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Travel Back in Time on the Freedom Trail

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The Freedom Trail. What’s it all about? Ask longtime MA residents about Boston’s Freedom Trail and they’ll recall memories of a school field trip. Many people think the city’s famous red-lined path starting from the Boston Common and winding its way to Charlestown has been around “forever”. Well, not exactly.

The iconic 2.5 mi(4km) Freedom Trail leads to 16 significant sites important in American history. In 1951, Boston journalist William Schofield suggested creating a marked path linking the noteworthy landmarks. The idea took off. No wonder…it was like a very early version of Google Maps!

The Freedom Trail was officially dedicated on June 11, 1951 @ 12:00 noon. By 1953, 40,000 visitors were following the red-marked trail and traveling back in time to learn or rediscover America’s early history.

PhotoWalks is the only walking tour company in Boston to offer history and photography tours of the Freedom Trail. There’s lots of compelling historical commentary that uncovers the truth behind the events that ignited the American Revolution in 1775. We’ll visit most of the historic sites and capture creative pictures of them from a modern perspective.

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Some quick facts of the Freedom Trail’s 16 sites:

  • Boston Common – America’s oldest public park was founded in 1634. The British soldiers used it as a training field and campground from 1768-1776.
  • Massachusetts State House – Built on land that was once John Hancock’s cow pasture, the building opened 1798. Paul Revere created a copper dome in 1802, which is now overlaid by a 23-karat gold leafing.
  • Park Street Church – Founded in 1809, the 217-ft. tall steeple was the first landmark immigrants saw from afar upon arriving in Boston. The first time “America”(My Country Tis’ of Thee) was sung on the church’s front steps in 1831.
  • Granary Burial Ground – Boston’s third oldest cemetery is the final resting place for John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, the five victims of the Boston Massacre and some signers of the Declaration of Independence.
  • King’s Chapel – The largest bell ever cast by Paul Revere is still rung for services in this 1754 stone church. Adjacent to the building is Boston’s oldest burial ground since 1630.
  • Boston Latin School site/Ben Franklin statue – Ben Franklin looms over the site of the first public school in America, founded in 1635. The school is still in operation today, only in the Fenway district.
  • Old Corner Bookstore – Boston’s oldest commercial building was built in 1718 and was once the site of the town’s first pharmacy and later a publishing company. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden were published here.
  • Old South Meeting House – Built as a church in 1729, Samuel Adams led the meeting to protest the high tax on tea here in 1773—which eventually lead to the famous Boston Tea Party.
  • Old State House – The site of British headquarters opened in 1713. Ironically, the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians in 1776 from the same balcony where they heard the laws they refused to follow.
  • Boston Massacre site – An angry mob confronted nine British soldiers, snowballs and rocks were thrown and suddenly a shot was fired without warning. Five Bostonians died as a result of their injuries.
  • Faneuil Hall – Early protests against the British occupation took place in one of America’s oldest public meeting venues. The current building was enlarged and redesigned by architect Charles Bulfinch.
  • Paul Revere House – Built in 1680, Paul Revere purchased this house in 1770 and lived here with his family for 30 years. In the 19th century, newly arrived immigrants from Ireland, eastern Europe and Italy rented rooms for their families.
  • Old North Church – Boston’s oldest church opened in 1723. Two lanterns hung in its steeple on April 18, 1775 were the first signs that eventually lead to the first shots fired of the Revolutionary War @ 5 am the following morning.
  • Copp’s Hill Burial Ground – Boston’s second oldest burial ground was founded in 1659. Robert Newman, who hung the two signal lanterns in the Old North Church’s steeple, is buried here.
  • USS Constitution/Old Ironsides – First launched in 1797, this is the oldest naval ship afloat. Cannonballs fired at the ship during the War of 1812 seemed to bounce off its hull, earning the nickname, “Old Ironsides. Free tours are available for visitors.
  • Bunker Hill Monument – The first major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought on Breed’s Hill on June 17, 1775. The battle, however, was named after the original target, Bunker Hill.