Sunday, September 20, 2015

Walking through History: The Freedom Trail

Boston is one of America's founding cities with so much history and we feel very fortunate to be able to call this city our own. But when you're a local, it can be easy to forget what all your city has to offer. We are trying to be the exception to this by taking complete advantage of our time here. We decided to cross another item off our Boston Bucket List with the Freedom Trail: a 2.5 mile bricked-line path that takes you through several historical sights in Boston. It tells the tale of the American Revolution and the founding of the United States along the way. We wanted to learn as much as possible while keeping things interesting during our day date so we decided to experience The Freedom Trail in the most unique way possible....
with a historical walking tour

Husband likes to avoid crowds and I prefer to wander on my own, so we are fans of the self-guided tour. But Boston is one of those rare cities where it's worth it to take a tour because you don't want to miss anything! So we booked a historical walking tour with The Freedom Trail Foundation. Not only was our tour amazing, but proceeds from the ticket sales go towards the preservation and restoration of The Freedom Trail. 

We had Ebenezer Hancock (John Hancock's brother) as our tour guide...dressed in colonial garb from his tricorn hat to the buckles on his shoes. He was
full of historical insight and plenty of period revelry.

I'm definitely a history lover and I was beyond excited to learn more of America's history, especially Boston. Because I loved this tour, I wanted to share and document some of our favorite things we learned about 

The Freedom Trail 
The 16 Official Sites of the Freedom Trail 
~Boston Common ~Massachusetts State House ~Park Street Church~Granary Burying Ground  ~King's Chapel ~King's Chapel Burying Ground ~The Latin School ~Old Corner Bookstore ~Old South Meeting House ~Old State House ~Site of the Boston Massacre ~Faneuil Hall ~Paul Revere House ~Bunker Hill Monument ~Copp's Hill Burying Ground~USS Constitution 

1.) Boston Common 
Our tour began at Boston Common, which is pretty much our favorite spot in Boston so it was a good place to start. It's also the oldest park in America and has so many historical events and orators speaking here. Even today, this park at the heart of everything. 
2.) Massachusetts State House 
Love this gold domed capitol building! We've walked by and admired it many times, so it was nice to learn about the history and the architecture of the building. Like how that golden dome wasn't always so grand and impressive, in fact they used to have quite a problem with the roof leaking. This State House was built by Charles Bulfinch, who used it as a precursor before he designed the dome for the US Capitol building in DC. Hopefully, he got those kinks in the leaky roof worked out beforehand. 
3.) Park Street Church 
This church is an obvious symbol of religious freedom as it was established by the Puritans, but it has a historical significance as well such as 
being an important site for the abolitionist movement against slavery 
and home of the patriotic hymn My Country 'Tis of Thee
4.) Granary Burying Ground
There are a few burial grounds along the Freedom Trail, but this one is the most interesting because of the importance of some of the people buried here...
James Otis 
I didn't recognize this name immediately, but we can attribute the famous phrase 
"NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" to him. Oh and randomly, his 
descendants are responsible for inventing the elvevator. 
So thank you to the Otis Family 

Samuel Adams 
Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, 
he played a vital role in organizing the Boston Tea Party 

Benjamin Franklin 
This is a bit of a misnomer. Because Franklin was a native Bostonian, he has a massive monument in the Granary Burying Ground, but he was actually laid to rest in Philadelphia. Of course most of the tourists taking photos with his "tombstone" here don't realize this so I had to share 

5.) King's Chapel 
Boston was originally settled by Puritans trying to escape the crown's rule. The King's Chapel was built by the monarch as exercise of power to encourage the presence of the Anglican Church of England over Puritanism ...this church is essentially a testament to the struggle between the colonists and the british monarchy.

6.) King's Chapel Burial Ground 
This cemetery is the resting ground for several influential people
John Winthrop: Massachusetts first governor 
Mary Chilton: the first woman to step off of the Mayflower 

7.) The Latin School 
While the school itself doesn't exist anymore, there is a statue of 
famed scholar Benjamin Franklin in front of the old state capitol to commemorate the site of the 
first public school in America 

8.) Old Corner Bookstore 
At the corner of Washington and School street, you will find Boston's first apothecary shop. It was later turned into a bookstore and quickly became the leading publishing company in the United States. It carried works from famous American authors like Nathaniel l Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. It was basically a literally haven. 

9.) Old South Meeting House 
Exactly as it sounds, this was built as a place for worship, important meetings, and town business. It's most famous for it's use in the planning of the Boston Tea Party. 

10.) Old State House 
The original state house is one of the oldest buildings in America
Interesting Fact: 
the unicorn and lion statues that adorn the top of the state house are symbols of the British crown. So when the Declaration of Independence was presented here to the citizens of Boston in 1776, these statues were destroyed as an act of defiance. During preservation of the Old State House in the late 1800's, the statues were returned (since we no longer hated the British anymore) as a form of respect. The statues were removed for repairs and preservation in 2014, which is when we discovered a time capsule from 1901.  
What better spot for a time capsule? 
Placing it in a the of an important government building ensured it's survival over the past 100 years. And when the statues were all spruced up, we added a new capsule whose contents include an iphone 5! Makes you wonder what might else might be hiding all over this historical city...

11.) Site of the Boston Massacre 
Formerly, known as the Riot of King Street, the Boston Massacre wasn't actually a massacre at all. With tensions high, the colonists initiated the attack that led to the 5 deaths that occurred here. Regardless, Paul Revere used this as a launching point and spread propaganda throughout the colonies. While, it wasn't exactly true, it was important in rallying the colonies together. 
Also, I have no idea what's happening in this photo...

12.) Faneuil Hall 
This stop along the Freedom Trail was definitely familiar to us because they serve the best food. While Faneuil Hall was always a marketplace, it was also host to some of America's first town meetings. It's often referred to as the "home of free speech" because it was an open forum for political protests and debates. 
Unfortunately, this is also where our tour officially ended. We decided we would see the last few stops of the Freedom Trail on our own, but we were happy to have some time to wonder around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market first. We ended up grabbing appetizers and drinks at the Mija Cantina and Tequilla Bar. Then we had to stop into Ghirardelli for free samples and a sea salt caramel hot chocolate. 

13.) Paul Revere's House
For a few bucks, you can actually tour the inside of Paul Revere's home. Here, we learned a few of the little known details about Paul Revere's Midnight how after Lexington, he never actually made it to Concord. Instead he was captured by the RedCoats and what happened next really is a kind of amusing, but I won't ruin the ending for you  
Added bonus to this stop, Paul Revere's house is located in the heart of what is now Boston's Little Italy. So grab a cannolli while you're there. 

14.) Bunker Hill Monument 
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, which ironically occurred on the nearby Breed's Hill. While the revolutionaries lost, they inflicted significant damage to the enemy and the battle served as win many peoples eyes. The monument honors the lives lost here. 

15.) Copp's Hill Burying Ground 
One of Boston's oldest and largest burial grounds, it was used by the British as a vantage point for firing cannonballs during the Battle of Bunker Hill. The gravestones here were said to have been used as target practice by the British and some of the gravestones show evidence of this. Though, I'm more apt to believe that this was used as propaganda for the war. 

16.) USS Constitution aka "Old Ironsides"
You can actually visit this beauty in the Old Charleston Naval Yard through the National Park Service. Though, I personally think that you get the best views of the ship by water. You can save and take a public transit ferry or splurge a bit with one of Boston's Duck Boat Tour. We've done it all three ways and it's worth seeing. The USS Constitution is the oldest existing commissioned warship in the world. It received it's nickname during the War of 1812 when it appeared that the cannonballs being fired at it were bouncing off the sides, hence "old ironsides". But the ship actually draws it's strength from several layers of Oak fastened together with copper designed by Paul Revere. 

This historical walking tour was the perfect way to spend our morning. And it was a perfect reminder that no matter how much time we've spent in this city, there is almost more to learn and see. 

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