When visitors to downtown Boston want a guided tour to see the Revolutionary-era sites, Durham native Ted Clark is ready for them.
Clark used his love of history and a gift for story-telling in founding a new historical walking tour company, Hub Town Tours.
“I absolutely love the fact that I get to be outside walking, talking history,” Clark told the Town Times.
Clark graduated from Maine’s Bowdoin College with a degree in U.S. History and, after working as an educator at the Paul Revere House, a manager at the Old South Meeting House, and a park ranger on the Freedom Trail, decided he was at the perfect time in his life – mid-20s – to dive into his own business and became the “founder, operator, and sole tour guide” of Hub Town Tours.
“I decided that I already knew the content, and the park service was moving away from walking tours … I like to be outside, telling the larger story of the American Revolution,” Clark said.
Hub Town Tours offers three tours, each less than a mile, centered around a different figure – Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and James Otis. The tours all leave from Long Wharf and last 60 minutes. An hour of history, Clark said, is enough for most people.
“I decided to focus on the 15 years leading up to the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 … I decided that the stories could be framed around three people who were integral to the Sons of Liberty,” Clark said.
“There’s nothing better than walking through Boston to learn about the outbreak of the American Revolution,” Clark said. The goal of the tours is not to check off sites, but to tell a story, “to humanize the people who were here rather than put them up as a statue and say ‘You can’t be like this person. They’re too much of a hero.’ I’m trying to explain who they really were.”
Future tours are planned around Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and John Winthrop, although private tours have also become a large part of the business.
The most popular tour, according to Clark, is the Paul Revere. In addition to the name recognition of the subject, that tour travels through Boston’s Italian neighborhood. “It’s hard to resist a little bit of Paul Revere history combined with cannolis,” Clark said.
Revere’s story fits in with the goal of de-mythologizing Revolutionary figures. As Clark explains on the tour, Revere’s out-sized place in history comes mostly from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which was meant to stir pro-Union sentiment before the Civil War.
While there were numerous midnight riders like Revere, Longfellow’s poem needed a singular hero and schools began teaching the myth of Revere himself raising the alarm and saving the nation.
“I have guests from Australia, and the one name they know is Paul Revere,” Clark said.
The Hub Town Tour approach has been successful, becoming the top-rated historical tour on yelp.com and generating positive word of mouth. One on-line reviewer wrote, “His knowledge and humor were great, but most of all his passion for history and for Boston pervaded the entire tour. He somehow kept two tired teenagers engaged and involved the whole way.”
While the routes, or “chapters,” of Hub Town Tours try to bring pre-Revolutionary Boston to life, in the mind of the tour guide, there are echoes of Durham in the stories.
“The influence of growing up in Durham that comes through in my company is how I view Boston and consider its history […] The stories that I’m telling, the town that I’m talking about is about 450 acres. It’s incredibly small and there’s about 15,000 people living there.”
The inclusion of the word “town” in the name of the company is an intentional reference to the size of revolutionary Boston, where the town meeting was the center of local politics and James Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock took turns as moderators and speakers. “I try through my stories to feel that it was just a town. You boil the pre-Revolutionary movement to individual people and the decisions they’re going to make for themselves and their families about whether or not they rebel against the crown.”
Clark grew up in Durham playing baseball and was pulled to Boston by a love of history and the Boston Red Sox. Clark returns to Durham frequently to visit his parents and “to breathe” when his workload allows.
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