The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick-marked route that takes visitors to 16 historically significant sites in Boston. Although Tom and I have done parts of the Freedom Trail in the past, we had not been to Boston for a long time and the friends we have been traveling with had never done it. So we decided to head into the city on a beautiful day to visit these historical sites.
We rode the commuter rail into the city. Tickets were $21 round trip, and were well worth the price. Instead of being stuck in traffic on the interstate and then trying to find an impossible parking spot big enough for the truck, we parked in Newburyport in a spacious lot and then climbed on the train for a one-hour ride that whisked us along at speeds up to 60 miles an hour. We arrived at the North Station in downtown Boston and walked next door to catch the C-Line of the Green T to get to Park Street Station on the Boston Commons. We had selected this as our starting point because, on the website, there was a Freedom Trail Information Center across the street from the station.
Only there wasn’t. The building was being renovated and was locked to all the tourists who were trying to get information. So we walked to the next place on the map that showed a Visitor Information Center – several blocks away. We tried to stay on the Freedom Trail while we walked so we could at least see the historical sites along the way. We walked past Park Street Church, the Granary Burial Grounds, the First Public School, the Ben Franklin Statue, Old South Meeting House, and the Old Corner Bookstore. When we got the the Boston Massacre site, we listened to a ranger giving a presentation, and then looked for the Visitor Center which was supposed to be in the area. I went one way, Tom went another, but no visitor center. Finally we went in to the Old State House Museum and Gift Shop and asked where the Visitor Center was. They told us it had been moved to Faneuil Hall about a year ago, but no one had updated the maps since then. Hmph! Thousands of tourists come to walk this trail each year and they can’t put an accurate map on their web page.
I bought a recently published guide to the Freedom Trail which had an accurate map in it and our tour of the Freedom Trail began. We went to the Visitor Center at Faneuil Hall, which was a really odd mix of souvenir shop and ranger station. The rangers at the desk were helpful but there wasn’t much historical information available. So we continued on.
We saw the Pierce-Hichborn House and the Paul Revere House. We chose not to pay to see the Paul Revere House since it looked similar to the Witch House the previous day in Salem. We stopped to eat some slices of pizza in the shade of the Paul Revere Mall and admired the statue of Paul Revere riding away from Old North Church. We went into Old North Church and read about the history of the “one if by land, two if by sea” lanterns. Old North Church is still an Episcopalian congregation, so we gave a suggested donation and moved on. We spent a little time in the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston. I especially liked the gravestone of the patriot Daniel Malcom who was so hated by the British that they used his gravestone for target practice. Daniel was buried 10 feet deep in a stone vault so the British wouldn’t desecrate his grave.
We crossed the Charlestown Bridge over the Charles River and headed up to Bunker Hill. The memorial is actually on Breeds Hill because that is where the revolutionaries built their defensive embankments. At the time, you could see all over Charlestown from the top of the hill. We climbed to the top of the monument – 294 steps! – to see the view. Then we headed back down the stairs and the hill to visit the Charlestown Navy Yard.
We spent more time visiting the USS Constitution than we did any other spot in Boston. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world although it is undergoing a two year restoration, so it isn’t afloat right now. We had to go through a security checkpoint to go aboard, and we heard an interesting talk by one of the sailors assigned to the USS Constitution. The USS Constitution was one of six ships in the original US Navy. It was built in 1797 and still looks pretty good today. When it isn’t undergoing repairs, it typically sails into the harbor four times a year. The sailors on the ship felt it was a great honor to be assigned to the USS Constitution.
Worn out, but pleased with all we had finally been able to see of the Freedom Trail, we walked back to North Station and took the commuter rail back to the truck. We ended our day with a supper of ice cream at Hodgies Too in Salisbury. If you go there, don’t get anything bigger than a one-scoop because a one-scoop will be all most people can eat!
We enjoyed our day walking along the Freedom Trail. It would have been even better if they would update the map on their website!