Charles Street Meeting House (Black Heritage Trail Site 5)
The Charles Street Meeting House is the fifth stop on the Black Heritage Trail in Boston. Built in 1807 by the Third Baptist Church, the Charles Street Meeting House, then called the Charles Street Baptist Church, is significant as the location of many anti-slavery meetings in the decades prior to the Civil War. During its first decades, the church practiced racial segregation with black attendees being relegated to the gallery and generally barred from many of the privileges of full membership in the congregation. In 1836, abolitionist Timothy Gilbert was expelled from the church for inviting African Americans to sit beside him in his regular pew. In subsequent decades, the congregation took a stand against slavery and African Americans like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth delivered speeches alongside white abolitionists like Charles Sumner. White membership in the congregation dwindled and the congregation sold the building to the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1876. That congregation had been formed in 1833 and had grown to become the largest black congregation in Boston after the Civil War. The congregation sold the building in 1939 owing to the declining number of African American families in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Abiel Smith School (Boston Black Heritage Trail Site 9)
The Abiel Smith School is one of the oldest buildings constructed solely for the education of African American children. Its establishment was the result of years of concerted efforts from activists and parents in the Boston community. After several decades of petitions, the Boston School Committee agreed to provide partial funding for the African School that had been established in 1798. At the time, the African School was being held on the first floor of the African Meeting House, but the school was in poor condition. Funding for the Abiel Smith School came from the will of a white businessman and the school’s namesake, Abiel Smith, and the school was opened in 1835. While its construction marked a huge step forward for African American education, the Abiel Smith School eventually came to exemplify the inequality in Boston's school system.
African Meeting House and Museum of African American History (Boston Black Heritage Trail Site 10)
The African Meeting House is the final stop on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail. The structure was built in 1809 to house the first African Baptist Church of Boston, making this the oldest surviving African American church building in the United States. The church also served as a school and a gathering place for Boston’s black community. Famous abolitionists and leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, Maria Stewart, and Frederick Douglass spoke to audiences assembled within these walls. Since 1972, The African Meeting House houses the Boston's Museum of African American History. Two years later, the building became one of the first National Historic Landmarks for its connection to the anti-slavery movement and African American religious history.
Massachusetts State House
Built in 1798, the “new” State House is located across from the Boston Common on the top of Beacon Hill. The land was once owned by the first-elected governor of Massachusetts, John Hancock. Charles Bullfinch, the leading architect of the day, designed the building.
The dome, originally made out of wood shingles, is now sheathed in copper and covered by 23 karat gold, which was added to prevent leaks into the State House. In the House of Representatives chambers hangs a wooden codfish called the Sacred Cod. The Sacred Cod signifies the importance of the fishing industry to the Commonwealth. At the top of the golden dome sits a wooden pinecone, which symbolizes logging in Boston during the eighteenth century.
Established in 1807, Boston Athenæum remains one of the oldest private libraries in the United States. As membership grew, the organization added a collection of art, as well as thousands of rare books. By the 1850s, it was the center of Boston's literary and cultural scene as well as one of the largest libraries in the United States. Maintained as a private library that the public can visit, the collection includes over half a million books as well as a variety of rare and unique artifacts and works of art. The Atheneum sponsors numerous lectures, art exhibits, and concerts, as well as structured discussions where community members can engage with authors and scholars.
Granary Burying Ground
Established in 1660, some of America's most notable citizens such as Paul Revere are buried in this cemetery. This cemetery has 2300 markers but is likely the final resting place of an additional 2700 souls. It was named for the grain storage building that was located across the street. It is estimated there are over 5,000 Bostonians who have made the Granary their final resting place. The Infant’s Tomb, where hundreds of children have been interred, is located near the central obelisk that marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents. Alongside the far wall, an elaborately embellished obelisk marks John Hancock’s tomb. Paul Revere is buried near the back of the Granary; a large marker placed in the 19th century stands by a smaller, older slate marker. Matching stones in the two front corners of the burial ground commemorate James Otis and Samuel Adams. Next to the stone for Adams is the grave marker for the victims of the Boston Massacre. On the right hand wall is a plaque marking the tomb of Robert Treat Paine, the third signer of the Declaration of Independence buried in the Granary (the others being John Hancock and Samuel Adams).
Park Street Church
The 217 foot steeple of Park Street Church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston. The church was founded in 1809, at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets, atop the site of Boston’s town grain storage building, or granary. Park Street Church became known for supporting Abolitionist causes where, on July 4, 1829, a young William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public speech against slavery.
King's Chapel and Burying Ground
King's Chapel is one of the earliest congregations that are in continuous use in the city. It was founded in the city hall of Boston in June, 1686. The building has been modified only slightly over the centuries, and it is still located at the site of its first dedicated house of worship, constructed in 1689 at the junction of Tremont Street and School Street. It was designed by one of the most renowned Colonial-period American architects, Peter
Harrison. King's Chapel was added to the List of National Historic Landmarks in Boston in October 1960, and remains active to the present day with regular services, managed by the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The first and oldest cemetery in Boston, King's Chapel Burying Ground is the final resting place of many of the first settlers of Massachusetts Colony. The only cemetery in Boston between its founding in 1630 and 1660, this is also the location of the grave of Puritan minister John Cotton Mary Chilton. The first woman to debark from the Mayflower is interned here, as is the colony's first governor John Winthrop. Given the age of the headstones and the potential for inaccurate and missing records, historians are not able to identify all of the men and women who were buried here.