Regular readers will know my love for big US cities, but Boston has always had a special place in my heart. My grandparents settled in nearby Worcester so we spent a lot of summers in the area. In fact, my passion for the stock markets was ignited in a summer spent there when I was 15 years old by one of my uncles who was an “active” investor.
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and the most populous city in New England (10th in the USA), with about 5 million greater metro residents. The city covers only 48 square miles (versus say Toronto at about 245 square miles). It is one of the oldest cities in the USA and was founded in 1630 by Puritans from England.
From a historical perspective, few can match the influence Boston has had in American history. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the battle of Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s ride, and the Siege of Boston. Boston also holds title to many “firsts”: the first public park in the USA (Boston Common 1634), the first public/state school (Boston Latin 1635), and the first subway system (Tremont Street Subway 1897). Being a major port was a big part of Boston’s origins.
Today, Boston remains a thriving port city, and with its many colleges and universities (notably Harvard University, or “Hahvuhd” locally, MIT, Boston College, North Eastern, just to name a few) it has not only become a “wicked smaht” centre of education, but also has become a financial centre of prominence (Head Office for our friends at Fidelity Investments, Bain Capital, Liberty Mutual, John Hancock, State Street), food chains Dunkin Donuts and Au Bon Pain.
Head Offices in Boston include giants General Electric, Gillette, Reebok, Raytheon, and Staples, as well as retailers Wayfair and TJ Maxx (owners of Winners & Marshalls). The area also has a growing tech presence thanks to all of the educational institutions, and names like Akamai, Analog Devices, IRobot, and Boston Scientific. Last but not least, it is home to Boston Beer, brewer of Samuel Adams beer.
In the early 1800’s, Boston grew rapidly, and Irish immigrants dominated the influx, especially after the Irish Potato Famine. The Irish were followed by the Italians, who flooded the North End of the city where to this day it remains the city’s Little Italy. Accordingly to our tour guide, the city of Boston has 104 Italian restaurants. With the Irish and Italian influx, they brought with them Roman Catholicism, still making up the largest religious community in the city; and the Irish Catholics played a major role in US politics, notably John Fitzgerald, Tip O’Neil, and one who became the first Catholic President: John F. Kennedy. In fact, if one where to first visit the Union Oyster House, the country’s oldest continually operating restaurant (since 1826). JFK was a regular, and you will find his favourite booth highlighted:
Like most of Industrial USA, Boston went into decline in the mid-20th century as factories aged and became obsolete as businesses left the region for cheaper labour elsewhere. By the 1970’s, the city had reinvented itself and is a great example of urban renewal as high rises were built in the financial district and the Back Bay area developed. With it, Boston has seen living expenses rise, and now Boston has one of the highest costs of living in the USA. The average apartment rent within 10 miles is about $3,100 and the average one bedroom apartment for $2,685 a month (source: RentJungle.com).
Famous Bostonians include Mark Wahlberg, Jay Leno, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Conan O’Brien, and Steve Carell. Of course those are all Hollywood types. One can’t forget about Samuel Adams, Horatio Alger, Michael Bloomberg, George H.W. Bush, Calvin Coolridge, Bette Davis, Mike Dukakis, John Handcock, Oliver Wendall Holmes, the Kennedy’s, Nancy Kerrigan, John Kerry, Samuel Morse, Leonard Nimoy, George Patton, Paul Revere, Norman Rockwell, Mitt Romney, Donna Summer, Barbara Walters, and Eli Whitney, among many others. And I would be remiss not mentioning Boston’s contribution to the music scene: The Cars, J. Geils Band, Boston, The Pixies, and a little band and my favourite: Aerosmith.
On the notorious side, Boston produced “Whitey” Bulger (mobster), Albert DeSalvo (better known as the Boston Strangler), the Brinks Bank Job in 1950, Charles Ponzi (1919 – the scheme named after him), and in 1990, the Heist of the Century at the Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum where thieves, dressed as police officers, robbed 13 paintings including Vermeers, Rembrandts and Manet. To this date they remain missing, and are memorialized in the museum where empty frames still hang on the walls:
And last but not least, most will remember, in 2013 the Boston Marathon bombing which killed three people and injured 264. A memorial stands at the finish line to commemorate the event:
Like many US cities, Boston is a huge sports town. In fact, I would say more fervent than most. The Bruins (hockey), Celtics (basketball), Patriots (football) and their beloved Red Sox (baseball) are well represented in what Bostonians wear on a daily basis (and yes, I left my Yankee cap at home!).
Politically, while the state of Massachusetts is known as a Democrat hotbed thanks to the Kennedy’s, it is interesting that since 1958, the state has had 8 Democratic Governors and 10 Republicans. However since 1960, in Presidential Elections the state has definitely leaned Blue (Democrat) with 13 of the last 15 elections going that way, including the last eight in a row.
Visiting Boston is a treat. The city has so much to offer whether one is into shopping (Newberry, Boylston, Downtown Crossing), history (Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, parks (Boston Common), museums (Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Museum of Natural history, Museum of Science) campuses (Harvard, MIT, Northeastern), New England Aquarium, or the sports teams. I’ve been to Boston dozens of times, been to Fenway for a game 4-5 times, but this time around did a first: A backstage tour of Fenway Park. Never done it and was definitely a highlight and even sat in a seat on the “Green Monstah”. And if you are a foodie, Boston definitely has a lot of options. Did I mention there are 104 Italian restaurants in Boston? J
Sure Bostonians with their attitudes and way of speaking can add a dimension of confusion, but that’s what gives the city its own personality! Just do not drive there… The traffic jams are horrible “gahkablahkas” and the parking is both impossible and expensive (if you can find it, often $15+ an hour).
Vito Finucci, B.COMM, CIM, FCSI
Vice President and Director, Portfolio Manager
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