From my past posts, I’m sure you can tell that I love history. I grew up in Boston with history surrounding me. There was something special about learning things in history class and being able to connect it to the actual historic sites that I’ve seen in person. Not being able to travel due to covid-19, I’ve been spending more time being a tourist at home so last weekend to celebrate the 4th of July, I put on my headphones and took an audio tour of the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long trail starting in the Boston Common and ending in Bunker Hill. This famous trail is marked by a red line on the ground and passes 16 historical sites in downtown Boston.
In 1951, local journalist William Schofield suggested building a pedestrian trail to connect all of the local landmarks in the city. It is now one of the most popular things to do when visiting Boston.
Whether you take an organized tour, an audio tour or just walk it on your own, there is so much to learn along the Freedom Trail.
- The tour starts in the Boston Common. Founded in 1634, this is the oldest public park in the United States, it is also the location of Park Street T Station, built in 1897, this is the first subway station in the United States.
The Boston Common is a beautiful park , lots of green space, statues and fountains. It is also home to Frog Pond, which in the winter months is the most popular skating rink in Boston and in the summer months turns into a wading pool for young children.
2. Massachusetts State House
The State House was built in 1798 and is one of the oldest continually running state capitol buildings in the United States.
This building was designed by Architect, Charles Bulfinch, claimed to be the first American born architect. He is also one of the architects who helped design the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.
The bar that inspired the hit tv show Cheers was named the Bull and Finch after this famous local architect.
3. Park Street Church – Built in 1809, this church was the site where William Lloyd Garrison made his first anti-slavery speech in 1829.
4. Granary Burying Ground
In this cemetery are buried three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Paul Revere and Mother Goose are also buried here as are Benjamin Franklin’s parents and siblings.
Across the street from the cemetery is the Beantown Pub which you can sit and drink a Sam Adams beer while looking out the window at Sam Adams grave, interesting way to take a break from touring the Freedom Trail.
5. Kings Chapel and Burying Ground
This church was built on the burying ground in 1688.
The bell on top of the church is said to be one of the last that Paul Revere cast and he himself is quoted as saying it was the “sweetest bell I ever made”.
By this point in the tour, I began to think to myself, should they have named it the “Paul Revere Trail”. So much about him so far and so much to still come. He definitely was an important figure in Boston.
6. First Public School Site
Boston Latin School opened in 1635 and is the oldest school still in operation today. One of the many famous students of this school is Benjamin Franklin. On the original site of this school you will find his statue.
From 1865 -1969, Boston’s City Hall was at this site. While the building seems small it’s a much more attractive building than our current City Hall, which in my opinion (and many others) is one of the ugliest buildings ever.
7. Old Corner Bookstore
I like to think of this stop on the tour of the sad way we don’t preserve history.
This building was built in 1712 and is the oldest commercial building in Boston.
On the second floor famous publishers Ticknor and Fields published books by such famous authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
So much historic works published here and now it is home to a Chipotle 🤦♀️
8. Old South Meeting House
This meeting house is famous for being the location that the Sons of Liberty departed from before they threw over a million dollars worth of tea in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.
The clocktower is the oldest in Boston, built in 1729 and of course Paul Revere cast the bell in this tower as well.
9. The Old State House
On the balcony of the Old State House, the Declaration of Independence was read on July 18th 1776.
Each year on the 4th of July the Declaration of Independence is read from the balcony of this building. One of these years I definitely need to go check this out. I’ve had friends that have gone and they really enjoyed it. It would be a great way to kick off the holiday in Boston.
10. Boston Massacre Site
Just in front of the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre. On this site on March 5, 1770, 5 victims were killed during an incident between angry Bostonians and British Soldiers. In the middle of a the monument is a five pointed start to signify the 5 deaths.
11. Faneuil Hall
One of my favorite locations in Boston is Faneuil Hall. It’s a great place to take a little break from the tour, grab a bite to eat, do some shopping and check out the street performers. There’s so much to see and do in this area, I will definitely need to do a future blog post just on this area.
This location is famous for the meetings and protests that took place here and led to the American Revolution.
12. Paul Revere’s House
After grabbing a bite to eat and conquering my fears of covid-19 by using a public restroom, I made the walk over the North End of Boston to the next stop.
Paul Revere who we’ve heard alot about along the trail is famous for his midnight ride to Lexington and Concord to warn the troops that “The British Are Coming”
His house in North Square was built in 1680 and is the oldest structure in Boston.
I highly recommend taking a tour of the house.
13. Old North Church
This is one of my favorite views in Boston: the Paul Revere (of course here he is again!) statue in front of the Old North Church.
This is where Paul Revere’s midnight ride started on April 18, 1775 to signal the start of the American Revolution.
In the steeple of this church they would hang lanterns to warn those across the Charles River in Charlestown of the movement of the British Troops. This is where we got the phrase, “one if by land, two if by sea”
14. Coop’s Hill Burial Ground
Established in 1659, this is the second oldest burial ground in Boston.
Named after a local shoemaker, this burial ground was for the merchant class in Boston.
It’s located on top of a steep hill with views of the harbor below. Definitely stop for a moment after climbing that hill especially since the next stop is a bit of a walk away.
15. U.S.S. Constitution
We are now at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Docked here is the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy. It’s also known as Old Ironsides due to the fact that it never lost a battle during the War of 1812. Make sure to go on board the ship and check it out. This beautiful ship can be seen sailing the harbor at least annually as it needs to be turned around so that both sides of the hull are weathered evenly. This normally happens each year on the 4th of July and it’s definitely a beautiful site to see this ship sailing in the harbor.
16. Bunker Hill Monument
We are now at the end of the tour in the Bunker Hill neighborhood in Charlestown. On June 17, 1775 one of the most important battles of the American Revolution took place. Although this battle was won by the British, it showed that the Colonist could stand up to the British as they killed 200 and injured 800 British troops that day.
The 294 steps to the top are worth it once you see the beautiful views of the city below. The monument was of course closed due to covid when I was there so the photo of the view of the city is from about 11 years ago when I visited it last.
That concludes the Freedom Trail. I hope you enjoyed the 2.5 mile virtual tour I just gave. Definitely leave a full day if you want to fully experience it on your next trip to Boston.
Stay healthy and get out and explore your local area!