Boston is as close to the Old World as the New World gets, having served a crucial role in the country’s development from a few wayward pilgrims right through to the Revolutionary war. Founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England on the Shawmut Peninsula, it is the largest city in New England and considered the economic and cultural center of the entire region.
Start your day in our own Beacon Hill, a neighborhood full of old red brick houses once home to numerous historical and literary figures such as John Hancock, John Quincy Adams, Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorn. Stroll along Charles Street, with its many stores, cafes and restaurants, visit Louisburg Square and Beacon Street with its stately homes and take a tour of Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest and most distinguished independent libraries in the country. The Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, designer of the U. S. Capitol, has an excellent free tour. Nichols House Museum, is the only Beacon Hill residence open year-round to the public. Beacon Hill is also home to the oldest African American church structure in the country, the African Meeting House, the birthplace of abolitionism. The Black Heritage Trail traces Beacon Hill’s role in local and national black history and is 1.6 mile long.. The walking tour is free of charge.
The City’s epicenter is the Boston Common, once the main pasture for the city’s domestic animals. In the park, you will find the Visitor Information Pavilion, the Central Burying Ground, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument up on Flagstaff Hill, the highest point in the Common and the Frog Pond, once home to a large number of amphibians and site of the first water pumped into the city. The Frog Pond, now used as a wading pool in the summer and a skating ring in the winter, is a family favorite.
The Freedom Trail is an excellent introduction to Boston’s history. It begins at the Visitor Information Pavilion in the Boston Common (just minutes from Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro) and ends in Charlestown. It is a 2.5 mile walk, delineated by a red-brick or paint stripe in the sidewalk linking 16 points of interest.
At the corner of Tremont and Park Streets, stands Park Street Church, built in 1809. Here William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first public address calling for the nationwide abolition of slavery.
Adjacent to Park Street Church lies the Old Granary Burying Ground, which is the final resting place for numerous leaders of the American Revolution. Its more famous tenants include James Otis, Samuel Adams, Peter Faneuil, Paul Revere and John Hancock.
John “Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, and Mary Chilton, the first pilgrim to set foot on Plymouth Rock, rest a little further down Tremont Street in King’s Chapel Burying Ground. Visit the adjacent King’s Chapel featuring an elegant Georgian interior and the largest bell in Boston. It was cast by silversmith Paul Revere.
The Old South Meeting House, the second oldest church building in Boston, on Washington Street, now houses a museum. It was from here that Samuel Adams made an announcement which triggered the Boston Tea Party. The Meeting House has also served as a stable, a British riding school and even a bar.
The Old State House on State Street, was built as the seat of the Massachusetts Bay Colony nad consequently the center of British authority for Massachusetts and Maine. Later it served as Boston’s City Hall. The site now houses a small but comprehensive museum. Adjacent to the Old State House at 15 State Street, lies the downtown Visitor Center for the Boston National Park Service.
Faneuil Hall housed the Revolutionary War meetings that earned it its “Cradle of Liberty” sobriquet. It is set on a pedestrian zone just below the current City Hall (perhaps the ugliest building in all of Boston – luckily Bostonians are blessed by a great mayor) and was built as an open-air market on its first floor with space for political meetings on its second. The political meetings continue there to this day. Quincy Market and its sister structures, the North and South Markets, just behind Faneuil Hall, were built in the early eighteenth century to contain the trade that had quickly outgrown its space in the Hall. The markets draw thousands of tourists daily for their food offerings, bars and shopping.
The Customs House sits between State and Broad Streets. It was built in 1847 but the 30 story Greek Revival tower was only added in 1915 when it became the tallest skyscraper in New England. Terrific views may be had from the 360 degree observation deck free of charge.
Stroll across Commercial Street for a visit to the North End which in Colonial times was actually a peninsula and home to many from the wealthy merchant class. The Irish were the first immigrants to flock to the area (John F. Fitzgerald, JFK’s grandfather and mayor of Boston and the late president’s mother, Rose, were both born in the North End. The Irish were succeeded by Eastern European Jews, who in turn were followed by the Southern Italians who dominate the neighborhood to this day. The North End’s restaurants, bakeries and cafés are a summer tradition for age-old Bostonians and temporary Bostonians of all ages.
Just off Hanover Street lies Paul Revere House, the oldest residential address in the city. Revere lived here from 1770 to 1800 and sired sixteen children during those years. The oldest church building in town, the Old North Church, at 93 Salem Street, was built in 1723 and secured its place in history when a pair of lanterns were hung in April 18, 1775 to signal the movement of British forces from Boston Common. Outside of the church lie Washington Memorial Garden and the inviting Eighteenth-Century Garden.
Up Hull Street from Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground displays eerily tilting slate tombstones, stunning harbor views, and graves of some significant sons of the North End.
Walk down to Long Warf and take the ferry boat (part of the T system) to historic Charlestown. Walk along the quay to the USS Constitution and its very interesting museum, which helps giving some background to the ship’s unparalleled role in American maritime history. On the upper floor, there are excellent hands-on exhibits for children. Both the museum and the ship itself you can visit free of charge. Take a stroll around the rest of the Navy Yard before heading to Charlestown’s center.
Start at City Square and walk down Main Street and no. 105, which houses the Warren Tavern, constructed shortly after the British burned down the neighborhood. Joseph Warren was the personal physician to the Adam’s family before he was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The red-brick townhouses along Monument Avenue north from Main Street toward the Bunker Hill Monument are some of Boston’s most exclusive residences and makes for a scenic route.
The Bunker Hill Monument, located on Breed’s Hill, is where the New England militia positioned themselves on the night of June 16, 1775, to wage what was ultimately a losing battle – despite its recasting by US historians as a great moral victory in the fight for independence. Walk up the steps on the 221-foot granite shaft, the award being sweeping views of the Boston and its harbor.
The Back Bay (and South End) area of Boston was built on landfill in response to a shortage of living space in the city. The Urban planner Arthur Gilman decided on an orderly street pattern extending east to west from the Public Garden. The park was founded in 1837 and was earmarked for public use since 1859. There are more than 125 different species of trees, the most treasured being the weeping willows that surrounds the man-made lagoon in the middle of the park. From spring through fall, take a ride on one of the famed swan-boats. The park is also home to the sculptures Mrs Mallard and Her Eight Ducklings, there to commemorate Robert McClosky’s 1941 children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings”.
The Gibson House Museum, located on 137 Beacon Street, preserves the home built for Catherine Hammond Gibson in 1860 in the Victorian style popular then.
Walk down the stately Commonwealth Avenue and marvel at its beautiful residences. It is also worth walking down the quieter Marlborough Street. Newbury Street is home to a couple of interesting churches, the Emmanuel Church of Boston and the Church of the Covenent, in addition to the many stores and shops which make it famous.
Trinity Church is located in Copley Square. This Romanesque masterpiece showcases John La Farge’s famed stained glass windows.
On the other side of the square stands the Boston Public Library, the first library in the United Stated to permit the borrowing of books. The Italian Renaissance Revival structure was raised in 1852 and is home to largest research library in New England. Visit the beautiful Bates Reading Room, have a coffee in the courtyard café and enjoy John Singer Sargent’s astonishing murals.