Boston's Historical Freedom Trail
LEA ANN FESSENDEN
Boston, or Beantown as many call it, is filled with historical treasures to explore depending on your time and energy. No visit to Boston is complete without a trip down the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail where you will get a wonderful first-hand look at many of the "firsts" of our country. Comfortable walking shoes and your camera are important to get the most out of this energetic city.
The Freedom Trail is easy to follow as the city has painted a thick red line along the street! You can take a self-guided tour or take the trolley tour which allows you to disembark occasionally at certain stopping points. Depending on your available time, this excellent tour could take an entire day if you want to stop and savor the sights. Guided tours, with guides dressed in colonial costumes, can be obtained through the Boston Common Visitors Center or the Bostix Booth at Faneuil Hall. I just grabbed a map and did it on my own and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
The Freedom Trail starts at the 50 acre park known as Boston Common. Boston Common is the oldest park in the United States and is the anchor for what is known as the Emerald Necklace, a system of parks that connect and wind through many wonderful neighborhoods. The "Common" served as the spot for public hangings until 1817 and many notable historic figures have given speeches here such as Pope John Paul II, Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King Jr.
From the "Common," head up to Beacon Hill, Beacon Street at Park Street, for a look at the Massachusetts State House, which was built in 1798. The dome of the State House was originally made from wood shingles but now is covered in copper and 23 karat gold. On top of the impressive dome is a wooden pinecone which symbolizes the logging which took place in Boston during the 18th century. Admission to the State House is free and the building is open Mon. : Thurs. from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Next stop on the tour is the Park Street Church, at Park and Tremont Streets, which was originally where grain was stored prior to the Revolution. The church is located at Brimstone Corner and features a 217 foot steeple. Our country's first Sunday school was located in this church in 1818 and it was also the sight of the first time "My Country â€˜Tis of Thee" was sung. Admission to the church is free and is open Tues. : Sat., 9:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. during summer months.
Don't miss the Granary Burying Ground, next to the Park Street Church. This cemetery was founded in 1660 and you can find the graves of three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. At the corner of Tremont and School Streets you'll find the King's Chapel Burying Ground which is the resting place for many colonists including Mary Chilton, the first woman to disembark from the Mayflower.
Check out the country's first public school on School St. (of course). Puritan settlers started the school in 1635 in a home but later moved it to the location on School Street. Benjamin Franklin (who's statue overlooks the site), Sam Adams and John Hancock all attended school here.
At the corner of Milk and Washington Streets is the location of the Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party began in 1773 and changed the history of America. A museum is now located there and reenactments of the Tea Party debates can be seen.
Faneuil Hall is a bit touristy but it was one of my favorite stops on my tour of Boston. There are over 50 vendors located in this building serving just about every cuisine imaginable. Best bet is the chowder filled bowl of bread, yum! This is also a fun place to pick up some souvenirs.
At this point, if you have energy left, complete the trail by stopping by Paul Revere's home which is the oldest building in downtown Boston, Old North Church, Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) and the Charlestown Navy Yard and finally the 221 foot Bunker Hill Monument which represents the first battle of the American Revolution.