever you look. Take for example what is possibly the most tenuous link between myself and the Tremont Theatre, it was opened by the British comedian Charles Wyndham, I too am British. Charles Wyndham gained critical acclaim for playing a part in an adaption of ‘Saratoga’ on stage in Brighton, My travelling companion Sam lives in Brighton. Wyndham was also a trained surgeon, and early in his career he gave up on acting for a bit, there was a shortage of surgeons in America (thanks to the civil war) he readily found work in the Union Army, Abraham Lincoln’s army, our host Jim has a dog called Lincoln. A fairly facetious (but wholly true) example, but it proves a point!
As I continue to sift through my photos you can see them here –