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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

July 2008 Issue

When Landscape Histories Entwine
A historic rehab untangles the stories on Concord’s sacred ground.

By Jane Roy Brown

When Landscape Historires Entwine

On the morning of April 19, 1775, about 400 armed colonial militiamen in Concord, Massachusetts, gathered in an upland pasture they used as a muster field. Below them, in a meadow beside the Concord River, British soldiers blocked passage across the North Bridge while their compatriots searched the town for outlawed munitions. Suddenly, the militiamen spotted smoke rising from Concord. Concluding that the British had set fire to the town—in fact, they were burning munitions—the militia and their elite “minutemen” advanced down a sloping field to the bridge.

The British, outnumbered four to one, starting backing across the bridge. As the militia started crossing, the British fired, killing two colonials. The militia shot back, killing two British soldiers. This pop-pop of muskets was the opening volley of the Revolutionary War, later immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as the “shot heard  ’round the world.”

In 1960, the National Park Service, working with state and local agencies, opened Minute Man National Historical Park. It includes about 50 acres around the North Bridge in Concord and a four-and-a-half-mile corridor along Battle Road between Concord and Lexington, where the colonials chased the British at the start of their bloody, 12-hour retreat to Boston.

“This is sacred space,” says Lou Sideris, National Park Service ranger and planner at what is today Minute Man National Historical Park. Sideris stands on the east side of the bridge—the sixth to span the river since 1775—and swings an arm toward what remains of a double allée lining a path between the bridge and a road about 200 yards away. Composed of mixed hardwoods and conifers, the allée dates from 1838, and it stands on axis with a memorial obelisk known as the Battle Monument, erected in 1836 on the east side of the bridge.

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