I love traveling to the East Coast. I love the people, the accents, the history, and the fact that jay-walking is a regular part of life. People actually wait for the lights where I live.
One of the things I learned on my first trip to Boston (besides the fact that not everyone has that famous Southie accent) is that it’s a great place to learn about American history in the original locations. A great way to do this is to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, which is a historically-themed walking tour. Read on . . .
This tour covers about 2-3 miles of ground in the greater Boston area and includes stops in front of a number of historic landmarks around the city, all from the Revolutionary era, each marked on the ground by the symbol shown above. Google it. It’s a thing. There are a number of ways to take the tour: you can do the tour guided by a person in Revolutionary-era dress, download the paid app and follow along, take an audio tour, or take a map and follow the trail on your own. Or you can do what I did and randomly happen upon sites along the trail, and then find out about the real tour on the last day.
I love history, and I would recommend taking the actual tour if you have the opportunity to do so. For the time being, I’ll just cover the sites I actually visited. I don’t have many historical tidbits on this particular post, as I learned information from various plaques and strangers I met along the way, instead of a legit tour guide.
I found out about Boston Commons during my shuttle ride to my hotel. The driver and I made small talk, and I asked her about what sites she would recommend for a first-timer to the city. She said, “Oh, you gotta see Boston Commons.” I asked her what that was. She told me it was a “pahk.” It sounded like “pack” to this West-Coaster, so I asked her, “A pack of what?” She got confused, and then I got confused, and the whole time I was thinking I was looking for a group of people or a zoo or something. She said, “Okay, let me show you.” We passed a field of green and she pointed and said, “There. That’s Boston Commons.” It’s a PARK (in case you haven’t already caught on).
I learned that the Commons started out as a pasture for livestock when Boston was first settled, then also became a site for public hangings. One random person I met in the park told me that there was a main tree where they had the hangings, but it has since been taken down. In the modern day, the park is used for family days and various public gatherings.
The Massachusetts State House is on the edge of the Boston Commons property, and you’ll recognize it by the fabulous gold dome (which is actually what drew me to it). I understand that you can tour the inside of the building, but it was closed on the day I went.
Not exactly a stop on the map I had, but off to the side of the state building is this memorial paying homage to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was the first all-black volunteer regiment in the Civil War. A little onsite Googling told me that one of the members of this regiment, a Sergeant Carney, saved the regiment’s flag from capture during a battle in South Carolina. He was later the first African-American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Park Street Church is also right across the street from Boston Commons. This place was closed for a service when I passed by, so I wasn’t able to explore it.
Granary Burying Ground is right next door to the Park Street Church, and the first thing I learned is that there is a discrepancy between the number of tombstones posted in the cemetery and the actual number of people buried there. This, like all cemeteries, gave me that oogie-boogie feeling, but I tried to shake it off by reading the various plaques set up through the cemetery. You’re free to roam, but try not to be an ass and step off the paths so nicely set up for you. There are real people buried here. PRO TIP: The monument in the photo above is dedicated to Franklin’s parents, not Benjamin Franklin himself. He and his wife are actually buried in Philadelphia (as seen here). Also buried here are John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. The cemetery also has monuments for infants and children and victims of the Boston Massacre. The cemetery closes at 17:00, so don’t get locked in.
Faneuil Hall was used as both a meeting hall and marketplace. I was able to explore the marketplace area, and it’s great for finding souvenirs to take home.
The Paul Revere House is not how I imagined it would be. It looked to me like a building that had burned down, and then rebuilt and painted darkly to hide the smoke stains. Anyway, the entrance is through a gate along the brick wall to the side. You can go inside and tour the house as well. It has gone through many transformations and tenants throughout the years, but the historical foundation has re-designed the house to look as it would have during the time Paul Revere would have lived there (with hella kids). The interior is small, and my only thought is that people of that time were way skinnier, because I felt like I had to move sideways through doors (and I’m only slightly overweight), and my 6’1″ brother almost had to duck through various doorways.
The Old North Church, made famous in the poem about Paul Revere’s ride to warn the townspeople about the incoming British, sits in a neighborhood of Boston known as the North End, which is also the same neighborhood where you can find Paul Revere’s House. It is still an active church, and you are welcome to tour the building as long as there is no service in session. It is currently the oldest church in Boston, which is evident by its high-backed, uncomfortable looking pews. There’s also a gift shop next to the main chapel. I learned that the steeple has actually been blown down twice by hurricanes. How they were replaced I have no idea. Funny story I heard from someone familiar with the church: there are several people buried underneath the church, one being a former Redcoat whose body was supposed to be sent back to England to be buried there. Someone else’s body was sent instead. I wonder what happened there?
There are many more stops along this trail that I didn’t visit. Maybe I’ll make it back there and actually do the legit tour. Has anyone done this tour? What are your thoughts?