Walk the Boston Freedom Trail

The Boston Freedom Trail winds for 2.5 miles through downtown, the North End, and into Charlestown. In theory - and this is extremely flexible, depending on your interests and habits - it's probably a 4-hour excursion to cover the whole trail....but that can be compressed or expanded as you like. You can do it all in one day or visit individual sites over a span of years!

The best place to start is at the Boston National Historic Park's Visitor Center, open daily from 9 am to 5 pm at 15 State Street, right across from the Old State House. Besides amenities like exhibits, a bookstore, and restrooms, the Center offers free maps, brochures, and directions for all of the Trail's locations. This is also the place to join a free 90-minute guided walk along the Freedom Trail.

Once you've got a map, you're ready to go. Here's a short survey of the places you can visit along the way. Contact the Visitor Center for the latest information on hours and/or admission fees for individual sites.

The Boston Common
America's oldest public park, the Common is 50 acres of open space that was originally used both for pasturing the cows of the early colonists and for the training of the local militia. The information booth marking the beginning of the Freedom Trail is located on the Tremont Street side of the Common, and the Trail then leads north up towards Beacon Hill and the New State House.

The New State House
Only in Boston would a structure built in 1795 still be referred to as the "New" anything! Designed by Charles Bulfinch and topped with its distinctive gold-leaf dome, this is still the headquarters of state government, and a walk through its classic hallways will reveal the faces of many politicians seen on the nightly news: your representatives.

Across the street is the Robert Gould Shaw monument commemorating the all-black 54th Regiment that fought in the Civil War. This is also the beginning of the Black Heritage Trail.

Park Street Church
This edifice is a relative newcomer, built in 1809! The church played a significant role in another, later struggle as well: noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gave his first anti-slavery speech here.

Granary Burying Ground
Follow the trail down Tremont St. to the Granary Burial Ground, final resting place of such Revolutionary-era patriots as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Peter Faneuil, and John Hancock, as well as the victims of the Boston Massacre.

King's Chapel
In colonial days the Church of England established itself in Boston, and it built this chapel on Tremont Street in 1754. King George III himself presented it with gifts of silver and vestments. A visit inside reveals the original box pews, some of which have remained in the same families for many generations. Next door is the King's Chapel Burying Ground. And behind the Chapel is a sidewalk plaque marking the site of the country's first public school, Boston Latin School, founded in 1635.

The Old Corner Bookstore Building
This brick building, at the corner of School and Washington Streets, was built in 1718 by Thomas Crease to be both his home andapothecary shop and residence. Ticknor and Fields Publishing House, patrons to the likes of Longfellow, Dickens, and Thoreau, operated here from 1832 to 1865, giving the building its current name. It was bought and restored to its mid-1800s appearance in 1960.

Old South Meeting House
Just a block away on Washington Street is an impressive brick church built in 1729. For years it was the largest gathering place in Boston, and in 1773 it hosted a public meeting to discuss the King's new tax on tea. Some of the hotter heads at the meeting left in a band for the waterfront, where they boarded the ship "Beaver" and cast her cargo overboard: the Boston Tea Party.

In 1870 the church congregation moved to new quarters, and the building was taken over by the Old South Association, which still maintains it "to continue its association with the exercise of free speech."

The Old State House
Built in 1713, this building, the seat of the British government in the colony, was built in 1713. The Boston Massacre occurred in front of the building, and later John Hancock read the Declaration of Independence to the public from its balcony overlooking the street. After the Revolution it became the home of the new Massachusetts state government. Today it is a museum.

Boston Massacre
A ring of cobblestones set into the pavement of a traffic island in front of the Old State House marks where British soldiers and a crowd of colonists clashed, leading to the deaths of 5 Bostonians. This incident was used as a spark to ignite the flames of revolution against the crown.

Faneuil Hall
This hall and neighboring Quincy Market are reminders of the days when most of Boston's commercial activity took place in marketplaces. Faneuil Hall's upper story, however, is a meeting room that became known as the "Cradle of Liberty," the place where the most inflammatory speeches stirred the masses to rebel against the Crown.

Paul Revere House
You've all heard of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, no doubt. Revere was a silversmith andmetalworker who bought this North End house, at the time already 90 years old, in 1770. He lived here with his family for 10 years; when he sold it in 1800 the house became a tenement and commercial storefront before being purchased for preservation's sake by Revere's great-grandson in 1902. Built in 1680, it's the oldest surviving building in downtown Boston.

The Old North Church
And if you recall Paul Revere, you'll remember that his signal was to be "...One if by land, and two if by sea....," lanterns that shone from the steeple of this 1723 house of worship to warn that the British troops were crossing the harbor to march on Concord. For many years its steeple was Boston's most prominent landmark.

Copp's Hill Burying Ground
Not far away, on Hull St., is the Copp's Hill Burying Ground, an antique cemetery where rest generations of old North Enders. British forces emplaced cannons here to target Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Charlestown Navy Yard and "Old Ironsides"
Although the Navy Yard officially closed in 1974, the Navy never completely left; its most famous ship, the 208-year-old frigate "U.S.S. Constitution," is berthed at this National Park site. There're also a World War II destroyer, the "U.S.S. Cassin Young," a historic drydock built in 1834, and remarkable buildings like the Commandant's House. The Constitution Museum is also located here.

Bunker Hill Monument
It's not far (but it is uphill) from "Old Ironsides" to ahard-to-miss landmark, the stone obelisk that marks the famous Revolutionary battlefield where the Minutemen rallied to the cry "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" The lodge at the monument's base houses dioramas and exhibits explaining what happened that fateful day, and those strong of wind can brave the 294 steps to the top of the monument for a spectacular view of today's Boston.

Article provided by Homesteader

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