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Plymouth Rock ~ Plymouth Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock

No study of American history is complete without a trip to see Plymouth Rock in Plymouth Massachusetts! Through a torrential rain, we stepped out of the car to view this most sacred rock, on the shores of Cape Cod. I had dreamed of visiting Plymouth since childhood, wanting to see the famous place that the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower, and onto the shores of America.Portico






We were a little disappointed to see the Portico that protects Plymouth Rock shrouded in scaffolding, and even more disappointed to realize it was closed to the public. Wow. We had driven over 1000 miles at that point, and we would not see it this trip.


The GirlsWe stared out across Cape Cod, the circular bay that first sheltered the Pilgrims after their long voyage across the mighty Atlantic, hearts full of their God given desire to seek a land of freedom in America, freedom to worship a holy and righteous God simply and humbly, without government regulation, freedom to protect and educate their children as they saw fit, freedom from religious oppression in England and then the difficulties of Holland. How their hearts must have beat in their chests, as they encountered this wild, forested land in front of them, and thought of carving a home, farms, and a life out of this wilderness. Staring out at the Mayflower II, docked in the distance, you could feel their trepidation at the task ahead, their excitement at reaching land after 66 days of storm tossed seas, being blown wildly off course, a journey filled with sickness and later death, all to face the harsh cold of a New England winter. You could also feel the joy that must have shown from their faces, here, in this new land, we will have the freedom to peacefully worship the Lord, Creator of the heavens and earth, freedom to protect and educate our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and the opportunity to start anew.


Looking at the Mayflower, you could almost see the steely determination the men mustered to compose the Mayflower Compact. Since being blown off course for an intended landing in Virginia, they needed a governing influence. A compact is similar to a covenant, and for the pious Pilgrims, they understood that a compact is a solemn, binding agreement, made before God.




In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November [New Style, November 21], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.

Although we no longer have the original Mayflower Compact, this transcription from William Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation (which we highly recommend!) recalls the words.

So with all of this history welling up in our minds and hearts, with the anthem My Country Tis of Thee

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

With “Land of the Pilgrim’s pride” flowing through our minds, we turned around to read the sign at Plymouth Rock, to see what the purveyors of history had to say. We did not read it. Scrawled across the Plexiglas covering was a message, “It is just a rock, get over it,” from a graffiti tagger. It is just a rock, get over it. Rage flashed. Just a rock? What do you MEAN “just a rock.” And how does one get over the founding of our nation? In a flash, one goes from reverence for the moment, what the landing of the Pilgrims meant, their hopes, their dreams of religious liberty, their incredible walk with the Lord, to the modern intrusion and apathy of youth, the slap of “get over it” ringing louder than the freedom. Buddy, you can take up a pen and scrawl your smarmy thoughts because the people OF these historical sites risked life and limb, sacrificed all they knew, and came hundreds of miles across a stormy ocean to help birth a new country. Your freedom was purchased by the blood of the patriots that followed.

graffitiThere is a reason we have a passion for bringing living history sites of our countries heritage and history to you – because people like the Plymouth graffiti scrawler have no respect for what was. And we all know, “Those who do not know history are deemed to repeat it.” Perhaps we could send our graffiti artist on the next trip the Mars Rover makes. He could tattoo Mars with his pen….and we would no longer see his “art!”

Parents – this gives us all a good warning. Check out your living history sites ahead of time and see that they will be open when you come. If you can see everything BUT the rock (as was our case at Plymouth) then warn your children ahead of time. Be prepared for graffiti, trash, revisionist history and more! Know your history and enjoy it!



Books we recommend


Of Plymouth Plantation

One of the five most inspirational books I have ever read. It is the true story of fifty "average" people who changed the world forever because they shared a multi-generational vision.
$24.00 - In Stock



Dec 04, 2007

Rehabilitation of Plymouth Rock Portico

set to begin in early 2008

Rehabilitation of the Plymouth Rock Portico set to begin in early 2008

Patrick administration has made $680,000 available to preserve and protect this historic structure

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) plans to begin rehabilitating the Plymouth Rock Portico in early 2008 with $680,000 that the Patrick administration has made available to preserve and protect this valuable historic structure.

The Plymouth Rock Portico. cctoday photo.

Work on the Portico, built in 1921 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s arrival in Plymouth, will involve a total roof replacement, masonry cleaning and repair, rust removal from the internal steel frame, repair and replacement of damaged terra cotta vault tiles, and an upgrading of the electrical system. Also, a cutting-edge cathodic protection system (which halts rust through the application of a safe and mild electrical current) will be installed in the Portico to ensure protection against any future deterioration. There will be no design alterations to the Portico.

During the construction, Plymouth Rock itself will be encased in a heavy-duty plywood box for protection.

“We are very pleased to be able to restore and rehabilitate this icon of American history,” said DCR Commissioner Richard K. Sullivan Jr. “The significance of Plymouth Rock and its protective Portico for the citizens of this country – and indeed for people from around the world – cannot be overestimated.”

With nearly 1 million visitors from around the world every year, Pilgrim Memorial State Park is one of the most visited and cherished sites in the Commonwealth, if not the nation. When the upcoming rehabilitation is complete, DCR will have invested nearly $1 million in the park during 2007 and 2008 in a series of projects developed in collaboration with the Town of Plymouth. The rehabilitation of the Plymouth Rock Portico marks the culmination of these efforts.

“Plymouth Rock and the Portico are symbols for the entire world of where this great nation began,” said state Representative Vinny deMacedo. “It is important that when people come to see these symbols of freedom and the American dream, that they be in good repair.”

“The Portico over Plymouth Rock has long been in need of significant repair,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “It is exciting to see a plan of action that will restore the Portico to a structure that is safe and worthy of surrounding one of the symbols of our nation.”

DCR has developed a broad approach to improving the visitor’s experience at the park by combining enhanced interpretive materials, landscape improvements, and infrastructure upgrades with historic preservation. The upcoming rehabilitation will include public safety improvements such as replacing the deteriorated stair railing on Coles Hill, across from the Portico.

The Portico was designed by the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, who also designed the Boston Public Library as well as Penn Station and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As were many significant buildings across the country at the time, the Portico was built in the Neo-Classical revival style, which suggested permanence, stability, and strength. In 1970, Plymouth Rock and the Portico were listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Boston firm of Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype is the project architect and has extensive experience with historic structures, including work on St. Stephens Church in Boston and the Vanderbilt Mansion and Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Sites in New York state.

DCR expects to award a contract for the upcoming rehabilitation project in mid-December. Construction is scheduled for March 1-May 31, during which time the Portico will be closed to the public and interpretive displays explaining the rehabilitation work will be installed.

This year, $133,000 in work was completed in the park in preparation for the 2008 reconstruction. That work included testing and design, creation and installation of an interpretive kiosk, landscape improvements, and restroom painting. Also, an additional $445,515 was spent to rehabilitate Frazier State Pier in Pilgrim Memorial State Park, where the Mayflower II is docked.

“Plymouth Rock and the Portico are symbols for the entire world of where this great nation began,” said state Representative Vinny deMacedo. “It is important that when people come to see these symbols of freedom and the American dream, that they be in good repair.”

Said state Representative Thomas J. Calter, “The residents of Plymouth will be delighted to see this work begin. We treasure this national symbol of our nation’s beginning, and are proud to be the guardians of it in our community.”

Visit the Department of Conservation and Recreation here. Release courtesy of the DCR.

Plymouth Rock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620, in what would become the United States. There is no contemporary reference to it, and it is not referred to in Bradford's journal Of Plymouth Plantation or in Mourt's Relation. The first reference to the Pilgrims landing on a rock is found 121 years after they landed. The rock is currently located on the shore of Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


The location of Plymouth Rock (more specifically, Dedham granodiorite, a glacial erratic), at the foot of Cole's Hill is said to have been passed from generation to generation. In 1741, when plans were afoot to build a wharf at the site, a nonagenarian, Thomas Faunce, Elder of the church, pointed out the precise rock his father had told him was the first solid land on which the Pilgrims set foot upon their arrival in the New World. (The Pilgrims had landed first near the site of modern Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620 before disembarking to stay at Plymouth). Elder Faunce had been the town record keeper for most of his adult life and was 94 years old when he made the identification of Plymouth Rock. The rock is located about 650 feet from where it is generally accepted that the initial settlement was built.

In 1774 an attempt was made by Col. Theophilus Cotton and the townspeople of Plymouth to move the rock. In the process the rock was split into two halves, and it was decided to leave the bottom portion behind at the wharf and the top half was relocated to the town's meeting-house.

Plymouth Rock now rests at sea level.
Plymouth Rock now rests at sea level.

A published reference to Plymouth Rock was made by Captain William Coit in the Pennsylvania Journal of November 29, 1775, relating a story of how he brought captive British sailors ashore "upon the same rock our ancestors first trod".

The 1867 structure that housed (part of) Plymouth Rock until 1920.  The gates were added after construction in response to souvenir hunters.
The 1867 structure that housed (part of) Plymouth Rock until 1920. The gates were added after construction in response to souvenir hunters.

The upper portion of the rock was relocated from Plymouth's meeting-house to Pilgrim Hall in 1834. In 1859 the Pilgrim Society began building a Victorian canopy, designed by Hammatt Billings, at the wharf over the lower portion of the rock. Following its completion in 1867, the top of the rock was moved from Pilgrim Hall back to its original wharf location in 1880. The date "1620" was carved into the rock.

In 1920, the rock was relocated and the waterfront rebuilt to a design by noted landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff, with a waterfront promenade behind a low seawall, in such a way that when the rock was returned to its original site, it would be at water level. The care of the rock was turned over to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a new very sober Roman Doric portico designed by McKim, Mead and White was built for viewing the tide-washed rock protected by gratings beneath the platform. The funds for the building of the new portico were raised by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America.

During the Rock's many journeys throughout the town of Plymouth numerous pieces of the Rock were taken, bought and sold. Today approximately 1/3 of the top portion remains. It is estimated that the original Rock weighed 20,000 lb. Although some documents indicate that tourists or souvenir hunters chipped it down, no pieces have been noticeably removed since 1880. Today there are pieces in Pilgrim Hall Museum as well as in the Patent Building in the Smithsonian.

The Landing of the Pilgrims., by Henry A. Bacon, 1877
The Landing of the Pilgrims., by Henry A. Bacon, 1877

Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in 1835:

"This Rock has become an object of veneration in the United States. I have seen bits of it carefully preserved in several towns in the Union. Does this sufficiently show that all human power and greatness is in the soul of man? Here is a stone which the feet of a few outcasts pressed for an instant; and the stone becomes famous; it is treasured by a great nation; its very dust is shared as a relic."

In 1989 the seam over the face of Plymouth Rock was repaired as water was seeping into the old faultline. Thomas Choquette of Dartmouth, Massachusetts won the bid to do the work by offering $1.00.

Plymouth Rock
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
The present (1920) superstructure designed by McKim, Mead, and White for the Tercentenary of Plymouth Rock
The present (1920) superstructure designed by McKim, Mead, and White for the Tercentenary of Plymouth Rock

Today Plymouth Rock is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as part of Pilgrim Memorial State Park. From the end of May to Thanksgiving Day, Pilgrim Memorial is staffed by Park Interpreters who inform visitors of the history of Plymouth Rock and answer questions.