Events in Boston were a key part of the American Revolution and the Freedom Trail gives visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of history. Many of the founding fathers lived in this city and the 4-kilometre trail takes you along a red brick path to where they met to make plans, fought for freedom - and were finally laid to rest.
The trail begins where the British Forces camped as they occupied the city in 1775. This is the oldest city park in the United States, having been designated in 1634. Also within the park is the Central Burying Ground that contains the memorials of a number of notable Boston citizens, including Samuel Sprague who participated in the Boston Tea Party and fought in the Revolutionary War. The park was also the site for punishment, containing both a whipping post and a stock. Pirates, murderers, witches and Quakers were hanged there. Boston Common continues to be a major part of history and has been the setting for speeches by Charles Lindbergh, Martin Luther King Jr and Pope John Paul II when he gave mass to a crowd of thousands.
Massachusetts State House
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Built shortly after the revolution, on land that was once owned by John Hancock, the State House is the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The original dome was first covered with copper sheets by Paul Revere’s company, and later gilded in 23 carat gold. If you take a tour, look for the five-foot wooden carving of the sacred cod that hangs in the Representatives’ Chamber.
Park Street Church
The church dates back to 1809 when the first cornerstone was laid following five years of planning. The church has been led by a number of fiery ministers including Edward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. In line with the independent spirit of Boston, the controversial issues of prison reform and women’s suffrage were also supported by the congregation. The church has a history of social and humanitarian issues such as being the site of one of the first public statements against slavery and home to a mission to serve the poorer citizens of Boston.
Granary Burying Ground
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Also called the Old Granary Burial Ground, this is the third oldest cemetery in the city and is located on the site of a bushel grain storage building. There you’ll find the gravesites of some of the most famous revolutionaries in the city’s history: John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine – all signers of the Declaration of Independence – Paul Revere, and the five victims of the 1770 Boston Massacre. Although there are about 2,300 grave markers, historians estimate that there are more than 5,000 people interred here. Some burial sites were never marked, while others such as the Infant’s Tomb hold the remains of many.
The congregation was the first Anglican Church in New England, and the chapel was built on public burying ground because of the difficulties involved in starting a non-Calvinist church in the 1700s. This stone building was built around the original wooden church that was then disassembled and thrown out the windows. The pulpit, built in 1717 is one of the oldest in the US.
King’s Chapel Burying Ground
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The first cemetery in Boston, it was also the only one for 30 years. A number of historical Bostonian’s are buried here including the first governor of Massachusetts and William Dawes who alerted the Minutemen to the approach of the British Army.
Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
The Boston Latin School was established in 1635 and is the oldest existing school in the US - as well as the first public one. It was free to all boys and educated many of the city's elite. Latin is mandatory for all pupils even today and it is always among the highest ranked high schools in the US. Before the schoolhouse was completed, classes were held at the home of the first headmaster and the statue of one of his famous students, Benjamin Franklin, marks the site of the original building. Four of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence also attended classes here.
Old Corner Bookstore Building
In 1638, land owner Mary Hutchinson was expelled from Massachusetts for heresy. Her home burned down in 1711 and a new building was constructed that was both a residence and an apothecary shop, before being used as a bookstore. During the 19th century the building was home to one of the most important publishing firms in the US and the Corner Bookstore was the meeting place for authors such as Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickens and Holmes. The building currently houses a restaurant.
Old South Meeting House
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Organization for the Boston Tea Party happened in this building - the largest in the city at that time. After the Boston Massacre in 1770, yearly anniversary meetings were conducted there. In 1773 the talk turned to British taxation and more than 5,000 people listened to a debate on the subject. Following the meeting a group of angry Bostonians raided a tea ship to protest the unfair tax policies. In all, 342 crates of tea were dumped into the harbour in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. In 1775, partly in retaliation, the British occupied the building, gutted the interior, filled it with dirt and used it for horses.
Old State House
From 1713 to 1798 this was the seat of the Massachusetts General Court. Passionate speeches that ignited the flame of independence were given and the decision to stand up to the British was made here. The Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston from the balcony here. It is the oldest public building in Boston and is in use as a museum, guiding visitors through the American Revolution.
Boston Massacre Site
On March 5, 1770 British soldiers opened fire on colonists in the square in front of the Old State House. A mob had gathered and was taunting British soldiers to protect the property of the crown. Without orders the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five civilians and wounding six others. Two soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to branding. The event and propaganda surrounding it increased tension in the already on-edge city, swaying citizens to support the Sons of Liberty.
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A meeting hall since 1742, speeches at Faneuil Hall by Samuel Adams, James Otis and many others urged the citizens of Boston to support independence from British rule. Sometimes called “the Cradle of Liberty”, Americans protested the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act in the meeting rooms on its second floor. This set the stage for the doctrine that became "no taxation without representation" and Samuel Adams used his persuasive powers of speech to convince the public to join the Sons of Liberty. A statue of Adams stands in front of the building.
Paul Revere House
The home of Paul Revere is also the oldest house in downtown Boston. This is where Revere lived with his family when he was called to make that famous midnight ride that warned the Minutemen that the British troops were approaching. The house is maintained as a memorial and is open for self-guided tours.
Old North Church
"One if by land, two if by sea" is a phrase every American child knows, and the steeple of this church is where those famous lanterns were hung. In 1775 The Sons of Liberty discovered a plot by the British to seize rebel munitions in Lexington and Concord. They needed to find out how the British army would arrive in order to prepare to meet them. On April 18 of that year, Paul Revere met with the sexton who climbed the 58-metre tower to hang two lanterns. The height of the tower allowed the patriots in Charlestown to see the lanterns and prepare for an attack from the sea. Paul Revere and Williams Dawes rode overland to Lexington to deliver the message there. The battles of Lexington and Concord marked the start of the American Revolution.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Boston’s second cemetery was established in 1659 and contains more than 1,200 marked graves from the colonial era, along with unmarked burial plots of African Americans from the same time period. Among the notable gravesites is Robert Newman, the sexton who laboriously carried the lanterns up eight flights of the Old North Church and Edmund Hartt, owner of the shipyard that built the USS Constitution.
Bunker Hill Monument
The 67-metre granite obelisk was built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, which actually took place on Breed’s Hill where the monument stands. The colonial militia held the redoubt atop Breed’s Hill through three assaults of the British, running so low on ammunition that the famous order "Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes" was issued. The colonists eventually gave up, but the toll on the British was heavy – 1,000 casualties. Although this was technically a British victory, the assault strengthened the confidence of the colonists, convincing them that they could fight the British and win. The Bunker Hill Museum is across from the Monument.
Charlestown’s Navy Shipyard was one of the first in the country, meant to create a naval force equal to that of the British. This is where the USS Constitution, the most famous vessel in the US and the oldest warship of the US Navy is moored. The wooden hulled, three-masted heavy frigate was launched in 1797 and was one of six built at the time. She won 42 battles and was never captured by the enemy. In the war of 1812 she earned the nickname Old Ironsides as cannonballs fired at her bounced off the heavily constructed hull as if it were made of iron. She was retired from service in 1881 and designated a museum ship in 1907. Touring the ship is encouraged and the officers and crew are all active-duty US Navy personnel.