How many tranquil places can you name in Boston? Back Bay resident, Lynn Schweikart can tell you about dozens. In fact, she does in her book, Peaceful Places Boston: 121 Tranquil Sites in the City and Beyond.
Seeing with Fresh Eyes Schweikart has a gift for finding words that make you look at a familiar place with refreshed senses. She describes Bates Hall, the reading room at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square saying, “…the room has an atmosphere that’s hushed but purposeful.”
Over in Charlestown, she recommends the Boston Marine Society. Of the Society’s Headquarters she says, “…you feel as though you’ve slipped into the realm of a secret society.” Here, as with many entries, she points to other attractions in the area like Shipyard Park as a place to picnic, relax, or explore this section of the Boston HarborWalk.
In Beacon Hill, she includes places most visitors find peaceful like the Athenaeum, Vilna Shul, and Peter Faneuil House Garden. But, she also expands the book’s scope to include two peaceful restaurants, The Hungry I and Lala Rokh, where you can enjoy a relaxed meal.
Of the latter, she adds, “Lala Rokh defies the current –and somewhat annoying– restaurant trend of loud music and tables crowded together.” She recommends it for a romantic dinner, relaxed meal and conversation with friends, or a tranquil solo lunch.
When you’re in the North End, she suggests exploring Paul Revere Park but obviously has a special place in her heart for the Hidden Garden at Lewis Wharf. This book shines as Schweikart reveals a space that looks private, but is public, and describes ways to enjoy it in all seasons.
She says it’s a shame that Piers Park in East Boston is a place that, while extremely popular with locals, “…seems to be little known to Bostonians from other neighborhoods.” She’s out to change that by describing the perfect picnic supper complete with views of the sun setting behind the Boston skyline, great food from the shops and restaurants in Maverick Square, and a quick commute there-and-back on the MBTA Blue Line.
In addition to places in the city, the book also features some day trips and overnight destinations.
Protecting Peaceful Places
Authoring this book has made Schweikart a bit of an evangelist for protecting peaceful places. In March, she led a Placemaking Seminar for the Boston Society of Architects. This discussion on the nature of peaceful places and the characteristics that make places contemplative, tranquil, and special, demonstrated the thought that she has put into her topic.
“It’s ephemeral. Cities change, things come and go, and people’s idea of peacefulness isn’t all the same,” she explained. “In some ways peacefulness is kind of the antithesis to a lively city where a lot is happening. So, I think that it’s important to have a balance of activities that make people want to live in a lively wonderful city but also places where you can steal away and find a quiet corner.”
While researching the book, Schweikart called these places her “ten minute miracles.” As she walked away from certain sites, she noticed that she was more relaxed and refreshed.
“It’s important to know that you don’t need a weekend away, you don’t need even to take a day off,” Schweikart emphasized. “Even in the midst of the busiest day, you can steal away for a few minutes of that sort of peace for yourself.”