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Steps Off the Trail

Boston is so rich in history that 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. They are just steps off the Trail at these Freedom Trail locations.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - Boston Common - Central Burying Ground and the Liberty Tree
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 George Washington’s portrait which appears on the one dollar bill. Also interred here are 15 Samuel Adams mohawks who took part in the Boston Tea Party, as well as many British Redcoats who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill and during the Siege of Boston. Reinterred here in a mass grave are over 2000 bodies disturbed by the creation of Boston’s subway, just underfoot.

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 of the American Revolution. Felled by Redcoats in 1775, the Liberty Tree had been 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.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - 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. At the end of the conflict, there were more free Black people than slaves, slavery having ended after 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.

The John Adams Courthouse is 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.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - 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 1700s 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 1734.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - Old North Church - Edes and Gill Print Shop
Visit the re-creation of the most powerful voice of rebellion in all 13 American colonies, the printing office of Benjamin Edes and John Gill patriot printers of The Boston Gazette located on the Freedom Trail at the Old North Church's Clough House. Learn about the Revolutionary War-era printers trade as you witness a patriot broadside printed before your very eyes. Find out what Boston Sons of Liberty had planned for the Royal Government as patriot printers discuss current events of 1774! With two colonial style wooden printing presses, the Printing Office of Edes & Gill is the only living history exhibit along the Freedom Trail. Located in the Clough House at Old North Church. Open seasonally.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - USS ConstitutionBoston 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 is a permanently docked Second World War destroyer. The Visitor Center offers an entire history of the Navy Yard from 1800 to the present.

USS Constitution Museum Only yards from the USS Constitution, the USS Constitution Museum is a must see for everyone visiting Boston. Interactive, hands-on-galleries take all ages on a 200 year voyage. Learn how Old Ironsides earned her nickname and how she has remained undefeated since her launch in 1798. Swing in a hammock, join a mess, and furl a sail at the USS Constitution Museum.

Closest Freedom Trail Site - Bunker Hill MonumentHistoric Charlestown
Charlestown, now a neighborhood of Boston, was settled a few years before Boston and is home to many historic sites. 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. The Warren Tavern even today is a thriving restaurant and bar.

Along the Freedom Trail - 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.

Off the Freedom Trail - Dorchester Heights The monument, built in 1902 commemorates the placement of cannon in early March 1776 which forced the British to evacuate Boston ten days later on March 17. It was the last leg of Major Gen. Henry Knox’s monumental trek, The Noble Train of Artillery, with a cache or armaments and 59 much-needed cannons from Fort Ticonderoga. The password in Washington’s camp in nearby Cambridge that March 17 was Boston and the countersign was St. Patrick. Dorchester Heights was annexed to Boston in the 19th century and the neighborhood became home to many of Boston’s Irish. Today the annual Evacuation Day - on March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick - celebrates the end of English rule in Boston.

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