The Old State House was the old government house for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was built in 1713 (i.e. it was the government house for the colony before the Revolution) and was used as the Colonial Supreme Court as well during the British period. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read out from the East Balcony, but this was not the first revolutionary activity that involved the Old State House, as the legislative areas and the courts featured a number of Colonist attempts to settle the disputes that culminated in the Revolution during the early 1770s. The building was used as the State’s government house until the 1790s, when the current building on Beacon Hill was opened. The building was used as the Town Hall in the 1830s and 1840s too, after which time it became commercial property. The architectural style of the building is quite pleasant, which is a bit of a change from the usual Puritan spirit that pervades the other structures on Freedom Trail. Similar to King’s Chapel, it was constructed in Georgian style and, interestingly enough, the lion and unicorn on the building’s east side were allowed to remain – despite the fact that they were symbols of the British Crown.
Sometimes it can seem like everything in Boston is called Paul Revere something or other, and, while I recognize that the people of Boston are proud of Revere’s role in the Revolution, it does make navigation rather difficult. The Paul Revere House, of course, is one of those sites that necessarily must have Revere’s name attached to it, as it was his home during the latter half of the 18th century, when he was a silversmith and a member of Boston’s middle class. The home has been preserved as a museum for visitors to learn more about the life and times of the Revere family. It was not the site of historical events (Revere spotted the British from Old North Church, about a ten minute walk from his home), and as such the displays inside the house are dedicated primarily to family life and the family’s history, including famous descendents and the link between the Reveres and the Lincolns. It is an interesting bit of trivia to know about Revere’s childrens names or what sort of bed he slept in, but the house itself is not something that will make your chest swell with Revolutionary pride.
The 16 primary sites on the Freedom Trail map are shown in various colors and style. Below presented is that variety. The trail itself is 2.5 miles, but diversions along the way could make the trek much longer. The red brick path is to direct you, but some can get merged into the other red brick areas. Have a map ready.
I walked 9 miles each day for two days, and got rather tired but it was worth the effort to see what is important.
I honestly don't remember being so moved by an urban piece of art. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine, Boston's Irish community unveiled a memorial park in 1998, featuring a wonderful sculpture by artist Robert Shure. It consists of two life-size sculptures, one depicting a family leaving Ireland's shores, impoverished and desperate, and another depicting a family arriving in Boston, filled with hope and determination. You will come upon the Memorial if you follow the Freedom Trail.
Copp’s Hill, the last stop on the Freedom Trail on the south side of the Charles, is one of Boston’s larger historic cemeteries. It contains lots of interesting tombstones, many of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries, and it also has a great view out over the Charles. It was founded in 1659, about 30 years after the King’s Chapel burying ground was established, but the Hill appears to house the graves of Boston’s lesser known historical figures, not including the major personalities of the Revolutionary period. It was also a burial ground for the New Guinea African American community, although these graves are largely unmarked. The draw of Copp’s Hill really is the photogenic nature of the area; both the vista and the old tombstones alike. This wasn’t originally meant to be part of Freedom Trail when the route was created 1951, but it gradually gained popularity and was added to the list later on.
Old City Hall
Boston's Old City Hall was one of the first buildings in the French Second Empire Style to be built in the United States and is now one of the few that survive. The design originated in France during the Second Empire (the reign of Emperor Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870). In Paris, this style gained popularity with the building of the new Louvre. After the completion of Boston's City Hall (1865), the French Second Empire Style was used extensively elsewhere in Boston and for many public buildings in the United States, such as the Executive Office Building in Washington D.C. as well as other city halls in Providence, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
The style became so closely associated with the Grant Administration (1869-1877) that it was also called the "General Grant Style." The major characteristic of this style is the mansard roof, a double-pitched roof with a steep lower slope that has a boxy shape. Often the building will have a projecting center that is topped by a dome, and tall windows and doors that are flanked by pairs of columns.
Freedom Trail Walking Info :
Continue to follow The Trail straight down the street to the Old Corner Bookstore Building.
The USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, was the first warship in service of the US Navy. It is technically still in commission, but don’t expect this sailing vessel to be chasing down Somali pirates any time soon. The ship was launched in 1797, making it the oldest commissioned vessel in the world, and saw active combat in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic during the during the early part of the 19th century. Old Ironsides also served as a training vessel for the navy during the Civil War, but for the latter half of the 19th century and the 20th century she primarily served the purpose of a cultural ambassador for the US Navy and the American people. In 1997, the ship sailed independently to mark the bicentennial of her launching. Today you can visit Old Ironsides at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Admission is free, but you should plan on spending a fair amount of time to see the ship, as tours are timed and must be guided. I didn’t go aboard, opting instead to go aboard the USS Cassin Young (the lines are far, far shorter). From what I understand, USS Constitution has some pretty cool cannons that will undoubtedly impress the younger crowd.
Park Street Church
This church was founded in 1809 in the midst of an exciting chapter in the nation's history. Ten people, including author Oliver Wendell Holmes, gathered in the mansion of William Thurston on Beacon Hill on February 27th, 1809, to discuss the organization of a church in this area. By mid-March, the committee had located a site at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets, and Park Street Church was founded.
"America" (My Country 'Tis of Thee), by Samuel Francis Smith, was first sung at the Park Street Church on July 4th, 1831. The church was also where William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public address against slavery in 1829.
Freedom Trail Walking Info :
To go to the Granary Burying Ground, follow The Trail along Tremont Street.
The Freedom Trail is probably one of the best known things to do in Boston. Despite being rather "touristy" it really is a great way to see a lot of the historical sites of the city. Plan on taking a full day to do the entire trail. You'll be walking A LOT! I like to take a coffee break in the North End. It makes for a relaxing break before making the long walk over to Charlestown.
The Freedom Trail is a no-brainer for anyone visiting Boston. Even if you're not into history, walking the Trail is a great introduction to the city of Boston. And if you are a history buff, like I am, it doesn't get much better than this. It's everything you learned in grammer school brought to life: Paul Revere, "One if by land...", the Boston Tea Party, "...the whites of their eyes". Mixed in with the skyscrapers of modern life is a peek into the very birth of America. The Trail is easy to follow...it is either a red line or red bricks that wander the streets of Boston. I broke it into chunks, over 3 days, instead of trying to do the whole thing in one day. However you decide to do it, front ways, backwards, sideways, use that red line as just a general guideline. Be sure and branch off on a side street that catches your eye. In Boston, there's history around every corner, not just along the red line.
Granary Burying Ground
With its massive Egyptian Revival-style gates facing Tremont Street, the Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place of many eminent Revolutionary-era patriots, such as Samuel Adams, Peter Faneuil, Paul Revere, and John Hancock.
Originally called South Burying Ground because of its location at the most southerly area of Boston settlement, it was then renamed Middle Burying Ground, as Boston sprawled toward the south. The current name is derived from the grain storage building, or granary, which stood on the site where the Park Street Church now stands.
Freedom Trail Walking Info :
Follow The Trail up Tremont Street to King's Chapel.
Continuing on the trail after the Faneuil Hall stop...
* Unofficial stop - Boston's Holocaust Memorial
* Unofficial stop - grab a beer at one of the many bars in the Faneuil Hall area -- may favorites are Ames Plow Company, Black Rose, the Tap, Bell in Hand and the Point
* Unofficial stop - Green Dragon bar Marshall Street -- Boston's oldest tavern, and according to legend, where the Boston Tea Party was planned
* Unofficial stop - Blackstone Street is home to the Saturday market where you can find fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables
* Unofficial stop - on you way to Paul Revere's house in the North End, you will pass over the site of the Big Dig (the $11 billion dollar mistake) and the entrance to the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels leading to the airport
* Another Unofficial stop - This area of the North End has some of the best Italian restaurants you will find outside of Italy! My favorites have always been Ristorante Villa Francesca, Pagliuca's, and Pomodoro. Mike's Pastries is a great stop for the sweet tooth, and there are several good cafes
12. Paul Revere's House -- Boston's oldest residence. Across the street is Rachel Revere Playground
* Unofficial stop -- St. Stephen's Church (where Rose Kennedy was baptised) and the Paul Revere Mall
13. Old North Church - Does "One if by land, two if by sea" ring any bells?
14. Copp's Hill Burying Ground - It's a very old cemetery... no famous people buried here
15. USS Constitution - Famed "Old Ironsides". Arrive at sunset to see them fire the cannons prior to bringing down the flags
* Unofficial stop - Shipyard park near the Constitution has one of the best Korean War Memorials I have ever visited (except the one in Seoul!). Hear recorded stories of the war direct from Korean War veterans
16. Bunker Hill Monument - At the top of the hill in Charlestown.
America was a colony of England and Boston played a most important part in bringing about independence from British rule. This trail incorporates the historic sites from those times of John Adams, Samuel Adams, Crispus Attucks, John Hancock and others including Paul Revere during the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The Flag indicates the Freedom Trail and there are painted lines on the footpath for you to follow. Commencing at State House / Boston Common it winds past Park Street Church, The King's Chapel, Old South Meeting House, The Old State House Museum, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, across the Charlestown Bridge to the Inner Harbour and Visitor Centre.
If you have time and are fit the trail is walkable, the alternative is to take a coach sighteeing tour. We were on a 13 day coach tour and were taken to most locations, however during free time later in the day we revisited some sites including the Old State House Museum.
The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles of red brick or red painted lines through downtown Boston, Beacon Hill and the North End. It takes you past many historic monuments and buildings that were important in the country's early struggle for freedom. It is a great walk, and can be shortened by using public transport or cabs if you get tired along the way.
The Trail starts at Boston Common at the visitor center, but you can start following it anywhere you find the red lines!
Make sure you set off early enough to get to the ship USS Constitution before it closes - we missed out on the tour by about five minutes, they let us on the ship, but we could not go below deck.
The Freedom Trail is home to several historical landmarks, which can be viewed at your leisure. Following a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail will lead you to 16 nationally significant historic sites. The Freedom Trail today is a collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers including:
The Boston Common
The State House
Park Street Church
Granary Burying Ground
King’ Chapel Burying Ground
Benjamin Franklin Statue/Boston Latin School
Old Corner Book Store
Old South Meeting House
Old State House
Site of the Boston Massacre
Paul Revere House
The Old North Church
Copp's Hill Burying Ground
USS Constitution — “Old Ironsides”
Bunker Hill Monument
Guided tours are available, as well as group and school tours. Also, you can download an audio tour from the Freedom Trail Foundation website ($15). Put it on your I-Pod, and it gives information on every site. Best of all, it gives you the flexibility to take them in at your leisure. Also, self-guide maps are available at the multitude of visitor centers.
The best place to start is probably the visitor center located in Boston Common (the first stop on the trail), where you can get all information and walking maps.
All this information, and more, is available on the Freedom Trail Foundations's website (see below).