The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail, designated a National Millennium Trail by the White House in 2000, begins at the Boston Common, the oldest public park in America. Once a training ground for the British militia, it is now a peaceful 44 acres of national park.

There are 16 historical sites along this 2.5-mile national trail that covers two and a half centuries of America’s history. The sites are connected by a red brick painted line that takes us through Revolutionary Boston and Charleston. Each link to the past represents the events and courage of the patriots who fought for freedom and their rights in the earliest history of our nation. At the first stop where the Freedom Trail meets the Black Heritage Trail, visitors see the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Memorial, honoring the first black regiment of the Union Army. Next on our walking tour is the State House, a magnificent gilded-dome structure built in the 18th century. The oldest building on Beacon Hill, it still serves as the seat of the Massachusetts’ state government.

From the State House, we arrive at the Park Street Church, where the song “America” was first sung on July 4, 1831, and where William Lloyd Garrison spoke against slavery in 1829. Continuing along the Trail, the next site is the Old Granary, the burial place of patriots such as Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. From here, we come to the King’s Chapel, the oldest Anglican Church in New England, designed by Peter Harrison. The interior of King’s Chapel is considered to be the finest example of Georgian architecture in North America. Adjacent to the church is the burial ground for some of the most prominent members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, including John Winthrop, first governor, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to enter Plymouth Colony from the Mayflower.

Further down the path, we pass the statue of Benjamin Franklin, the first portrait statue in the U.S. and the site of the first public school. On the corner of School and Washington Streets is the Old Corner Bookstore, which began as a medicine shop and was subsequently leased to nine different booksellers, the most famous being Ticknor and Fields.

The Old South Meeting House, a Puritan house of worship, is where Samuel Adams gave the signal to proceed with the Boston Tea Party. Further on, we pass the Old State House, now a museum, open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., where the first Declaration was read to the people of Boston from the balcony in 1776. Marked by a ring of cobblestones, this site is also recognized as the scene of the Boston massacre, where the patriots met the redcoats in 1770.

Faneuil Hall, built in 1742 and given to the city by Peter Faneuil, is next on the Freedom Trail. Town meetings and forums were held in the Hall, which also served as a marketplace for the townspeople to sell their goods. It was here that the doctrine of no taxation without representation took form in the famous tea meetings. Faneuil Hall was also the site of the numerous speeches by the abolitionists including Douglas and Garrison during the time of the Civil War.

Nearing the end of the Trail, we come to Paul Revere’s House, built in 1680, the oldest structure still standing in Boston. From here, our tour takes us to the Old North Church, or Christ Church. It is from this very church that sexton Robert Newman hung the lanterns to warn of the approach of the British in the War for Independence and Paul Revere began his midnight ride. Today, Christ Church, with a large and active Episcopal congregation, remains the oldest church building in Boston.

One of the last sites along this historic trail is Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, the burial place for many prominent colonial Bostonians, the artisans and merchants who lived on the North End, as well as the many free African Americans who lived in the New Guinea Community nearby. At the very end of the Trail stands the national monument to Bunker Hill, dedicated on June 17, 1843. This 221-foot granite obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolution where a unified Colonial army faced the British troops.

Tours/Prices/Hours:

Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour, which lasts for two to three hours, or take the trolley, which stops at various sites along the Trail. Ninety-minute tours, arranged through the National Park Service, leave daily at 11:00 a.m., 12 Noon, 1:00 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. from the Visitor Center, at 15 State Street opposite the Old State House, in the Boston Common. Walking tour prices: adults $12.00, seniors $10.00, and students 12 and under $6.00.

Admission to the majority of the historical sites is included in the price of the tours, or with a nominal fee, and are open daily. Currently, visitors can also experience the Freedom Trail by using a digital hand-held player for a two-hour audio tour. Audio players can be rented for $15.00 and picked up at the Visitor Center. Informative and educational guided tours, led by professional actors and historians in colonial costumes, are offered by the Freedom Trail Foundation for groups.

Visitor Center is open Monday — Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Maps, guides, and information are available, as well as a book and souvenir shop at the Center.

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