This post will conclude my walking tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail. To finish I would like to return to the Boston Common and point out a couple of sites that I missed in my first post.
The Massachusetts State House
On the north side of the common, on Beacon Street stands the Massachusetts State House. Known as the new State House by the people of Boston, to separate it from the Old State House, this impressive building is the oldest building on that street. The State House was built on six acres that was formally a cow pasture that belonged to John Hancock. Both he and Paul Revere helped to lay the State House’s cornerstone, with construction being completed on January 11, 1798. What makes the State House stand out is its bright dome of gold. The dome was originally made of wood and then later covered in copper by Paul Revere. In 1874 the dome was gilded in 24 karat gold.
Monument to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment
Directly across the street from the new State House, on the Common side, is the monument to the Civil War 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, this was the first all-black regiment. This monument, as well as the 54th Regiment, was made famous in the movie “Glory”. The monument is also the starting point for the Black Heritage Trail. The first African Slaves were brought to Boston in 1638. By 1705 the city had around 400 slaves, but it also had a developing community of free blacks in its North End. The status of blacks in the colony began to turn with the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. Many blacks fought at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. In 1780, in the State’s first Constitution, it was adopted that all men have certain inalienable rights, and slavery was abolished. In the federal census of 1790 Massachusetts was recorded as being the only state in the Union not to have slaves.
Leaving the Old North Church follow Hull Street toward Charlestown. About a block from the church you will be at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Founded in 1659, it was the largest cemetery in the Colonies at that time. Copp’s Hill is the final resting place for two puritan ministers that were involved with the Salem Witch trials. Also buried here is Robert Newman, the Sexton of the Old North Church, who is believed to have been the one that hung the lanterns for Paul Revere in the church’s steeple. Edmund Hartt the builder of the USS Constitution also lays at rest here. In Copp’s Hill Burying Ground it is believed that close to 1,000 free African-Americans are buried there, one of which is Prince Hall who formed the countries first Black Masons Lodge and was instrumental in ending slavery in the Bay State. During the battle of Bunker Hill, because of its height, Copp’s Hill was used by the Red Coats to train their cannon on Charlestown.
Continue on Hull Street to Commercial Street, turn left and head over to and across the Charlestown Bridge. Once you are across turn right along Constitution Road toward the tail ship docked at the Boston Navel Shipyard- The USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides.”
The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. She was launched in 1798, and was made famous while helping to defend our nation in the war of 1812. It was during the naval battle with the HMS Guerriere that a British sailor, seeing their cannonballs bouncing off her sides, gave her the famous nickname “Old Ironsides”. Her unique construction of a three-layer wood sandwich of american hardwoods gave Old Ironsides her strength. The copper fastenings for the ship where made by Paul Revere. When she was in service the USS Constitution had a crew of 500; Today the she is manned by a crew of about 70.
After you leave the USS Constitution your next stop will be the Bunker Hill Monument. It’s not hard finding this site because of its 221 foot granite obelisk that towers over Charlestown. We crossed over Chelsea Street, under the Tobin Memorial Bridge and climbed up Tremont street to the monument.
The Bunker Hill Monument
After the battles of Lexington and Concord the Colonial Militia chased the Red Coats back to Boston and then laid siege to the island town of Boston. On the evening of June 16, 1775, Col. William Prescott ordered the militia to fortify the high ground of Bunker’s Hill. However they chose the next hill over, Breed’s Hill, instead. The Red Coats awoke the next day to find cannon and rifles manned by 1,000 militia pointing down on them from the hill. To protect their position on June 17,the British crossed over to Charlestown with 2,200 troops to attack the hill. Only after three charges were the British troops able to dislodge the defenders from the hill.
The reason given for why the militia pulled back was because of a lack of ammunition. In the end the Colonist lost between 400 to 600 killed or wounded. The British casualties were 1,034 killed or wounded, almost half of their attacking force. This was the first major conflict of the Revolution, and although the British technically won the battle it was a morale-builder for the untrained colonists. The mistake in the name of the hill used in the battle was due to a British Lieutenant Page that reversed the names of the two hills on the battle map.
The cornerstone for the monument was laid in 1825 by Revolutionary war hero the Marquis De Lafayette, and the structure was completed in 1842. Climb up the 294 steps to the top if you can. There a museum on the battle across from the monument at the corner of Monument Square and Monument Avenue.
Going on passed the Old State House, turn left on Congress Street and on to Faneuil Hall, just a short walk up and across the street. Faneuil Hall was built by Peter Faneuil in 1742, as a center for commerce in Boston. It featured stalls on the first floor for merchants to sell their wares, however it was the second floor meeting hall that gave this building the title “the cradle of American liberty.” In 1764, the first meetings to protest the British Stamp and Sugar Taxes were held there. It was in Faneuil Hall where the first cries of, “no taxation without representation,” were given. Other protests to the Townshend Act and Redcoat occupation followed, and from there the Boston Tea Party was planned, not todays political group, but the one that threw the tea into the harbor. A statue of Samuel Adams stands in front of the building, and rightfully so. It was here that Sam Adams did his best work in dominating the meetings and directing the cause for independence. And it was also here that he staged the funeral for the victims of the Boston Massacre.
The golden grasshopper weathervane on the building was used as a call sign to tell if a person was a British spy or not during the War of 1812. Anyone who could not answer, “What is on top of Faneuil Hall,” was a suspect. The current building was constructed in 1805 and is still a center for small shops and restaurants.
The Paul Revere House
After leaving Faneuil Hall walk over to North Street, that’s just north of the building. Take North Street across I-93 into Boston’s North End. At the “Y” where Garden Court come in you’ll find on the left the Paul Revere House. Revere bought this house in 1770, and he was living there on April 18, 1775, when he made his famous ride to warn Lexington and Concord of the advancing Red Coats; Which was immortalized by Longfellow’s poem.
Built in 1680, this wooden structure is the oldest building in Boston.
The Old North Church
Leaving the Paul Revere House continue up Garden Court to Prince Street and turn left. Take Prince to Salem Street and then go right on Salem. As you make your way up Salem you’ll see the steeple of the Old North Church up ahead. The Old North Church is the oldest standing church building in Boston, having been founded in 1723. It also has the tallest steeple in the city at 191 feet. It was from this steeple on the night of April 18, 1775, that church sexton Robert Newman and Captain Pulling climbed the eight stories to hang two lanterns.
Although the lanterns were there for just a few minutes, it was enough to let Paul Revere and William Dawes know by which route the Red Coats were taking to Lexington and Concord. Knowing this they made the famous ride to warn the Minute Men.
There is a park behind the church that has a statue that depicts Revere on his fateful ride. also inside the church is a bust of George Washington that is the closest to how he really looked. You are also able to climb to the top of the steeple as Newman and Pulling did.
The Old State House
After you leave the Old South Meeting House backtrack down Washington Street, past the Old Books Store, on to State Street. Turn right and you’ll see the grand Old State House. This beautiful building, at nearly 300 years old, is the oldest public building left standing in the original 13 colonies. Here was the official seat of the Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Colony. This is also where the elected representative from the colony met to debate the actions of the Crown. On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read from its balcony. In attendance was Abigail Adams, who wrote to her husband, “Great attention was given to every word…As soon as the reading ended three cheers rended the air.” Today the building has a museum of Revolution artifacts.
Boston Massacre site marker
In front of the State House is the marker to the site of the “Boston Massacre.” In 1770 tensions were high between Bostonians and the Redcoats as new taxes were imposed. Often angry confrontations would take place. On March 5th a British sentry left his post and struck Edward Garrick with the butt of his musket. The sentry was soon surrounded by a mob that threw snowballs and rocks at him. Captain Preston arrived with eight soldiers to help. As they forced their way through the crowd, that had grown to several hundred, they were also attacked with rocks and clubs. Shots rang out and five men lay dead. Samuel Adams, one of the more vocal patriots, began a vigorous propaganda campaign making the event worse than it actually was. The Redcoats defense attorney was John Adams, co-author and signer of the Declaration of Independence, first Vice President and the second President of the United States. He gained an acquittal for all but two of the soldiers. At one time this marker was in the middle of the street. They have since extended the paver sidewalk out to reduce another Boston massacre from cars running down tourists.
King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
One block east and across the street from the Granary Burying Ground is King’s Chapel and Burying Ground. Founded in 1686, King’s Chapel was constructed on the city’s burial ground. They could only build there because, being the Church of England, no one would sell a non-Puritan church land. So, here is food for thought- the Puritans fled England because of religious persecution, and then they persecuted other religions here!
When the congregation out grew the small wooden church they build one of stone in 1749. The stone church was constructed around the old wood one, and after it was finished they disassembled the old one, throwing it piece by piece out the windows.
Legend has it that those condemned to be hanged on Boston Common said their last prayers in the 13th pew of this church, now that’s really unlucky!
King’s Chapel Burying Ground is as old as Boston itself. The burying ground is the final resting place for John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Colony and Mary Chilton, the first women to step off the Mayflower at Plymouth. There is a plaque on the fence of the burying ground that states that William Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere on that fateful night in 1775, is buried there. However new research shows that he buried in Forest Hills Cemetery.
Behind King’s Chapel Church on School Street you’ll find a mosaic and a statue of Ben Franklin. These mark the site of America’s oldest public school, the Boston Latin School. Alumnus from this
school were four signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine and Ben Franklin. However Dr. Franklin dropped out of school here. So does that mean Ben Franklin was Americas first dropout? The Boston Latin School still holds classes in Fenway.
Just down the street at the corner of School and Washington Street is the site of the Old Corner Books Store. Besides selling books in 1828, they also published books. From their presses came novels by Longfellow, Beecher, Dickens, Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, to name but a few. In its heyday those great writers would visit the shop. Because of this the site was called “Parnassus Corner,” after the home of the Greek Muses. The site was restored in 1960, and is currently a Chipotle and bagel shop.
Now, turn right and not far off you’ll see what looks like a church. This is the Old South Meeting House. This 1729 Puritan meeting house was the stage for many of the events leading to the American Revolution. One being the debate on the tax of tea, that led to the Boston Tea Party.
Also a member of this meeting house was Phillis Wheatley, a freed slave who became the first African-American to have a book published in 1773. A rare original edition of her book is on display there.
I love history, and one of our countries most historical cities is Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution. One of the “must do” things while in Boston is to walk the Freedom Trail. There are many ways to take the trail. You can use a costumed guide, you can go on your own, or you come along with me and take a virtual photo tour.
The Freedom trail is a red brick line that weaves about two and a half miles through Boston, connecting sixteen historical sites. Our starting place is Boston Common.
Boston Common, established in 1634 as “common land” for the residents of the city to be used for farming and grazing. Later it was a parade ground for military training and assembly. Over 1,000 Redcoats camped on the Common during their occupation of the city, and it was from there that the three brigades of Redcoats left from for Lexington and Concord.
Today Boston Common is a large and beautiful park that offers picnicking, boat rides and gardens to stroll through.
Going north from Boston Common on Tremont Street is the Granary Burying Ground. This small cemetery is the final resting place of some of our most famous founding fathers and revolutionary heroes. At one time this property was part of the Common. In 1660 it became a burying ground for Boston.
The Granary got its name by a building that stood next to the burying ground that stored bushels of grain. Although this graveyard has over 2,400 markers it is believed that over 6,000 are buried there.
The large marker you see as you enter is that of the Franklin family. No, Ben is not buried here (he’s buried in Philadelphia), but his parents are.
Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock’s graves are there. Along with Adams and Hancock fellow Declaration of Independence signer Robert Treat Paine is also buried here. A plaque marking his tomb is on the right hand wall. He makes three signers of the Declaration of Independence buried at the Granary.
Also the five colonists killed at the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770, are buried together here. Their grave is in the family plot of Samuel Adams.
Near the back of the cemetery to the right of the Franklin plot is an interesting grave. It is the grave of Mary Goose, rumored to be the real “Mother Goose.”
When this graveyard was still connected to the Common livestock would graze among the headstones; this was natural landscaping care. After buildings separated the graveyard from the rest of the Common it was necessary to use mowers to keep the grass down. So some of the headstones had to be repositioned to make room.