Learn about the exploring Boston, Massachusetts, by reading
Boston's Freedom Trail - Exploring the City of Firsts by Gary
Bloom, WTA member and leisure traveler and writer. It features all
you'll need to know to plan Freedom Trail walk. At the end of the
article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for
your easy reference. Enjoy!
Freedom Trail - Exploring the City of Firsts
Gary Bloom, WTA Member and Leisure Traveler/Writer
Read the Boston Update at
the end of the article
Statue of Paul Revere
Boston. The city where
"the Lowells speak only to the Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to
God." Bostonians may have cultivated a reputation for
self-importance. But it is difficult not to be at least a little conceited
about a city with so much culture and history, not to mention beauty.
Boston is a beautiful and vibrant city, as many port cities are. It's hard
to beat the combination of sea harbors, historic architecture, Ivy League
schools, beautiful parks, and fine food. Add to that Boston's long list of
"firsts" and it's easy to understand why Bostonians may be just
a wee bit uppity.
This is a city, unlike
most American cities, that is easily and best surveyed on foot. The city
is compact and most of the sights are a short walk away and the rest can
be reached by its public transit system.
An exploration of
Boston's history begins with the Freedom Trail. A red line painted on the
pavement makes this an easy journey through early American history, unlike
that of our forebear's. The three-mile walk can easily be made in a day,
even with children. The route is well marked, but some areas have heavy
traffic, so keep hold of young children. You can take a guided tour
provided by the National Park Service that begins every half-hour from the
park visitor center at 15 State Street opposite the Old State House. Or if
you prefer to ride, you can pay for one of the trolley tours, which are
unofficial guided tours. There are 16 historic buildings, sites, and
monuments along the way. The trail passes through some of Boston's most
interesting and unique neighborhoods. Walking the Freedom Trail is like
walking through a history textbook.
The trail begins at the
Boston Common Visitor Kiosk at 147 Tremont St. where maps are available. A
detailed Freedom Trail map is available for $1.50 at the Greater Boston
Convention & Visitors Bureau Center, located on Boston Common, but
free maps can be found in brochures at hotel lobbies.
The Boston Park, one of
many Boston "firsts," was the first public park in the U.S. and
spans some 50 acres. During the days of the Puritans, the Common was the
place where many law breakers were locked in stocks for public ridicule.
Just across from the Common is the Bull and Finch Pub, the setting for
television show, "Cheers." The restaurant and bar were actually
dismantled in England and reassembled in Boston at 84 Beacon St.
Near the Common, at the
summit of Beacon Hill, is the architecturally unique State House. Samuel
Adams laid the cornerstone and its golden dome is sheathed in copper from
Paul Revere's foundry. The State House is one of the most distinctive of
all American seats of government, and one of Boston's most recognizable
landmarks. In the neighborhoods around the State House are the classic
Boston brick row houses, most built in the early 1800's.
The Freedom Trail leads
next to the Park Street Church, at the corner of Park and Tremont streets.
Built in 1809, the church has the distinction of being the stage for the
first public performance of the song "America." The Granary
Burying Ground next to the church holds the graves of such famous patriots
as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. Just up Tremont Street is
the King's Chapel, built in 1754 and the first Unitarian church in the
U.S. The King's Chapel Burying Ground next to it is the oldest cemetery in
Boston and is considered by many historians to be the city's most precious
piece of land. Boston's first settlers are buried here, including
Elizabeth Pain, who many believe was the model for the adulteress in John
Hawthorne'sThe Scarlet Letter. Many of the graves have a footstone opposite the
headstone, marking off their eternal bed. The beautiful carvings on the
tombstones represent what may be the earliest art form in America.
The Boston Public Latin
school at Tremont and School streets was built in 1640. In yet another
Boston "first,' this was America's first public school. Among its
students were Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Globe Corner
Bookstore is at the corner of Washington and School Streets. Among its
clientele were such notable authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, and Henry Thoreau. The Old South Meeting House, also on
Washington St., was used by colonists for political gatherings. The Boston
Tea Party was organized here. Further up Washington Street is the Old
State House, the seat of Colonial government until the Revolution. On July
18, 1776, from a balcony on the east side of the building, the Declaration
of Independence was first read. The Old State House is the oldest public
building in Boston, and one of the most important public buildings in
America. The site of the Boston Massacre is in front of the Old State
House, marked by a ring of cobblestones.
A good resting and eating
place along the Freedom Trail is the Quincy Market. This area, once
run-down and avoided, has undergone a major face-lift while retaining its
historic patina. There now are elegant restaurants, pubs, and outdoor
eating areas. Faneuil Hall, located here, has been used as a meeting place
since it was built in 1742. Samuel Adams spoke to the early patriots and
inspired the Revolution here, and the hall is known as "The Cradle of
From Quincy Market the
trail winds through the North End, Boston's first neighborhood. For most
of the 17th century the North End was Boston, since much of the
surrounding land was still under water. The neighborhood today is mostly
Italian. There are Italian restaurants, of course, but also Italian
bakeries and groceries that display thick slices of pizza in their
storefronts. It is hard to resist the aromas of pizza, pastries, and fresh
baked bread that permeates the air.
Paul Revere made his home
in the North End neighborhood for more than 30 years. His house, at 19
North Square, was built in 1676 and is the oldest building in Boston. This
neighborhood is also the home of the Old North Church, Boston's oldest
church still in use. It was from this church's belfry, on the night of
April 18, 1775, that Robert Newman hung two lanterns signaling to Paul
Revere that the British were coming by sea. The Copp's Hill Burying Ground
is up the street from the Old North Church. Many of the headstones are
pockmarked and chipped from musket balls shot by British soldiers who were
practicing their shooting.
The next stop on the
Freedom trail is the Charlestown Navy Yard, home of the USS Constitution, better know as "Old Ironsides." The
Charlestown neighborhood is across the Charles River from the North End,
but still within walking distance. Old
Ironsides is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, and is
manned by regular U.S. Navy seamen, who conduct the tours. The ship was
launched in Boston in 1797 and never lost an engagement in its many years
of service. "Old Ironsides" captured or destroyed 32 enemy ships
during its career. The ship gained its namesake in the War of 1812 when
its impenetrable hull caused British sailors to exclaim, "her sides
must be made of iron!" They aren't, but maybe the next best thing.
Live Oak, considered the most durable wood in the world, was specified in
its construction. Paul Revere forged the copper bolts used to hold the
There is a museum at the
Charlestown Navy Yard, as well as the USS
Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer, and the collections of the
Boston Marine Society. The Navy Yard itself is a look back at the history
of shipbuilding, with one of the oldest dry docks in the U.S., officers'
quarters, and a narrow, long building that was used by the Navy to make
rope for more than 125 years.
In a city known for grass
roots government, where politics is not a distant cousin in Washington
D.C., but a part of everyday life, it was only fitting that I met up with
none other than Ted Kennedy while walking around the Charleston Navy Yard.
Sen. Kennedy was there to dedicate a new park. After a short speech at a
makeshift stage set up outside, the Senator came around to shake hands
with everyone in the audience.
The last stop on the
Freedom Trail is the Bunker Hill Monument, commemorating the first major
battle of the Revolution on June 17, 1775. The monument stands on Breed's
Hill where 1,200 militia battled more than 3,000 British troops. When
their ammunition was nearly out, Colonel Prescott shouted the famous
command, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."
The Colonists lost this battle, but with their courageous fight they
inspired others to continue the war for independence. The granite obelisk
is 221 feet high. There's no elevator, and you'll need to be in good shape
to climb the 295 steps up the winding staircase.
Beyond the Freedom Trail,
there are other sites of Boston to see including its neighborhoods and
museums. Having lived in New Orleans for many years, I am no stranger to
unique and historic American cities. I didn't think another city could
match New Orleans' distinctive neighborhoods, but Boston certainly comes
close. The city is so compact you can walk from one historic neighborhood
to another. One not to be missed is the Back Bay neighborhood, Boston's
showpiece. For a walk back into history, stroll along the gas lit
Marlborough St., or Commonwealth Ave., said to be the most beautiful
avenue in the world.
A city with so much
history is bound to have excellent museums. Some of the more notable
include The Museum of Fine Arts, containing the largest collection of
Asiatic art in the world, as well as silver hollow ware and flatware by
artists including Paul Revere. There is also an extensive collection of
antique musical instruments. Boston is also home to the world's only
computer museum, testament to the importance technology has played in
Boston's modern history. The excellent colleges and universities in Boston
and nearby Cambridge have been instrumental in providing talent for high
technology companies in and around Boston.
Speaking of Cambridge,
the first phone call was made between Boston and Cambridge. And Harvard
was, of course, the first college in the U.S. Not to leave out any other
Boston firsts, the city had the first post office, the first street light,
the first use of Penicillin, the first department store, the first
lighthouse, the first public library, the first subway, the first
Christmas card, the first ... well, you get the idea.
by Bill Condon, WTA
My wife and I spent
three days in Boston during November 2002 enjoying what the city has to
offer. The best discovery, was to rediscover the Omni Parker House Hotel,
which is located near the start of the Freedom Trail and is within easy
walking distance of almost all of the interesting things to do in Boston.
Situated just off the NE corner of the Boston Common, there just isn't a
more central location for the price we paid. Our accommodations were
booked using the WTA Online Travel Booking Service,
it saved us over $300 off what the hotel quoted us for the same time
We have stayed in
hundreds of hotels over the years, in cities all over the world and none
of them can, in our opinion, match the staff at the Omni Parker House when
it comes to courteous, helpful, competent and just plain all-around nice
people. If you are standing in the lobby, someone on the staff will come
up to you to just chat and in the process they find out if there are any
ways they can help in your enjoyment of your stay. Our room was very nice,
not large, but well equipped and the bathroom was equal to any luxury
hotel. Considering the price we paid over the three nights of under $400
total, it was a bargain.
Boston has much to
offer on America's beginnings and the birth of our nation. The Freedom
Trail passes by the hotel, and with a map provided by the hotel, it's easy
and fun to walk. It wanders past many historical sites as well as several
great shopping opportunities and restaurants. Two of our more notable
stops were Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church.
We discovered some new
restaurants that we really enjoyed. The first is Jacob Wirth, located in
the heart of the theater district. Their menu is European, slanted toward
German fare, with an American flair. The next one is in the North End and
is, of course, Italian. Taverna Toscana serves some of the best Italian
food that we have ever had, including when we were in Tuscany, Italy, last
year. They are located at the very beginning of the North End and it is
less than a 10-minute walk from the Omni Parker House. Finally, we
recommend a "pub" called the Marshall House. It is on Union Street, next
to the Union Oyster House, which is one of the oldest restaurants in
When it comes to
cultural things to do, Boston is right up there with New York City. We
attended the ballet at the Wang Theater, Back to Broadway at the
Stuart Street Theater, and the Boston Symphony.
The highlights of our
sight seeing was our visit to the USS Constitution -"Old
Ironsides," the Imax Theater, where we saw NASA's "Space Station"(for
the third time) and a cruise around Boston's harbor.
Along the way, we
ventured outside of the Freedom Trail route by taking an Old Town Trolley,
a get on and get off tour that includes 16 stops, many on the Freedom
Trail, but others more far a field including the big shopping areas, Hard
Rock Cafe, Newbury Street, Copley Plaza and much more.
All in all a very
enjoyable and fun packed three days.
Almost all of the sites along the
Freedom Trail are, befitting its name, free! And the others have nominal
charges or, for the churches along the way, a donation can be made.
- The Old State
House Fees: $3 for adults, $2 for older adults and students, and $1
for children ages 6-18. Open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM daily. Call (617)
720-3290 for more information.
- The Paul Revere
House Fees: $2.50 for adults, $2 for seniors and college students,
and $1 for children aged 5 to 17. Open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM
from mid-April through October 31, from 9:30 AM to 4:15 PM from November
1 through April 14. The house is closed on Mondays in January, February
and March and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more
information phone (617) 523-2338.
Where to Stay
Omni Parker House Hotel
60 School Street, Boston, 02116
- Jacob Wirth
31-37 Stuart Street, Boston, 02116
(617) 338-8586, fax (617) 426-5049
- Taverna Toscana
63 Salem Street, Boston, (in the North End)
- Marshall House
15 Union Street, Boston
- Ristorante Fiore
250 Hanover St., Boston (in the North End)
Notice: This information is current as of
April 2001 and November 2002. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or
visit the web sites above to determine any changes to the