Paul Revere Mall, Prado, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, North America, Read About Can't Miss Places

The Boston North End–a Historical Hotspot

As early as 1646, the North End had a distinct community and by the end of that decade had its own church, the North Meeting House, with the popular (and powerful) preacher—Increase Mather—at its head. By the mid-1600s, the North Burying Ground, now called Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, registered grave markers. The neighborhood continued to grow throughout the 1700s and the—now famous—Old North Church was built. Its interior with elaborate box pews gave religious sustenance to the neighborhood’s well-heeled citizens, as well as the working-class. By the early 20th century, Italian and Jewish immigrants dominated the increasingly commercial neighborhood. Today, one can still feel the cultural imprint of both groups in the area. Boston’s North End has a long and rich history and, thankfully, some of its historic sites still stand for viewers to visit. Here are some to visit.

Historical Sites in Boston’s North End

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground—This was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground dating from 1659 when it was known as the North Burying Ground. Over 10,000 bodies are buried there along with thousands of unmarked graves of African Americans. Notable members of the Mather family—Samuel, Increase, and Cotton—are all buried there. Prince Hall, a former slave and anti-slavery activist who fought in the Continental Army and founded the Black Masonic Order also rests in eternal peace at Copp’s. Noted African-American poet, Phyllis Wheatley, who had been enslaved and was emancipated allegedly is buried there, as well.

The Prado—also known as the Paul Revere Mall is located between Old North Church and St. Stephen’s Church. A famous sculpture of Paul Revere by artist Cyris Dallin dominates the Prado and provides a perfect snapshot of history of Paul Revere riding a horse with the Old North Church in the background.

Pierce/Hichborn House—built around 1711, the house is one of the earliest brick homes in Boston still standing. It’s an example of early Georgian architecture and is next-door to the Paul Revere House. 

Paul Revere House—Revere purchased this 1680 house in 1770. Built on the site of the Mather House, this home was where he and his family lived when he made his famous midnight ride immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It has been restored to resemble its late 17th century appearance and the furnishings inside show life in the 18th century. Historical interpreters explain the house, its architecture, its furnishings, and the life of Paul Revere.

Old North Church–Speaking of Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, this church played a pivotal role in that story being the place where lanterns in its steeple would signal “one if by land, two if by sea.” Constructed in 1723, its steeple may have played a dramatic role in history, but its interior is worth a visit. See the pew boxes of those who purchased them—look how austerely or elaborately they were decorated. On the grounds is the Printing Office of Edes and Gill, which is a reproduction of an 18th century colonial print shop. The Printing Office and its neighbor, the Heritage Goods and Gifts store, are housed in one of Boston’s oldest surviving colonial residences—the 1715 Clough House.

Holocaust Memorial—Located on Congress Street, the Holocaust Memorial on the Freedom Trail in Boston is very powerful. Six glass towers, rising 54 feet high, symbolize six major concentration camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Treblinka. The six towers also represent the deadliest years of the Holocaust, 1939-1945, when the phase called the Final Solution took place. Six pits are lined with black concrete at at the bottom of each is a glowing fire. The identification numbers of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis, are etched all around the glass from top to bottom. Steam bursts up to represent the gas that exterminated so many people at the camps. Panels at each entry provide more context of the collective evil that occurred.

Harborwalk—walk along Boston’s waterfront along wharves, piers, bridges, and shoreline. Imagine what life would have been like before automobiles, trains, and planes when boats entering the harbor kept people (and goods) coming into Boston. Although Griffin’s Wharf’s location, where the Boston Tea Party occurred is debated, you can imagine large tea ships and other British schooners coming into port (my blog from the site of the Boston Tea Party Museum).

When you’re done seeing all the history Boston’s North End has to offer, you will surely have worked up an appetite. Thankfully, the North End is home to Boston’s Little Italy and some of the finest Italian food in the city. Savor sweet cannoli, twirl fresh pasta, sip freshly-ground espresso, and mangia until your heart is content…and your stomach is full. To experience the highlights while hearing the history, take Bobby Agrippino’s North End Food Tour (my blog on it). A couple of my favorite restaurants are Giacomo’s on Hanover and Vinoteca di Monica on Richmond. I’ve been coming to Boston’s North End for Italian food since I was a child—this may have actually been where my love of Italian food started now that I think about it—and I’ve rarely been disappointed so explore and let me know what places were your favorites.

I hope you enjoy the immense history and culture that Boston has to offer. Happy travels!

Boston Food Tour blog: https://roaminghistorian.com/2022/06/26/best-boston-food-tour/

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