Gates were flung open and “closed” signs came down Thursday as visitors and employees returned to local historic sites associated with the formation of American government but inaccessible for 16 days when that government shut down.
The crisis closed popular sites such as Faneuil Hall, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Sean Hennessey, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said that in just the first 10 days of the shutdown, the service lost about 55,000 visitors and $2 million in revenue at Boston attractions.
At Faneuil Hall on Thursday morning, the visitor center was once again helping a steady stream of tourists learn about the exploits of the Founding Fathers and navigate twisty downtown streets.
Park Service Ranger Dan Gagnon said he was glad to be back at work.
“It was frustrating, because the Park Service is a welcoming group,” he said. “We want people to come here; we want to share history; and we weren’t able to do that during the shutdown.”
Upstairs, US Citizenship and Immigration Services swore in more than 100 new citizens inside the Great Hall. Most seemed untroubled that their adoptive country can’t seem to break free of Washington gridlock.
“To me, it’s like a family fight,” Paul Kayembe, who emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said while waiting to take the citizenship oath. “They’ll fight, but at the end of the day, they’ll reach a point that they’ll do the right thing for the country.”
‘I wondered how long it was going to take [House Speaker] John Boehner to get up the courage to take a vote.’
Kayembe, 42, who lives in Revere, had worried when the shutdown began that his naturalization might be delayed, but was reassured when an invitation to the ceremony arrived in the mail.
Justin Palmer, an immigration services officer, said that because the agency’s budget is based on fees, naturalization ceremonies remained on schedule during the shutdown.
Although the new citizens appeared to hold no grudges, many visitors to historic sites felt a lingering frustration over the long closure of many government agencies.
Angela Kasparek of Milford, Conn., explored Faneuil Hall during a day trip from a cruise along the coast of New England and southern Canada. She said the shutdown had thwarted passengers’ planned visit to another site Wednesday.
“Acadia National Park was closed because of that stupid thing going on in the House of Representatives,” the 74-year-old said with a scowl. “I wondered how long it was going to take [House Speaker] John Boehner to get up the courage to take a vote.”
Paul Burzi, 67, a ship passenger who was exploring Boston with Kasparek, said the intractable partisan disputes in Washington betray the intent of the country’s founders.
“We’re supposed to be the people governed by the people,” said the Manalapan, N.J., resident. “And all of a sudden you’ve got the far right and the far left, they’ve got more power than the majority.”
As Carla and Ken Barton of Amarillo, Texas, left the Bunker Hill Monument, they said they were glad to be able to see the view from the top.
“The Statue of Liberty [was closed] when we were in New York City last week,” said Carla Barton, 58, whose red-and-white-striped shirt and blue pants coordinated with her husband’s shirt depicting a bald eagle and American flag. “We wanted to climb that and we could not.”
Ken Barton, 59, said he was surprised Park Service sites had reopened so quickly and especially glad to see the USS Constitution.
“To come this far and not get to see it would be a pretty big waste of time,” he said.
At the USS Constitution, Shari Stone, 49, visiting from Chattanooga, Tenn., said she realized the ship was a National Park Service site only when her family arrived at Charlestown Navy Yard on Thursday, but they breathed a sigh of relief because the standoff had been resolved.
Stone’s brother-in-law, Conway, Ark., college professor Mark Cooper, said he was relieved Congress reached an agreement shortly after the group came to Boston.
“I’m just glad that we’re going to be able to visit the sites that we should be able to visit,” said Cooper, 64.