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Boston Freedom Trail: History & Sites

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we discover the Boston Freedom Trail, a historical walking tour that one can explore for hours or even days, learning American Revolution history along the way.

The Freedom Trail

Freedom. Chances are you hear the term every day. Its meaning can be twisted and turned, used and changed depending on the context and its use. But to our American forefathers, the term meant one thing: shirking the shackles of British rule and becoming an independent country.

Many of the events, before the American Revolution and during the war itself, took place in and around Boston. Fortunately, the City of Boston has preserved many of these sites. Linking these sites with other historically important sites in the city, the City of Boston and The Freedom Trail Foundation created the historical walking tour named the Freedom Trail.

  • Boston Common

The first stop on the Freedom Trail, the Boston Common was founded in 1634. Aside from being the country's oldest park, the Common was also home to several important events during the Revolutionary era. British forces encamped on its grounds en route to the Revolutionary War's first battle at Lexington & Concord. The area has also been a common spot for oratory and speeches for nearly 400 years.

  • Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House is where the Massachusetts State Legislature sits and was built with the help of some famous American patriots. Its very location, for instance, sits atop what was once John Hancock's pasture. Its golden dome was once copper, and that copper was laid by Paul Revere. The building was built in 1798.

Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House

  • Park Street Church

Located at the corner of Park and Tremont streets in downtown Boston, the Park Street Church was founded in 1809. Its large steeple stands at 217 feet tall, and it was designed with the spire at St. Bride's Church in London in mind. William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist, delivered his first anti-slavery speech on its steps in 1829.

  • Granary Burial Ground

Once part of Boston Common, the Granary Burial Ground is no longer in use. However, an estimated 5,000 Bostonians are believed to have been buried at the Ground during the colonial era. John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere all call the Granary Burial Ground their final resting place, and the Ground's first burial dates to 1660.

  • King's Chapel

An impressive building of granite and wood, the original King's Chapel was a small wooden structure meant to serve the Anglican community in Boston. The granite and stone façade we see today was built around the wooden structure in 1749. The original chapel was built upon an old burial ground in 1688 after the largely Puritan settlers of 17th-century Boston refused to sell the Anglican Church any land.

King

  • King's Chapel Burying Ground

Located next to the aforementioned King's Chapel, the historic burial ground is one of the oldest in the city and is the final resting place of some of Boston's first residents. In fact, the first woman off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock, Mary Chilton, and Massachusetts first governor, John Winthrop, are both buried here.

  • Boston Latin School

The school is the country's first public school, and a famous statue of Benjamin Franklin stands at the schoolhouse's original location - despite Franklin having dropped out of the school before finishing! Four other signers of the Declaration of Independence also attended the school, which was free to all male children in Boston: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper.

  • Old Corner Bookstore

The Old Corner Bookstore was built in 1718 but did not gain its name until the mid-1800s, when it became the veritable headquarters of publishing in the American northeast. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other scions of American literature all visited and published books in the building.

  • Old South Meeting House

The Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston and primarily an area for prayer and public meetings. As such, many of the important events in colonial Boston occurred or coincided with community meetings here, including the Boston Tea Party, where Samuel Adam's apparently signaled secretly to the Sons of Liberty to dump the tea into Boston Harbor.

  • Old State House

First built in 1713, the Old State House was built to house the colonial government, and as such, several important scenes of the revolutionary era occurred around and within the building. For example, the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public from the Old State House's balcony.

  • Site of Boston Massacre

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