Washington St. and State St./Court St.

Monday, December 13th, 5:40pm

Mesmerized by the frontage of the Old State House, I feel the low rumble below me of an Orange or Blue Line train pulling into or out of State Street Station. The December evening is relatively warm after two days of rain and rush hour is in full force around me. Seven or eight idling engines line up in front of me on Washington St., waiting for two green arrows to usher them to the left onto Court St.

Three branches come together here to form a T that looks more like a T: Washington (honoring our first executive), State (so named for this one-time home of the Massachusetts legislature), and Court (the judicial branch, leading toward Scollay Square). Despite being the intersection of two one-way streets, this crossing feels more like four- or five-ways because of the pedestrian traffic. People walk in and out of the entrance to the T out of view on the far side of the State House. Others walk up and down the wide plaza leading to Government Center and City Hall Plaza or the brick Freedom Trail pass-through to Congress St. alongside the State House.

The majesty of the Old State House

I am sitting on one of a series of fashionable wooden benches on a raised stone plaza, which continues to tremble from the comings and goings of the subway below. The benches are covered with sparse drops of leftover rain and hardly anyone uses them (aside from a rather unskilled skateboarder who fumbles over a jump onto one of the benches and quickly skates away down the street to seek a new practice location). The plaza’s small trees, decked in white Christmas lights, match the lighted wreaths inside the plate-glass entrance to the BNY Mellon Center, one of the many tall, modern, financial office towers that have grown up all around the stately three-level brick building across the street. Some variation of the same pattern of plate-glass, lit intermittently by numbing fluorescence, delineates each of the dozens of floors in these skyscrapers.

Meanwhile, most of the action on ground-level surrounds the Old State House, which stands majestic, the 300-year-old village elder of this neighborhood. The cornice and Doric columns of the classical wooden façade allude to an even more ancient era. Over the entrance, a golden eagle perches with wings spread, ready to take off. Atop the illuminated white tower of the building, stands a golden weathervane, rising through a rare opening between the buildings where clouds brush quickly across the blue-black evening sky.

Along the Freedom Trail, next to the Old State House, a lonely cart stands adorned with Boston and Harvard T-shirts; the vendor sits out of sight, hood pulled up, leaning against the brick wall of the historic building, his chair empty.

A lonely vendor cart sits along the Freedom Trail