Documented Treasures

Filmmaker Ken Burns spills his Boston secrets.

KenBurnsright_620by300©2011susanogan-21Photo: Susan Ogan


hen he was 17, Ken Burns got an 8mm movie camera for his birthday. He’s been looking at the world through the lens ever since, becoming one of America’s top documentary filmmakers, with seven Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations to his credit. His documentaries include The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009), and Prohibition (2011), about that ill-considered time between 1919 and 1933 when Americans couldn’t drink (or, more exactly, couldn’t drink legally). We took his photo at Al Capone’s bar, one of MySecretBoston’s favorite secrets, which is in the Allston restaurant the Stockyard. Burns also spilled his favorite Boston secrets. Gullotti


The best places to drink in Boston are, without a doubt, Fenway Park and the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons. I’m not a cocktail guy. No fruity tastes. I’m a straight shooter when it comes to drinks.


There are some great Civil War landmarks that aren’t well known, like the African American churches on Beacon Hill, the many graveyards, and, of course, the famous memorial to the 54th Regiment, one of the first official black units to fight for the Union.


The single greatest baseball landmark in the universe is the Green Monster at Fenway. It’s amazing to look out through the holes onto the field and see the etches of names of people in there. It also makes you think back to the time Manny disappeared into the door, delaying a game.


I once had the privilege of sitting in the Bank of America box at Fenway. I also had the opportunity to sit with John Henry and Tom Werner at their seats next to the dugout. To see how fast the pitches really do go by and to be close enough to see the sweat of the players was amazing.


The best Prohibition landmark in Boston is Al Capone’s bar at the Stockyard in Allston.


I would tell a tourist who came to Boston to go and see the cemeteries around Beacon Hill. Our history is buried there. Also, the Boston Athenæum and the Boston Public Library. Both are amazing institutions.

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