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Steps Off the Trail

Boston is a city rich with history. There are many sites beyond the official 16 of the Freedom Trail that deserve attention. Here are some of the historic sites and stories that will further enrich the experience of revolutionary era Boston and the Freedom Trail.

Boston Common - Central Burying Ground
At the Boylston/Tremont corner of the Boston Common lies the Central Burying Ground, dating from 1757. This Burying Ground is the final resting place of Gilbert Stuart, painter of the portrait of George Washington that appears on the one dollar bill. Also interred here are 15 men who took part in the Boston Tea Party, as well as many Redcoats who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill and during the Siege of Boston. Reinterred here in a mass grave are over 2,000 bodies displaced by the creation of Boston’s subway, just underfoot.

The Liberty Tree
Marked by a large bronze plaque on the sidewalk and a bas-relief on the Department of Motor Vehicles building just one block down Boylston Street is the site where the Liberty Tree once stood. Hanging effigies of tax collectors on the Liberty Tree on August 14, 1765 is considered one of the first provocative events in pre-revolutionary America. Felled by Redcoats in 1775, the Liberty Tree was a meeting place and focal point for rallies and protests by the Sons of Liberty and became an important symbol for resistance to British rule.

Massachusetts State House - The Black Heritage Trail
The Black Heritage Trail ® begins on Beacon Hill and intersects the Freedom Trail at the monument to the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts on Beacon Street. African-Americans arrived in Boston in February of 1638, eight years after the city was founded. They were brought as slaves, purchased in Providence Isle, a Puritan colony off the coast of Central America. By 1705, there were over 400 slaves in Boston and the beginnings of a free Black community in the North End. The American Revolution was a turning point in the status of Africans in Massachusetts. Many Blacks fought at the battles of Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord. By the end of the Revolution, there were more free Black people than slaves, slavery having ended after the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 adopted the principle that all men have certain inalienable rights. The first federal census in 1790 indicated that Massachusetts was the only state in the Union to record no slaves.

This walking Trail includes 14 locations related to this important part of Boston’s history and can be visited with a free National Park Service tour. (Registered trademark of the Museum of African American History).

The John Adams Courthouse
The John Adams Courthouse is the headquarters of the Massachusetts judicial branch, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and the Social Law Library, the nation's oldest law library. Named for the patriot who, among his many accomplishments, was the author of the Massachusetts Constitution, and in keeping with his passion for justice, community and learning, the John Adams Courthouse offers many educational opportunities for students and teachers. The Courthouse, a stunning 19th-century structure, has recently undergone historic preservation and is generally open for visitors on normal business days, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Faneuil Hall - The Blackstone Block
At the corner of Union and Hanover Streets, the Blackstone Block is the oldest extant city block in the country and a preserved piece of Boston dating to the 18th Century. The Capen House, now the Union Oyster House restaurant was built in the early 1700’s and housed an importer’s shop that sold silks. During the American Revolution, patriot Isaiah Thomas printed the radical newspaper The Massachusetts Spy from this building before he was forced to flee Boston, crossing the Charles with his printing press in a row boat. Established in 1826, the Union Oyster House is the oldest continuously run restaurant in the country.

Two doors from the Union Oyster House is the Ebenezer Hancock House, built in the late 1760’s by John Hancock. John transferred the title to his younger brother Ebenezer, who would serve as deputy paymaster of the Continental Army. At one point 2.5 million silver crowns, loaned by the French to help pay Washington’s troops, were stored in this building. The Green Dragon pub, a favorite of the Sons of Liberty, was also located here.

Set in the wall of the building to the left of the Ebenezer Hancock house is the Boston Stone, a painter’s millstone that has been a Boston landmark since 1835.

The Blackstone Block is featured on our Historic Pub Crawl.

USS Constitution – Boston Navy Yard
The Charlestown Navy Yard is an active navy base and home to many historic buildings. It is also the headquarters for Boston National Historical Park. The Commandant’s House, built in 1805, is a good example of Navy-Georgian style buildings. USS Cassin Young, a Second World War destroyer, is permanently docked there. The Visitor Center offers a history of the Navy Yard from 1800 to the present.

Bunker Hill Monument - Historic Charlestown
Charlestown, now a neighborhood of Boston, was settled a few years before Boston and is home to many historic sites.Charlestown Training Field, the site of Colonial drilling and musters is marked by the elegant Soldiers and Sailors Monument. In City Square Park, are the foundations of the Great House, built for Governor John Winthrop in 1629. It was destroyed by the British during the bombardment of Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

On Pleasant Street near the Bunker Hill Monument stands the Warren Tavern, 1780, and is thought to be one of the first buildings raised after the bombardment. Named for revolutionary leader and Bunker Hill casualty Dr. Joseph Warren, the tavern became the home of Charlestown’s first Masonic Lodge in 1794, of which Paul Revere was an active member and later Grandmaster. Revere called the tavern his "favorite place." George Washington stopped by the tavern for refreshment in 1789. Today, the Warren Tavern is a thriving restaurant and bar.

Other historic sites -

Dorchester Heights
The monument, built in 1902 commemorates the placement of cannon in early March 1776 which forced the British to evacuate Boston on March 17. It was the last leg of Major General Henry Knox’s monumental trek – the Noble Trail of Artillery – with a cache of armaments and 59 much-needed cannons from Fort Ticonderoga. Dorchester Heights was annexed to Boston in the 19th-century and the neighborhood became home to many of Boston’s Irish. Today the annual St. Patrick’s Day / Evacuation Day celebrates the end of Redcoat Occupation in Boston each year on March 17.

Walk to the Sea Trail
The one-mile stretch from Beacon Hill to State Street, in the Financial District, to Long Wharf, on the harbor features glass and steel panels with historic maps and stories of how the geography of eight Boston locations along the route have been changed over time. See the remarkable land transformation of this small hilly peninsula into a great modern city.

Commonwealth Museum
Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Museum traces the development of rights in Massachusetts from the 1600s until today. On display are the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, “John Adams” Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, and unique royal charters. The copper plate used by Paul Revere to engrave his image of the Boston Massacre is a featured piece. The Museum is accessible by public transportation, fully handicapped accessible. with free parking at 220 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125.

Minute Man National Historical Park
Minute Man National Historical Park  is located 22 miles outside of Boston within the towns of Lexington, Lincoln and Concord, Massachusetts. The park commemorates the opening battles of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775 by protecting, preserving and interpreting the significant historic sites, structures, landscapes, events and ideas embodied by these events. The Park is accessible by car and by MBTA Commuter Rail and bus service. For more information visit their website.

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