In 1623, when European settlers founded what is now Boston, Massachusetts, they landed on the Shawmut Peninsula, a peninsula that was "almost an island." A narrow, north-south, causeway connected this "almost an island" to the mainland. Despite certain hardships, the settlement prospered under British rules.
However, a hundred fifty years later, some residents were chafing under the rule of a government so distant. Some of the rules of the distant government caused Boston residents to agitate against those rules. Agitation led to reprisals and, after a period of time, agitation and reprisals became the American Revolutionary War. The war started in Boston in April 1775 when British troops marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord. The united colonies declared their independence in July 1776. The British finally acknowledged the independence of the colonies in 1783.
The beneficiaries of the events leading to the American Revolutionary War, and the events of the War itself, rightly believe that they should remember and honor the people, places, and things that led to the creation of the United States of America. Boston became a hodgepodge of Revolutionary War historic sites. People came from near and far to visit these sites.
As time progressed, more events occurred in Boston worthy of historic remembrance. Add these more recent events to the events of the Revolutionary era and remember that Boston had a hundred and fifty year history before the Revolution and you discover that Boston is a historically significant city.
There is so much to see in Boston and so little time to see it in.
In 1951, a journalist, William Schofield by name, saw the proximity of many of the landmarks and the need to organize them into a workable pattern. Boston's Mayor John B. Hynes helped make Schofield's visualization a reality. The city marked off a walking trail of two and a half miles with red brick and red paint. The trail organized sixteen historic sites within the city. Because so many of the sites incorporated into the red brick and paint trail related to the American Revolution, the city named the trail the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail includes:
• The Boston Common, established in 1634, is the site were British troops were encamped at the beginning of the Revolution. Early colonists pastured their cattle there.
• The New State House stands on Beacon Hill and overlooks Boston Common. Where else in our nation can you find a "new" state house dating back to 1795?
• Built in 1809, the Park Street Church stands on land that was once a part of Boston Common. Workers in a granary on the site prior to the church's construction, made the sails for the U. S, S. Constitution. At one time, the church's 217 foot tall steeple was the tallest structure in the United States.
• The Granary Burying Ground, next to Pak Street Church, is the final resting place of many Revolutionary War notables. South Burying Ground was renamed Granary Burying Ground in 1737 because of the granary then standing beside it. Burials took place there from its founding in 1660 until 1880.
• King's Chapel and Burying Ground are side by side but not related. In 1680, when no one offered land on which to build an Anglican chapel, Governor Andros had a wooden chapel built in the public burying ground. The congregation erected the current, Quincy granite building in the 1740s. Construction workers built a base for a steeple but funds were not then available to do so. The congregation never did build the steeple.
• Benjamin Franklin Statue and site of Boston Latin School honor both, native Bostonian Benjamin Franklin and the first public school in the United States. Benjamin Franklin attended this school in his youth. Boston's old city hall, a tourist attraction in its own right, now occupies the site.
• Built in 1711, the Old Corner Bookstore served as a bookstore and/or publishing house for over a hundred years. During its career as a bookstore Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. were amongst its patrons. The electronic age has converted the building to a restaurant.
• Built in 1729, Old South Meeting House was the largest building in Boston at the time of the American Revolution. When attendance overflowed the Old State House, the meetings adjourned to Old South Meeting House. The members of the Boston Tea Party began their escapade here.
• Built in 1713, the Old State House served as the seat of Colonial and state government until 1798. It now serves as an historical museum.
• The site of the Boston Massacre, directly in front of the Old State House, is marked with a brick circle. No, the circle was not there on March 5, 1770 when the "Incident on King Street" - as the British refer to it - occurred.
• Faneuil Hall has been a market place since 1743. Renovations in the 1960s have made it one of the most visited places in Boston. Here is where the tourist can find a variety of vendors and foods.
• Built shortly after the disastrous fire of 1676, the Paul Revere House is now the oldest residential building left in downtown Boston. It is now a museum and gives the visitor a glimpse of what life might have been like in the 1600s. Paul Revere raised the eleven surviving children of his sixteen children in this house.
• Built in 1723, Old North Church is the oldest church building in Boston. It was from its steeple that the church sexton hung the famous "One if by land, two if by sea" lanterns. The church is in the heart of Boston's North End.
• In 1659, Boston established its second burying ground, North Burying Ground, renamed Copp's Hill Burying Ground. Away from the hustle and bustle of Hanover and Salem Streets, one can get a sense of what living on Boston's narrow streets is like. Copp's Hill overlooks the site of the January 1919 Molasses Disaster.
• Launched in 1797, the wooden sailing ship U.S.S. Constitution did not participate in the American Revolution. It earned the nickname Old Ironsides while defending our independence during the War of 1812. The U.S.S. Constitution is one of only two sites on the Freedom Trail not on the Shawmut Peninsula.
• Politics being what they are, it took eighteen years to erect the Bunker Hill Monument. The monument commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, fought June 17, 1775. A statue of Dr. Joseph Warren and the Bunker Hill Museum augment the site. The Bunker Hill Monument is one of only two sites on the Freedom Trail not on the Shawmut Peninsula
There is much more in Boston than the Freedom Trail. There is more Revolutionary War history, history in general, and culture to see in Boston than its Freedom Trail. The Boston Public Library, a variety of Class A museums, historic homes, architecture, statues, professional sports, and waterfront are amongst the attractions that are not part of the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail has proved so popular that city leaders have created other walking trails within the city. Other cities have created their own walking trails.