|When in Boston, walk the red path. It’s a trip through history.|
Well, mostly brick but it’s red all the way. Conceived in the 1950s, it’s the four-kilometer urban walking trail across downtown Boston, Massachusetts that links 16 of the city’s important historical sites called the Freedom Trail. Consider it a relaxed walk through history and learning about the New England settlers’ revolt against Great Britain to gain independence.
From 40,000 in 1953 to 3.2 million annual visitors today, the Freedom Trail has become an integral part of Boston and its success contributes to the economic value of the city.
Add my name to the list of the “hikers of the red line.” Cris, good friend, host and tour guide, walked me through Massachusetts’ history.
Boston Common. Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. It was a pasture used to graze local livestock, a camp for the Redcoats during the 1775 British occupation of Boston, where the end of the Revolutionary War was celebrated, and the grounds for puritanical punishments (pirates, murderers and witches were hanged from The Great Elm). During the 20th century, it was the site where Charles Lindbergh promoted commercial aviation, where the Anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies were held, including one led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1979.
|Boston Commons– from grazing livestock to beheading witches to rallies to a very serene park today.|
Massachusetts State House. Designed by Charles Bulfinch and construction was completed on January 11, 1798, the Massachusetts State House is one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill. The golden dome is its most distinct feature, once made of wood was later overlaid with copper by Paul Revere. In 1874 it was covered with 23-karat gold leaf, painted black during World War II to protect the city from bombing attacks, and gilded again in 1997.
Adorning the top of the dome is a gilded wooden pinecone, a symbol of the state’s reliance on logging in the 18th century, and beneath the dome is where senators, state representatives, and the governor conduct the daily business of the Commonwealth.
Park Street Church. The 217 ft. steeple of his church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston. Designed by Peter Banner and celebrating its Bicentennial in 2009, Park Street Church’s lofty architecture reflects an even loftier mission of human rights and social justice. In this church was where prison reform began, women’s suffrage was strongly supported, and where some of the first protests against slavery were delivered.
Granary Burying Ground. It is one of America’s historic cemeteries and the resting place of Boston’s most famous sons. The cemetery has 2,345 markers. Some say as a many as 8,000 people were buried here including Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, John Hancock, patriots James Otis, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine.
King’s Chapel. Architect Peter Harrison was commissioned to design a church “that would be the equal of any in England.” The new King’s Chapel, considered the finest example of Georgian church architecture in North America, was completed is 1754. If the church’s exterior columns appear to be stone, it is not. Those are painted wood, a very cost-saving trompe l’oeil.
|Dont’ be fooled by the imposing columns. It’s made of wood not concrete.|
Legend says that during the revolution the prisoners condemned to hang on Boston Common could say their last prayers in King’s Chapel’s 13th pew aka the pew of the condemned, and where it was exactly, no one knew.
|Inside the King’s Chapel. Where is the 13th pew?|
King’s Chapel Burying Ground. It is located next to the chapel and was Boston Proper’s only burying place for nearly 30 years. It’s as old as Boston and illustrious residents as John Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first Governor and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower, are buried here.
Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School. Founded in April 13, 1635, this is the country’s oldest public school. Benjamin Franklin’s statue marks the location of the original Boston Latin schoolhouse. Although he is one of America’s greatest minds and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, this famous alumnus is in fact one of the school’s most notable dropouts. Notable graduates from this school are Franklin’s co-signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.
|Benjamin Franklin stands in front of the school. Did you know he was one of this school’s most notable dropouts?|
Old Corner Bookstore was once an apothecary shop built by Dr. Thomas Crease after the Great Fire of 1711, this bookstore that opened in 1828 and restored in 1960 is one of the greatest historical buildings in Boston. It was under the management of publisher Ticknor and Fields, who became the nation’s leading publisher between 1833 and 1864, that the bookstore’s popularity peaked. The publisher produced the works of some of the world’s brightest literary minds like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott, many of whom were frequent visitors to the building.
Old South Meeting House. Built in 1729 as a Puritan meeting house and not as a church. It was the stage for some of the most dramatic events leading up to the American Revolution including the December 1773 meeting over what was to be done with over 340 crates of tea in ships moored in Griffin’s Wharf. Its destruction became known as the Boston Tea Party and set the stage for American History.
|Old South Meeting Hall looks like a church but it’s not.|
Old State House. Almost 300 years old, this building is the oldest and one of the most beautiful and important public buildings still standing from the original 13 colonies. This was where the center of ideas and events of Revolutionary Boston were explored and debated by the leading patriots.
|The Old State House is almost 300 years old.|
The site of The Boston Massacre is across the Old State House. On March 5, Private White, on guard at the Custom’s house in King’s Street left his sentry box and struck young Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting his commanding officer. White soon found himself surrounded by an angry mob that hurled taunts and snowballs at him – and launched the Boston Massacre.
Faneuil Hall. Christened as the Cradle of Liberty, Faneuil Hall’s vital role in revolutionary politics hadn’t been part of its original plans, but they became an intricate collection of events that shaped the nation’s history. Peter Faneuil built Faneuil Hall as a center of commerce in 1742. While Boston’s landmark market stalls on the first floor house successful shops, today it is the second floor meeting hall that has the greater legacy.
|The Faneuil Hall, christened as the Cradle of Liberty.|
Paul Revere House is a wooden structure, dating back to 1680, and is downtown Boston’s oldest building still in existence. It was purchased by 35-year old Revere in 1770 for 53 pounds, 6 shillings, and 8 pence with a mortgage of 160 pounds. Revere was living at this house the night he set forth on April 18, 1775 to make his momentous ride to Lexington that would be immortalized by Longfellow’s famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride.
|Your next stop is that way.|
Old North Church aka Christ Church is the oldest standing church building in Boston, having first opened its doors to worshippers on December 29, 1723. Its 191 foot steeple is the tallest in Boston and, because of its prominence, would play a dramatic role in the American Revolution.
|The statue of Paul Revere with the Old North Church behind.|
When the Sons of Liberty discovered the plot of Gen. Thomas Gage to seize rebel munitions stored in Lexington and Concord and to arrest John Hancock and Sam Adams, the Sons of Liberty devised their own plan to have Paul Revere and William Dawes warn the countryside of the arrival of the British army. The lanterns to be displayed in the steeple were to signal how the British troops were advancing– one if by land, two if by sea, which was immortalized in Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was named after shoemaker William Copp and was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground, dating from 1659. It is the final resting place and cemetery of ordinary Bostonians—merchants, artisans and crafts people— who lived in the North End with some notable exceptions as Cotton and his father Increase Mather who were two Puritan ministers closely associated with the Salem witch trials; Robert Newman, who is thought to have hung the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s midnight ride; and Edmund Hartt, builder of the USS Constitution.
Bunker Hill. While technically a British victory, the Battle of Bunker Hill proved that Colonial forces could fight effectively against the British. On June 17, 1775 it took a force of 3000 Redcoats three assaults to dislodge the Colonial Militia from a hastily constructed redoubt atop Breed’s Hill in Charlestown. It was largely due to a lack of ammunition that the Militia was forced to give up defense of the hill. The supposed shortage of ammunition led to the famous order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”, variously attributed to different commanders involved in the battle. At battle’s end, the British had 1000 casualties, a staggering number including one quarter of the officers they would lose in the entire war.
USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. She became known as Old Ironsides during the War of 1812 when she fought the British Frigate HMS Guerriere and cannonballs fired at her and merely bounced off as if she were made of iron. Its durability is attributed to a three-layer sandwich of wood from all across America. The ship’s copper fastenings were constructed by Paul Revere. Constitution was put to sea after two false starts in 1798, four years after construction began.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 23, 2014.