The Hub of the Universe – The Cradle of Liberty – The Athens of America – The Walking City – The Cradle of Modern America – The Home of the Red Sox – The Wet, Cold and Rainy City – Beantown……….Boston.
It goes by many names. It is many things. It has many people. And many more bricks. This post is about one of Boston’s most famous tourist attractions–the Freedom Trail. (Confession: this article actually only goes through about 2/3rds of the Trail. At that point in the day, I got waylaid by a bar. It happens.)
The Freedom Trail! Just saying it makes me feel more patriotic. Pull your socks up and get ready, cause you’re in for one hefty dose of America. The 2.5 mile walking trail leads to 16 historical sites around Boston, focusing on the American Revolution and its immediate historical context. I’m about to crack an egg of knowledge all over you.
The Trail begins at the Boston Common, 50 acres of land right in the heart of Boston. Now a beautiful part of the “Emerald Necklace” of parks, the Common dates from 1634; as you might expect, over the years its uses have evolved from a grazing area for cows to the recreational area it is today. As is typical for Boston, the geography can be somewhat confusing–asking many Bostonians how many sides the Common has, the answer usually given is 4. Unfortunately, there are 5 sides…so much for knowing your city!
Along one of these miscounted sides is the next stop on the trail, the State House. Personally, I’m a fan of the shiny gold dome–nothing says “stately” like a big, shiny, gold dome. Since there’s absolutely no way I would know this on my own, I’m just going to quote directly from Wikipedia here:
“The dome is topped with a pine cone, symbolizing both the importance of Boston’s lumber industry in the early colonial days and of the state of Maine, which was a district of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Bulfinch section of the building was completed.”
Who knew? The mighty pine cone, lording over the Massachusetts state house like a crown of sap, squirrels, and glory. When you’re done squinting at it’s nobility, turn around and check out the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (this is also the first stop on the Black Heritage Trail, another excellent historical tour through Boston!)
Next up is Park Street Church, particularly famous as the location of William Lloyd Garrison’s 1829 anti-slavery speech. It has a very nice steeple. Wish I had more to say about this one…but I don’t. Moving on.
The Old Granary Burial Ground is actually one of my favorite stops on the Trail. Here you can pay your respects to some of the Revolution’s big players–Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, John Hancock. All of the gravestones here are interesting to look at though, if only to compare the angels and “death head” decorations.
When you’ve had your fill of gravestones, follow the red-brick road to more gravestones! This stop is the King’s Chapel and Burying Ground. Among these gravestones, you can find the resting place of Mary Chilton–the first woman to step off the Mayflower–and Elizabeth Pain, who many believe was the real-life inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter (the crest on her gravestone appears to have a large letter “A”…)
Just around the corner, right behind King’s Chapel is the old City Hall building. In front of it is a 2-in-1 stop. In the pavement of the sidewalk you will see a mosaic marking the spot as the original location of the first public school, Boston Latin. In the courtyard in front of the old City Hall, a statue of Benjamin Franklin stands tall and proud. According to the Freedom Trail guide, one side of his face reflects the humor and mischief of the man, while the other depicts his solemnity and intelligence. The whole thing looks pretty stern to me, but I do like his snazzy coat.
The Old Corner Bookstore is the next stop on the trail. This building was home of the Ticknor and Fields publishing company from 1832-1865, the site where such influential writers as Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, and Dickens were published.
The trail next winds to the Old South Meeting House, particularly famous for being the gathering place where the Boston Tea Party began. As an aggressive “screw you” to Bostonians, the British occupied the Meeting House in 1775, filled it with dirt, and began using it as a stable! Today the meeting house is a museum open to the public.
Now, fo-llow, fo-llow, fo-llow, fo-llow, FOLLOW the red brick road! The next stop on this patriotic path is the Old State House. No gold dome on this one, but it does have an extremely grand eagle in front! On the side you will find a plaque identifying the spot as the site of the infamous Boston Massacre, an event which helped spark the revolution. At the back of this building you can see my favorite spot on the Freedom Trail, the balcony where the Declaration of Independence was read–sorry, proclaimed–on July 18, 1776!
This was around the time that I was overcome with patriotic fervor and the excitement of our great nation! Accordingly, I decided to go celebrate the glory of America by heading to a bar (drinking Sam Adams, of course!) So this particular post won’t be taking you to the rest of the stops on the Freedom Trail, like the USS Constitution or Paul Revere’s house. I hope you’ve gotten your fill of freedom for the day.
Article by: Leslie Lee