During a stay in Boston is a must a city tour following the path of the Freedom Trail. I have chosen, of course, to visit many of these, including buildings, museums, cemeteries and churches. Today, then, with this post, I want to tell you about nine symbolic places in Boston that help trace the history of American Independence.
Boston Tea Party & Museum
This museum traces the history of the tea revolt: the Boston Tea Party represented an act of protest by American settlers against the continued raising of taxes by the British government and took place on December 16, 1773, in the port of Boston.
Before talking about the museum, let’s take a look at the history of this act of revolt. In 1773, the British Parliament issued the Tea Act. This act authorized the British East India Company to sell tea directly from the waters of the Indian Ocean in its American colonies, without any local intermediary. Purpose? There were two: to sell the enormous quantities of tea stored in London more quickly (and at lower costs) and, secondly, to fight the problem of tea smuggling in the colonies. What happened that day? The rebels asked not to unload the tea, but the governor of the state closed the port and ordered to carry out the unloading operations as usual. During the night, members of the Sons of Liberty attacked one of the ships, throwing all 342 cases of tea into the sea and ruining the entire load. Forty-five tons of tea were said to float at the end of the day, worth $ 10,000 at the time, and that the “infusion” remained in Boston waters for weeks. The visitor can only take part in tours led by costumed actors: they will guide you through the events of that December 1773. Visitors are involved in the show in various ways (including also “impersonating” some more or less essential characters of the revolt). The group of visitors, generally huge, is first brought to visit one of the two ships docked at the pier, which, unfortunately, are two reconstructions. The tour continues to the museum: here there are documents, original objects and there are also videos and interactive installations.
It is certainly not an economic museum, but if you are in doubt think that you will see a real acted show (with real actors, videos and other experiences offered by the museum that positively affect this aspect). They are 75 minutes that amusingly tell a part of American history, trying to involve the public as much as possible (large and small, obviously).
Duration of the visit: 75 minutes;
Ticket: $ 29.95 per person;
First tour: 10:00 am
Old State House
The Old State House, located at the intersection of Washington Street and State Street, was built in 1713 and was the seat of the Massachusetts Legislative Assembly until 1798.
It is the oldest public building in the city that still exists. Throughout the 1700s, then, the building was the seat of the merchant “exchange” (first floor) and the colonial and state government (on the second floor). The royal governor, appointed by the king of Great Britain, remained in office in the building until 1775. In another room was the colony’s supreme court. In 1761 James Otis opposed the Writ of Assistance before the court, claiming that the writings violated the constitutional freedoms of the British. Although he lost the case, he left a lasting impression on a young lawyer named John Adams who participated in the proceeding. Samuel Adams and James Otis were two of the most famous members and advocating measures that created more and more friction with the royal governor and his supporters. In 1768, the English Monarchy sent the “Massachusetts Circular Letter” to all British colonies. London supported the unconstitutionality of the Townsend Acts and the reaction across the Atlantic. This fact caused a dramatic closure of the legislature for the rest of the year.
I admit that I did not enter, but that I began it as a “visit from outside” as part of a long walk through the city.
Ticket: $ 12 ($ 10 for seniors and students; free for children under 18);
Opening hours: every day from 9:00 to 17:00;
Site of the Boston Massacre
A circle of pebbles under the balcony of the Old State House marks the location of the Boston Massacre,
which took place in 1770. The “fight” began when local boys provoked a British sentry: the sentry hit one of the boys, and the situation precipitated rapidly. A crowd of workers, sailors and other people belonging to the “lower classes” joined the confrontation: some arrived armed, others simply remained spectators. A group of soldiers came to save the sentry, but the crowd surrounded them. In the chaos of the situation, the ordinary people hit a soldier: then, several people lost their lives in that chaos. On the right sidewalk looking at the Old State House, there is a plaque that explains the dynamics of what happened.
King’s Chapel & Burying Ground
The King’s Chapel Burying Ground is a historic cemetery in Boston, located next to the King’s Chapel on Tremont Street near the intersection with School Street.
It is the oldest cemetery in Boston, and there are several prominent figures of American Independence buried there. Among her “guests” there are numerous essential characters: among them, we find John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to leave the Mayflower. The early grave in the cemetery was that of Isaac Johnson, the original owner of the land. Joseph Tapping’s tomb, located at the front of the ground, is called Boston’s most beautiful tombstone. The King’s Chapel, however, was founded in 1686 and is the first Anglican church in New England. The architect Peter Harrison designed the stone structure: it was completed in 1754 and built around the original wooden structure. The interior is considered the best example of Georgian architecture in North America. The church houses the oldest American pulpit still in use. The name of the church changed in “Stone Chapel” when, during the American Revolution, loyalist members of the King’s Chapel fled to Canada. Among the most famous American personalities who visited the chapel are George Washington, Abigail Adams and Paul Revere. I stopped here for the cemetery, so the stop at the church was a must. This cemetery is not a monumental one, so most of the tombstones are “simple”, but we are talking about a place with a symbolic value.
Granary Burying Ground
Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the third oldest cemetery in the city of Boston.
Located on Tremont Street, many of the patriots of the American revolution were buried here: among them, we find Paul Revere, the five victims of the Boston massacre and the three signatories of the Declaration of Independence Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. The cemetery has 2,345 tombstones, but probably there are around 5,000 people buried there. The cemetery is adjacent to Park Street Church, the Egyptian door and fence were designed by architect Isaiah Rogers (1800-1869), who developed an identical entry for Newport’s Touro Cemetery. We are always talking about a non-monumental cemetery, with tremendous symbolic value for the city and its history (of Boston and the United States).
Park Street Church
Park Street Church was built in 1809, although in reality, its foundation dates back to 1804 when the “Society for Religious Improvement” began weekly meetings with lessons and prayer.
The foundation stone of the church was laid on May 1, 1809, and construction was completed that year, under the guidance of Peter Banner (architect), Benajah Young (chief mason) and Solomon Willard (carver). The architecture is very reminiscent of Christopher Wren’s London churches. The church steeple is 66m (217ft) high and represents a landmark that can be seen from different quarters of the city. The church was the tallest building in the United States from 1810 to 1828. The church became known as the “Brimstone Corner” for two facts: the intense missionary character of its preaching, and because of the deposition of gunpowder during the war of 1812. The church also has its official website, where you can find a lot of information. To visit it you go up a floor of stairs, which I did not expect looking at it from the outside! The interior is straightforward and stripped of frescoes, tinsel and more (which I plan to find every time I visit a place of worship).
Charlestown Navy Yard
Let’s start with its name: today it is Boston Navy Yard, but in the past, it was the Charlestown Navy Yard. It is one of the oldest US shipyards serving the US Navy. Here began the first shipbuilding activities of
Massachusetts, during the US Independence War. The land was purchased in 1800, and in 1801 the yard’s activity (then called Charlestown Navy Yard) officially began: the first vessel, Independence, was completed in 1814. Repairs were the main activity of the yard, then changing to end of the nineteenth century: steel ships for the United States Navy began to be built here (at that time it took the name of the Boston Navy Yard). At the beginning of the twentieth century, a second dry dock was added and recorded the maximum production activity during the Second World War. Closed on July 1, 1974, it became a property of the National Park Service which in turn gave it to the Boston National Historical Park (an association that deals with historical sites concerning the American wars of Independence). Here are the USS Constitution, its museum and the USS Cassin Young: let’s see them in detail one by one.
We are talking about a heavy three-masted frigate named after the Constitution of the United States of America. Also called “Old Ironsides”, it is the oldest ship in the world still floating (the HMS Victory is thirty years earlier, but has been permanently pulled ashore).
Launched on October 21, 1797, it entered service on July 22, 1798. Its first service was patrolling the southeastern coasts of the United States during the undeclared war with France of 1798-1800. Among the various services (“extra-war”) that the ship rendered to the United States, there was having served as a training ship and having transported goods for the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1877. It was withdrawn from service in 1882 and returned to Boston to celebrate its centennial in 1897. On July 21, 1997, he returned to the sea for the first time in a century to celebrate his bicentenary: towed from his mooring to Marblehead, where he raised six sails and moved without assistance for one hour. On March 14, 1975, it was moved to the old shipyard to be open to the public for visits: it was, therefore, the last ship to leave the dry docks of the plant. When I visited it, unfortunately, there was some maintenance work, and I was not able to enjoy the visit as I would have liked. However, the tour is undoubtedly fascinating. At the entrance you must show your ID, a stamp will be placed on the back of your hand and immediately after you will pass a check similar to the airport ones.
USS Constitution Museum
The USS Constitution Museum is always located within the same shipyard, in a very short distance from the
frigate. The museum is housed in a restored shipyard on pier 2. Through interactive collections and exhibitions, it tells the story of the Constitution and the people who designed, built and made it sail. Besides, the museum also includes the Samuel Eliot Morison Memorial Library and consists of a complete archive of documents relating to the history of the ship. At the entrance, you must leave a donation of 10 or 15 dollars, at the discretion of the individual visitor.
USS Cassin Young
The USS Cassin Young was a Fletcher-class destroyer, named after Captain Cassin Young, who received the medal of honour for his heroism in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and who was killed in the naval
battle of Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942. The ship was decommissioned after serving during the Second World War, then returning to active service during the Korean War and until 1960. It arrived at the Boston Navy Yard on June 15, 1978, and was opened to the public in 1981. Monument national since 1985, has been included in the national register of historic places. Compared to the Constitution, this visually is “more a military ship”, especially for those like me who are not “experts” on this type of ship (yes, I have to admit it: they often seem to me not to say the same, but at least all similar). The three visits are fascinating, even for those who are not very knowledgeable on the subject.
Bunker Hill monument
The Bunker Hill monument was erected to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, fought there on June
17, 1775, and which was one of the first major battles between the British forces and those of the American patriots. The granite obelisk is 67 meters high and was erected between 1825 and 1843.
The monument is located on Breed’s Hill (where most of the battle fights that the monument wants to commemorate took place). At the end of the 19th century, the adjacent building was built and was placed the statue of Dr Joseph Warren, a hero who fell in battle. Across the street is the Bunker Hill Museum, where numerous finds from the campaign are exhibited. Admission is free for both the museum and the monument.
Paul Revere House
Paul Revere’s house was built around 1680 and was the home of the American patriot Paul Revere during the period of the American revolution.
National Historic Landmark since 1961, it is located in the North End area and is managed by the Paul Revere Memorial Association. Given the year of construction, it is the oldest house in the centre of Boston. Its first owner was Robert Howard, a wealthy slave trader. Paul Revere owned and lived in this house from 1770 to 1800 (although it appears that he and his family lived in other places in various periods between 1780 and 1790). In December 2016, the Paul Revere Memorial Association opened a visitor and education centre. The exhibition spaces tell of Paul Revere and his work as a silversmith and industrialist after the American Revolution. For all further information, I refer you to the official website of the museum.
Where: 19 North Square;
Summer (April 15 – October 31 from 9:30 to 17:15);
Winter (November 1 – April 14) from 9:30 to 16:15;
Closed on Thanksgiving, on Christmas and the first day of the year;
In January, February and March it is closed on Mondays;
Ticket: 5$ (cash only)
Old North Church
It is the oldest church in Boston (1723) and is known as the Church of Christ.
It was designed by William Prince who wanted to emulate the architecture of one of the London churches built by Sir Christopher Wren. The building is located at 193 on Salem Street, a street in Boston that saw the dawn of the American Revolution. On the night of April 18, 1775, the sacristan of the church Robert Newman, to warn Paul Revere that British troops had now advanced beyond the banks of the Charles River towards Lexington, climbed to the top of the bell tower to light two lanterns as a warning signal. This fateful event marked the beginning of the American Revolution. The lamps were mainly used to warn the patriots of Charlestown across the Charles River about the movements of the British army, while Paul Revere and William Dawes would have sent the same message to Lexington. The Charlestown patriots also planned to deliver the warning message to Lexington and Concord in case Revere and Dawes were arrested on the way. A lantern was to inform Charlestown that the British army was marching on the Boston Neck and the Great Bridge. The second lantern was to warn that the troops were carrying ships across the Charles River to land near the Phips farm. After receiving the signal, the Charlestown Patriots sent a knight to Lexington, but them didn’t reach his destination, and his identity disappeared from history, probably captured by a British patrol. The warning came miles away, thanks to Revere and Dawes on horseback, and then also thanks to other men who helped to spread the message. To date, we don’t know exactly what happened to the lanterns: it seems that one belongs to a private collector, while the other is on display at the Museum of Concord. For more information about the church, I refer you to the official website.
Copps Hill Burying Ground
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is a historic Boston cemetery located in the North End area. Established in 1659, originally called the “North Burying Ground”, it was the city’s second cemetery.
This cemetery, which takes its name from the shoemaker William Copp, “was born” as the last resting place and burial place for merchants, and craftsmen who lived in the North End. There are also numerous unmarked tombs of African Americans who lived in the community of “New Guinea” at the foot of the hill. In 1840 the cemetery had fallen into disuse, maintained intermittently, and in 1878 it was practically “abandoned”. Today it is part of the Freedom Trail, although it was not included immediately. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Among the tombs worth mentioning are:
• William Copp’s children
• Shem Drowne, coppersmith, author of the grasshopper’s weathervane at the top of Faneuil Hall
• Prince Hall, abolitionist and founder of black masonry
• Samuel Mather, independent minister
• Cotton Mather, Puritan minister
• Robert Newman, one of the two patriots who placed the signal lanterns in the bell tower of the Old North Church for Paul Revere’s midnight tour to Lexington and Concord
• John Norman, editor
• Major Samuel Shaw, the first American consul in Canton
• Nicholas Upsall, Puritan and later Quaker leader
• Phyllis Wheatley, first published African woman, poet, ex-slave
• George Worthylake, primary Boston Light custodian
The route is indeed very long, covering practically the whole city (it also includes the State House, “overlooking” the Boston Common). The ideal would be to divide it into several days, even and above all by choosing what interests you most (for example, I did not enter all the churches I mentioned in the post, but for some, I just went “from outside”).
It is undoubtedly a path full of history,
For all further information, I refer you to the Freedom Trail official website.