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Omni Parker House – Union Oyster House are Beantown Hits

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By Earl Heath - Rita Long

Boston, one of the oldest cities in America, was first incorporated as a town in 1630 and then as a city in 1822. It is rich in economic and social history. As a homesteading community which evolved into a center for social and political change, Boston has become the economic and cultural hub of New England.

Boston's Omni Parker House Hotel is the place to be. The Omni Parker House is located at 60 School St. on ‘Freedom Trail'. Open for the last 150 years, it is America's longest continuously operating hotel.

When the Parker House opened in 1855 Franklin Pierce was the 14th president of the United States. At the time there were only 31 states. Gold had been discovered in California.

154 - President Kennedy's favorite booth at the Union Oyster House
Harvey D. Parker, the founder of the Parker House, came to Boston from Maine. This magnificent facility was originally a restaurant. Some of the world's most famous recipes came from Parker's staff. Origins from the kitchen include; Boston Crème Pie, Boston scrod, New England clam chowder and also the world famous Parker House rolls. There were great chefs and employees working in the Parker House restaurant and kitchen. Some of the chefs include Lydia Shire and Emeril Lagasse.

The Parker House was also a work haven for two cultural icons. Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh served as a baker in the bakeshop. Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, from the nation of Islam was a busboy there during the Pearl Harbor invasion. Today many Asian visitors come by to see the table that Ho Chi Minh used to work on.

157 - Freedom Room inside the Union Oyster House. America's oldest restaurant located on the Freedom Trail, Boston
Denyce Graves, one of today's best known mezzo-soprano opera stars, worked the night shift as a telephone operator at the Omni Parker House Hotel.

Some of the suites are named after some of America's most visible people including former Massachusetts's socialite Henry Cabot Lodge and Mother Goose. Charles Dickens was a long term guest at the Omni Parker House staying from 1867 to 1868. A mirror where he practiced his characters is still in place for visitors to see in the hotel.

John F. Kennedy gave his first public speech as a seven year old in what is now known as the Press Room. Today it is used for meetings and dining and still holds a marble fireplace. Kennedy also announced his candidacy for president there and proposed to his wife Jacquelyn at table 40 in the restaurant.

Image In the new millennium, Gerry is one of the bright spots and mainstays in the restaurant. He has worked at the Parker House for 31 years while raising a family that included two young sons. "The biggest change is that people come here more relaxed and not so stuffy," said Gerry. "There are a great deal of regulars who come for lunch and dinner and you can usually tell what they want." Gerry is a youth basketball, soccer and baseball coach but loves his work here. He can answer any question you have on the Parker House or neighboring venues.

When you visit the Parker House, not only will you see history you will become part of it.

Once you venture out to surrounding areas, there is a multitude of sights to see.

One of America's most famous parties was held in Boston Harbor in 1773. The host of the masquerade Boston ‘Tea Party' was Samuel Adams. Adams headed three companies of fifty men each on this December 16th night to board three ships and heave the tea into the harbor. This ‘party' was duplicated at several other seaports.

You can go and visit the harbor where the party took place and also visit several other venues.

Boston's Black Heritage Trail has become familiar with African-American history in the city. It's a part of the National Parks Service. You can take guided and narrated tours. A walk along the trail is certain to enrich your knowledge of Black history in Boston. One of the more significant stops is at the African Meeting House. Once at the heart of Boston' African-American community, the African Meeting House was a church, a school, and a vital meeting place.

Bob's Southern Bistro located at 604 Columbus Avenue  has been dishing out soul food at this location since 1968. You can sit with devoted patrons and enjoy Southern and Cajun specialties that include homemade meatloaf or the mustard fried catfish. They also have live Sunday jazz brunch with collard greens, black-eyed peas with smoked turkey and corn beef hash.

A must visit venue is The Union Oyster House which is the oldest continuously operating restaurant (about 250 years) in the United States. The owners consist of a brother /sister team Joseph Milano and MaryAnn Milano Picardi. She is also known as ‘Ma'. They've owned the restaurant since 1970 and are only the third owners in the history of the restaurant. Ma is sensitive and extremely caring hostess. She has her handprint on everything from greeting you to taking your order or busing your table. "These are our guest. Where else would I be?" said Milano Picardi. "I love people and it's great to see them enjoy a good meal."

Downstairs there is an old-fashioned Yankee atmosphere where you can sit at a semi-circular oyster bar. On a busy day there are over 3,000 oysters shucked. You will be surrounded by hand-hewn wooden ceiling beams, wide-planked wood floors and sit in a cozy booth. It is such a captive environment to enjoy your meal. The menu is full of great items such as Shrimp Bisque, Lobster Scampi and Lazy Man Lobster which will knock your socks off. You will find the best lobster in the world here, boiled, broiled or baked.

Throughout their ownership millions have been served. The walls of this fine eatery have had the likes of noted lawyer and Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Another regular visitor was President John F. Kennedy. His visits were so frequent that there is a plaque that marks the upstairs booth which was his favorite.

Some other favorite visitors include: Tiger Woods, President Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali. After visiting the Union Oyster House you will never taste food this good anywhere.

When planning your trip to Boston, you should fly Southwest Airlines for the best service and the best price. SWA has some of the lowest prices in the industry. You can land in Providence (T.F. Green Airport) and enjoy a 35 minute scenic ride through New England to Boston. Manchester, NH is also a great choice in that you have a quaint easy access airport. Your thirty minute ride to Boston will be more than pleasurable...SWA is celebrating its 35th year and is one of the strongest airlines for service and on time arrivals. From Providence to LAX the flight was fifteen minutes early in Chicago and on the final leg we touched down in LAX twenty minutes early. Awesome service was provided by Jorja, a fifteen year veteran of SWA, and Cheree who makes the greatest coffee at 30,000 feet.

"We work for the greatest airline around," said Cheree, a Detroit native.

SWA is an overall favorite to 62 cities in America.

In order to better serve our readership, the Black Voice News will present a series of vacation spots around America. We hope you, your companion and/or family enjoy them.

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