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Urban Hikes: Boston’s Freedom Trail

Inside the American Revolution: fear, loathing and lustful letters by John Adams

In 1749, when the last cornerstone of King’s Chapel was laid, colonists responded by throwing dead animals at the building that was built to ensure that the Church of England was represented in the New World. Paul Revere was not very respected in his day because he was French and not British — nonetheless, he managed to get married (twice!) and father 16 children. And when John Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 presidential election, he  wrote a romantic, even steamy, letter to his wife. She responded by telling him that at the age of 65, he was far too old for that kind of passion. “Madam,” John responded, “If I were by your side at this moment, I would prove to you that I’m much closer to being 45 than 65.”

“I like to tell that one to the seniors on my tour,” says George Smith, a Boston National Historic Park ranger who leads tours of Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Recognized as a National Recreation Trail, the Freedom Trail was conceived by a newspaper reporter — a Boston Herald-Traveler writer named William Schofield. Schofield advocated for a trail that would make it easier for tourists to find some of Boston’s historic sites. In 1958, the Chamber of Commerce, along with the Boston Advertising Club, took up the initiative and created the Freedom Trail, now a 2.5-mile red-painted walk that weaves its way from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument, hitting 16 historical buildings, sites, cemeteries, and churches.

Seven of the eight sites that make up the Boston National Historical Park collection, established by the National Park Service, can be found on the Freedom Trail — the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution. In addition to these seven, the Freedom Trail consists of Boston Common, the State House, the Park Street Church, the Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, the King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the site of the nation’s first public school, the Old Corner Bookstore, and the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

For a free 90-minute tour of the Freedom Trail, call the National Park Service at 617-242-5642 or 617-242-5689 for group reservations. For a costumed guided tour, an audio tour, or a booklet to accompany you on your walk, stop by the Boston Common Visitor Information Center at 147 Tremont St., on the Common.

Nicole Laskowski can be reached at nicolel@bu.edu.