The Extraordinary Heritage of Boston’s Freedom Trail
Two things come to mind when you think of Boston (well, other than clam chowder): beautiful walks and a wealth of history. And there is one walk in particular that perfectly blends the two: the Freedom Trail. Every city has its own unique history, but in Boston, the history isn’t merely that of a few New Englanders; it’s the revolutionary heritage of an entire nation. On my last trip to Beantown, I walked this 2.5 mile trek along the Freedom Trail’s red-painted cobblestones as they wove through the heart of America’s first city and into the renegade world of an emerging nation.
Boston Common: From boot camp to dog park
The Common is Boston’s most iconic park, and as I stood watching a handful of pooches getting their daily exercise, it was hard to envision the Common’s beginnings. For Boston Common has had many faces since 1622, when first owner William Blackstone offered it to the neighborhood as a community grazing ground for local cattle. Roughly 150 years later, it became the training camp of our nation’s first militia, so it could be said that the Revolution started right here among the leafy trees and pampered dogs of Beacon Hill. So what better place to begin our journey?
A bit further down the cobblestones is one of the most fascinating sights along the Freedom Trail: the Granary Burial Ground, where Paul Revere, John Hancock, Peter Faneuil and Samuel Adams are buried. This small, unassuming plot of land gave me goosebumps —to be standing in the presence of men who altered the course of our nation was an unforgettable feeling. Around the corner is King’s Chapel, America’s first non-Puritan church. It was commissioned by the British and used as an Anglican house of worship for British troops. The church is stunning and considered America’s finest example of Georgian architecture.
The Revolution from Start to Finish
Up the block is the grand Old State House, the oldest surviving public building in Boston, built stately and ornate with a shining gold cupola to remind all Bostonians that there was no higher authority than the King. That would all change when the Boston Massacre would unfold in front of its façade and, more importantly, when the Declaration of Independence would be read to the people for the very first time from its balcony. I couldn’t help but stand and gape for a moment, picturing the crowd standing where I now stood, hearing, for the first time, that their country was their own.
A Neighborhood of Legends
Nearby is a small quarter filled to bursting with legendary landmarks. Faneuil Hall, now an energetic collection of shops and restaurants in a grand brick building, is where the policy of “no taxation without representation” was first outlined. Paul Revere’s house, built in 1680, is just blocks away, as is Old North Church, where a sexton’s lantern signals set off Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride. There is also Revere’s neighborhood tavern, the Green Dragon, the so-called “Headquarters of the Revolution,” where some of the first rumblings of monarchical overthrow were heard. I could almost feel the spirit of rebellion in these streets, as if overhearing snippets of the talk of revolution spilling out the front door of the Green Dragon.
The Revolution Rumor Mill
Around the corner, in the shadow of Faneuil, is the headquarters of The Massachusetts Spy, our nation’s first newspaper, which later became America’s oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, still in operation today and a boisterous, always-crowded Boston institution. After the long walk through the most important and influential two miles in our entire country, I stopped to rest my feet, relaxing over a steaming bowl of chowder in the very building where journalists first spread the murmurings of Revolution, where the first American soldiers gathered to strategize, in the city where a nation began.