The Freedom Trail is a walking tour of Colonial Revolutionary Boston.
A two and one-half mile route featuring significant historic sights including museums, meetinghouses, churches, burying grounds, monuments, statues and ships.
The emphasis of the trail is on the American Revolution and people such as Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams, but the route also includes the Charlestown Navy Yard where you can tour two historic ships from the War of 1812 and WWII.
Photos of each of the historically significant sites on the Freedom Trail are included below along with a brief description. A few of these sites are also included from another perspective, the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower in my photo essay from The Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory. Also see my ground-level overview and introduction to Boston photo essay for more pictures.
Pictures of Sites Along Boston’s Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail begins at the Visitor Center at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S.
British troops camped in what was then a cow pasture before heading to Concord and Lexington.
The Massachusetts State House overlooking Boston Common.
Samuel Adams and Paul Revere laid the cornerstone for the Charles Bulfinch designed State House in 1795.
Across Beacon Street from the State House, on Boston Common you will find the
Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial to the first documented African American regiment.
Another walking trail —The Black Heritage Trail — begins here and explores the history of
Boston’s 19th Century African American Community.
The carillon at Park Street Church sounds twice daily from its 217 foot steeple at Brimstone Corner.
The church at the site of the old town granary dates to 1809. William Lloyd Garrison gave his first
public anti-slavery speech here on July 4, 1829. The church children’s choir sang
“My Country ‘Tis of Thee” for the first time two years later.
The Granary Burying Ground next to Park Street Church in Boston MA.
Patriots — including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, and Paul Revere —
as well as victims of the Boston Massacre, plague and fire are buried here.
It’s easy to follow the Freedom Trail through Boston. Most of it is marked with parallel light colored bricks.
Founded in 1866 as the first Anglican Church in New England during the Reign of King James II,
King’s Chapel was a stronghold of Loyalist opposition during the American Revolution.
The original wooden church was replaced with a stone version, designed by Peter Harrison, in 1754.
After the original bell, cast in England and hung in 1772, cracked it was recast by Paul Revere —
the largest bell cast by the Revere foundry and last cast by Revere himself.
King’s Chapel Burial Ground, originally the public burying ground, contains the remains of John Winthrop,
the colony’s first governor, and the gravestone that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write The Scarlet Letter.
Next stop on the Freedom Trail is the site of the Latin School,
established by Puritan settlers in 1635 and the oldest school in America.
Samuel Adams, John Adams and Ben Franklin attended classes here.
The building behind the Franklin statue in the preceding photo is the Old City Hall Building dedicated in 1865.
It has a granite exterior in the French Second Empire style with ornamental columns, mansard roof and projecting central bay.
One of the first examples of adaptive reuse, Old City Hall now contains a restaurant and serves as an office building.
The Old Corner Bookstore, now owned by Historic Boston, was built after the Great Fire of 1711 on property once owned by
Puritan dissident Anne Hutchinson who was exiled to Rhode Island in 1638 where she founded the town of Portsmouth.
The builder, Dr. Thomas Crease, used the building as a residence and apothecary shop. First used as a bookstore in
1828 it was home to Ticknor and Fields publishers from 1832 to 1835 and became a meeting-place for authors such as
Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens.
This National Historic Landmark, The Old Meeting House, built in 1729, was the site of many important events
in American History. It was here that Judge Samuel Sewall apologized for his role in the Salem Witch Trials,
Benjamin Franklin was baptized and poet and slave Phillis Wheatley explored the meaning of liberty.
It was also where citizens of Boston met to challenge British rule and protest the Boston Massacre and tea tax.
At an overflow meeting here on December 16, 1773 Samuel Adams launched the Boston Tea Party.
The Old State House, also known as Boston’s “Towne House,” built in 1712–13 replaced the wooden Towne House of 1657.
The seat of Royal Colonial government from 1713–76, the Council Chamber of the Royal Governor was on the 2nd floor.
It was there, in the Royal Council Chamber, that James Otis argued against the Writs of Assistance in 1761.
A circle of cobblestones (in the triangular traffic island) in front of the Old State House marks the site of
the Boston Massacre where British Soldiers fired into a crowd of Bostonians in 1770.
Citizens gathered in front of the building on July 18, 1776 for the first public reading in Massachusetts
of the Declaration of Independence from the building’s balcony.
Two seven-foot tall wood sculptures, a lion and unicorn — symbols of the British monarchy,
were removed and burned in a bonfire on King Street after the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The building served as the seat of the Massachusetts state government after the revolution until it moved to the
Massachusetts State House in 1798. The Bostonian Society was formed to save the building from destruction in 1881.
Copper replicas of the lion and unicorn statues were placed in their original locations as part of a 1881–82 restoration.
Faneuil Hall, built in 1742 at the site of the old town dock, was enlarged in 1806 — the one unchanged element may be the
grasshopper weather vane, possibly modeled after one on the London Royal Exchange, sitting on top of the cupola which
was moved from the west end to the east end when the building was enlarged.
Built in the style of an English country market, the ground floor still has market stalls much like it did in Paul Revere’s day.
The oldest building in downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House is the next stop on the Freedom Trail.
Built around 1680, silversmith Paul Revere and his family lived here from 1700 – 1800. It is now a museum.
American Patriot Paul Revere is best known for his ride to Lexington, Massachusetts to let Samuel Adams and John Hancock
know that the British were coming to arrest them immortalized in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
Next stop on the Freedom Trail — Boston’s oldest Church Building. Built in 1723 this Episcopal church is known as
“Christ Church of the City of Boston” but to most it is The Old North Church where Paul Revere’s friend,
Robert Newman, signaled with two lanterns the departure of the British regulars to Lexington.
Paul Revere was a neighborhood bell ringer at the Old North Church. He watched from the far side of the Charles River
for the signal: “One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, …’
This telephoto shot compresses distance making Marriott’s Custom House and the steeple appear closer than reality.
Robert Newman is among those buried in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the next site on the Freedom Trail.
The second oldest (1659) burying ground in Boston It was named after shoemaker William Copp who once owned the land.
Others interred here include Shem Drowne — maker of the weathervane and grasshopper atop Faneuil Hall, Increase Mather
and his son Cotton Mather — known for stirring fears leading to the Salem witchcraft trials, artisans, craftspeople, merchants
and thousands of African Americans who lived in the “New Guinea” community.
The Freedom Trail then crosses the Charles River to the Charlestown Navy Yard and Bunker Hill.
Charlestown Navy Yard, established in 1800 and closed in 1974, is now part of Boston Historical Park.
The USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young are preserved as examples of the type of vessels built here.
President George Washington ordered construction of the USS Constitution — a three-masted, wooden-hulled
heavy frigate of the United States Navy — to protect America’s growing maritime interests.
Nicknamed “Old Ironsides” after the war of 1812 when cannon balls glanced off her thick hull as she defeated
four British frigates, she launched in 1797 and is now the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.
The USS Cassin Young was built by Bethlehem Steel Corporation at San Pedro, California.
Commissioned in 1943 the destroyer first saw combat against Japanese strongholds in the Caroline Islands in June of 1944.
The last stop on the Freedom Trail, the Bunker Hill Monument — built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill —
is a 221 foot tall (67m) granite obelisk constructed between 1827 and 1843 on Breed’s Hill in Charleston, Massachusetts.
The June 17, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution,
was fought mostly on Breed’s Hill which was lower and closer to the water.
If you are willing to climb the 294 steps to the pinnacle of the Bunker Hill Monument (there is no elevator)
you will be rewarded with views like this one looking south to Boston beyond the Charles River.
The tall building on the far right in the above photo is the Prudential Tower. See another 17 photos shot from the Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory, including a great telephoto shot of the Bunker Hill Monument, and then check out my third Boston photo essay — an introduction to Boston, Massachusetts.
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