Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Bit of the Freedom Trail, Boston

With three children under ten years old in tow, I knew we couldn't do the whole Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts. The trail leads from Boston Common through the streets of Boston to the Bunker Hill Memorial and the U.S.S. Constitution. It goes by many historic sites, mostly to do with the American Revolution. The trail is a red line along the sidewalks of the city with the occasional medallion to mark what it is.

How the Freedom Trail is marked in urban Boston

We started the trail on the corner of Park Street, where the Park Street Church was not open when we arrived (about 9:20 a.m., so we were probably too early).

Park Street Church (hard to get a good picture on tight city blocks)

The church was founded in 1809 and the corner was known as "Brimstone Corner" either from the fiery sermons or because the church building stored brimstone (an ingredient for gunpowder) during the War of 1812.

Next door to the church is the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place for many famous citizens. Ben Franklin's parents are buried here, as well as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Peter Faneuil (of Faneuil Hall fame), and the five colonial victims of the Boston Massacre. Much like the Park Street Church, we couldn't get in. The groundskeepers were mowing the grass, which is probably why the graveyard was locked.

Gates to the Granary Burying Ground

View through the gates (obelisk has the Franklin name on it)

Samuel Adams headstone

Further down the street is King's Chapel and Burying Ground. As we walked up the chapel was closed. The sign said they would be open at 10 a.m. It was only 9:40, so we decided to explore the burial ground, go get a doughnut, and come back to the chapel.

King's Chapel

The burial ground

Tombs and church

The tombs cover a wide variety of people in age, in time, and in notoriety.

Headstone of a two year-old, died in 1767

Rhys Williams, Unitarian Pastor who died in 2003

John Winthrop was the first governor for Massachusetts. His family shares a burial site in the cemetery.

Winthrop grave

Also famous is William Dawes, Paul Revere's companion who warned the countryside that the British were coming to raid the munitions stores in Concord.

William Dawes grave--the guy who rode with Paul Revere on the famous ride

We couldn't figure out this structure

John Welch tomb

The burials aren't limited to the cemetery, either. Several tombs are under the road and the church, though they were sealed off a long time ago due to a city ordinance.

Tombs under the church and street

After getting doughnuts for everyone, we were able to go inside the chapel. The church was the first Anglican church in New England, establish in 1686 by Robert Radcliffe, who had a tough time establishing an Anglican church in the Puritan colony. The church was rebuilt in 1754 in an unusual way. The new stone structure was built around the original wooden one so that worship could continue. Eventually the old church was tossed out the windows piecemeal! The "new" interior is a fine example of Georgian architecture. 

King's Chapel interior

The chapel has box pews where congregants would sit during services. My children were quite comfortable there.

Trying out the pews

The pulpit is the oldest one in America still in continuous use. 


Altar area with the Our Father, Ten Commandments, and the Apostles' Creed

Back corner of the church (not the best seats in the house)

View from the back corner

As an Anglican chapel, it was home to loyalists like Samuel Vassall, a member of Parliament and merchant who made a fortune in the colonies. After the revolution, the church was temporarily renamed "Stone Chapel," a change that didn't last. In 1785 the chapel switched from Anglican to Unitarian, a change that has lasted.

Samuel Vassall bust

Further down the Freedom Trail is a memorial to the Boston Latin School. It was the first public school and it provided instruction free of charge to local boys (at the time girls only learned at home). The school is no longer located there (it's moved to the Fenway neighborhood) but a mosaic shows the spot.

Boston Latin School mosaic

The school is just outside the Old City Hall, in use from 1865 to 1969. It's now a steak house, sadly.

Old City Hall

The front of the hall

In the courtyard is a statue of Boston Latin School's most famous dropout--Benjamin Franklin. The statue acknowledges his many accomplishments, including signing the Declaration of Independence, negotiating the Treaty of Paris, and discovering electricity.

Franklin statue

Declaration signing

On the other side of the courtyard is a statue to Josiah Quincy, who represented Massachusetts in congress and was mayor of Boston.

Josiah Quincy statue

More of the trail in the next post!

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