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Walking through history on Boston’s Freedom Trail

Fanuiel Hall, Boston. Take a walking tour  of Boston's Freedom Trail
Fanuiel Hall, Boston. Take a walking tour of Boston's Freedom Trail
©Stillman Rogers Phography 2012

It’s hard to find three miles with more American history than Boston’s Freedom Trail. You can walk the trail in a couple of hours, but you’ll want longer in order to tour all the attractions. Begin at the friendly Visitor Center in Boston Common, where you’ll find brochures on the sights. Before you begin following the Freedom Trail’s red line in the pavement, spend some time strolling through the Common, America's oldest park, stopping at the Central Burying Ground of 1756.

The State House

Above the Common, the Massachusetts State House crowns Beacon Hill. Built in 1798, its golden-domed middle section was designed by Charles Bulfinch, who built the Capitol in Washington DC. The Hall of Flags museum under the cupola, with flags and historical paintings, is open to visitors on weekdays.

Old Granary Burying Ground and King's Chapel

Follow the red line downhill past Park Street Church to Old Granary Burying Ground, where you’ll find the graves of Benjamin Franklin's parents and notable Bostonians including Paul Revere and three signatories of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. Beyond is historic King's Chapel and its atmospheric Burying Ground, the city’s oldest, with the graves of Governor John Winthrop and two Mayflower passengers. One of them is Mary Chilton, the first woman to step ashore.

Old State House, scene of the Boston Massacre

Dating from 1713, the Old State House is Boston's oldest public building and the seat of the Royal Government in the colonies before the Revolution. The infamous Boston Massacre took place here on March 5, 1770, when British soldiers fired into a crowd of protestors, killing five people. It was also the meeting place for the Massachusetts Assembly and many fiery speeches were made here leading up to the Revolution. Historical artifacts inside date back to 1630, with an emphasis on the Revolutionary War, maritime history, domestic furnishings and decorative arts.

Fanuiel Hall

Built in 1740-42 as a market hall, Faneuil Hall is still occupied by market stalls on the ground floor; above is a council chamber that was the meeting-place of revolutionaries and later of abolitionists. On its fourth floor, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Museum displays weaponry, uniforms and paintings of significant battles.

North End and Paul Revere House

Boston’s North End has been home to early settlers, freed black slaves, Irish and Jewish immigrants and most recently a large Italian community, whose neighborhood customs have been preserved. Paul Revere bought his wooden clapboard house in 1770 and lived here with his family until 1800. The oldest house in downtown Boston, Paul Revere House is restored to its late 17th-century appearance, containing Revere family possessions and examples of Revere’s silver work.

Old North Church

Built in 1723, Christ Church is Boston's oldest, but its fame stems from the night in April 1775, when the church sexton hung two lanterns from the tower as a pre-arranged signal to alert Paul Revere of British troop movements. This allowed Revere to ride ahead from Boston to Lexington and warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of Britain's plan to arrest the patriot leaders and confiscate the munitions supplies.

USS Constitution and Bunker Hill

Charlestown Navy Yard is home to the USS Constitution and the WWII destroyer USS Cassin Young. The 54-gun frigate USS Constitution, launched nearby in 1797, earned the nickname "Old Ironsides" in the war of 1812, when cannonballs seemed to bounce off her tough hull. It is the oldest warship in the world that is still a commissioned vessel, and you can board the ship to tour its decks and interior. See it this year, as the ship will be in dry dock for maintenance from early 2015 through 2018 and not accessible for tours. The adjoining museum exhibits artifacts from the ship’s history, along with nautical art and interactive displays that allow you to participate in a navy battle. Nearby is the Bunker Hill Monument, a 220-foot granite obelisk commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17th 1775. A spiral staircase leads up to the top, and a visitor center at its base has models, and historical exhibits and a multimedia show that recreates the chaos of the famous battle.

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