I spent most of Monday at the "Outside the Textbook" conference on public history, sponsored by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. It was a very pleasant, if occasionally inaudible, day. Gretchen Adams of the Paul Revere House said extraordinarily nice things about a teacher's workshop I led there in 2002. Wendy Lement of Theatre Espresso shared some of her plans for an educational drama about the Boston Massacre, "Uprising on King Street." And I enjoyed meeting and hearing from many other people who are researching, writing, and presenting Massachusetts history of periods other than the Revolution.
Graciously postponing lunch, Charles Swift gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of his City Record and Boston News-Letter blog, one inspiration for finally getting this one off the ground. Charles's entry for Monday discusses the original name for the area of Boston renamed "Mount Vernon" and "Louisburg Square" by real-estate developers after the Revolution. In the pre-war period it was called "Mount Whoredom" because of the high concentration of prostitutes working in that somewhat-out-of-the-way area to the west of the Common.
Interestingly, the "Whoredom" name appears most often in documents and on maps created by British army officers, such as the map of Boston by Lt Thomas Page that Charles's blog highlights. Other examples:
Lt Frederick Mackenzie, diary, 25 Apr 1775: "Our Regiment Encamped his morning on Fort Hill; The 4th Regiment on Mount Whoredom, and the Marines on the Common."The British officers clearly savored the irony of the puritanical town having a red-light district. And perhaps some savored the district as well.
Lt John Barker, diary, 26 Apr 1775: “the 1st upon Whoredom Hill.”
Gen. Percy, letter to his clergyman uncle: "Camp on Mount Whoredom, Augt. 12. 1775. . . . A strange Place Dear Dr. to write from to a Clergyman—Yet so it is, My Tent is upon the highest Summit of it.”
Gen. George Washington, on the other hand, used a delicate misspelling when writing to the Continental Congress on 7 Mar 1776 about contingency plans to storm Boston:
Four thousand chosen men who were held in readiness, were to ford have embarked at the mouth of Cambridge River in two divisions; The first under the command of Brig. Genl. Sullivan, the second under Brig. Genl. Greene, the whole to have been commanded by Major General Putnam. The first division was to land at the Powder House and gain possession of Bacon Hill and Mount Horam.Less than two weeks before, when Greene, Putnam, Sullivan, and Gen. Horatio Gates had drawn up this plan for Washington, they had used the label "Mount Whoredom." So the generalissimo knew what the hill's real name was.
ADDENDUM: New older information on “Mount Whoredom” here.