After a brief hiatus to tend to some life housekeeping and make a brief but wonderful visit to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for my uncle’s wedding, I am back at my desk and ready to tackle the next installment of my Quick Guide to the Freedom Trail!
I hope you’re still with me, and I hope you’re hungry.
We’re starting at the Old South Meeting House, which was the largest building in Colonial Boston, and a hot spot for colonists to gather and vent their anger at England in the years leading up to the Revolution. Its popularity endures. On the day of my visit, a service was taking place inside the chapel, while just around the corner, barricades were set up to keep pedestrians from crossing onto a movie set. Past meets present, my friends.
Next up is Boston’s Old State House, dating back to 1713. The Old State House was the first site of British government in Boston and later, the Declaration of Independence was read from its balcony. Today, it houses a museum of Boston history, and stands in stark contrast to its modern urban surroundings.
If you’re hungry you’ll be glad to next find yourself at Faneuil Hall, located adjacent to the popular Faneuil Hall Marketplace, also known as Quincy Market. Built in 1742 by Boston merchant Peter Faneuil, it was the site of many passionate anti-British protests during the Revolutionary era, including the Boston Massacre.
Today it is home to over 100 shops, 14 restaurants and pubs, and almost 40 food-court style international eateries. Basically, it’s the one place that should be able to feed everyone, and if that’s not enough, there is also a constant roster of entertainment happening outside in the form of dancers, musicians, reenactment actors, balloon-men, and performing comedians.
The thing that amuses me the most isn’t supposed to be a joke, but one of the restaurants does this thing where they sometimes hand out enormous paper hats to a whole table of people, who actually put them on and wear them in front of everyone. I tried to be sneaky when I took this photo, but that one gentleman clearly knew what was up….
After leaving the bustle of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, the trail takes you past the Union Oyster House on the way to the Italian “North End” neighborhood. The Union Oyster House isn’t an official stop on the tour, but it is America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, and deserves recognition.
The North End is one of my favorite Boston neighborhoods. I grew up in a very Italian family, so I feel at home with the smell of basil and marinara in my nose and a container of pizelle cookies tucked under my arm. The North End is a tight cluster of winding streets, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants bordered by tall brick buildings. Locals and tourists crowd the sidewalks and streets, and parking spots are as rare as a visit from the Virgin Mary, so visiting the North End while walking the Freedom Trail is a perfect solution. Fill a bakery box with cannoli, pastel cookies, and tiramisu and enjoy it later on the trail.
The next stop is the Paul Revere House. It was built in 1680 and is the oldest surviving building in downtown Boston. Paul Revere was a silversmith by trade, but is better known for his role in the American Revolution through his exaggerated engraving of the Boston Massacre and famed “midnight ride” to warn the Colonial militia that the British forces were coming before the battles at Concord and Lexington. Revere lived in the house from 1770 to 1800, and today it is operated as a nonprofit museum by the Paul Revere Memorial Association.
The last stop for today is the Old North Church – Boston’s oldest – which dates back to 1723. On April 18, 1775, sexton Robert Newman lit two lanterns in the tower, alerting Paul Revere that the British were arriving by sea. One lantern would have meant a land arrival. The church is still operational today, and I was fortunate enough to attend my cousin Jaime’s wedding there a few years ago. It was a beautiful and historical setting. Just outside the church is the Paul Revere Mall, featuring a statue of Revere on his horse.
I regret to say the sun wasn’t on my side when I took the picture of the tower, but I couldn’t exclude it!
Stay tuned for the final installment, coming up next!