*For Part #2, click here
Boston’s Old City Hall is, quite frankly, a building I would never look at twice were it not on the Freedom Trail. However, in addition to its relatively boring facade, it’s also the previous site of the first pubic school in the U.S. – the Boston Latin School – whose students included Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Outside the building there are the requisite plaques, along with an impressive statue of Benjamin Franklin.
The next stop along the Freedom Trail, the Old South Meeting House, is also the first stop we made where we actually had the opportunity to go inside (we started the Freedom Trail so early in the day, the previous stops hadn’t yet opened for the day). This is where Judge Samuel Sewall apologized for his role in the Salem Witch Trials. This is where Phillis Wheatley, former slave and published poet, attended church. And this is where colonists met on December 16, 1773 before they continued down to Griffin’s Wharf for what would later known as the Boston Tea Party.
The Old South Meeting House also stands as the home for the running exhibit, Voices of Protest, which goes into more detail about the people who made the church what it is today. My favorite was the statue of Margaret Sanger. A nurse and birth control advocator, Sanger was denied the right to speak at the Old South Meeting House due to her controversial belief women should be educated on and have access to birth control, and therefore famously stood on the stage with a gag over her mouth while someone else read what she had prepared.
Side note: most of the older churches in Boston have the high pew boxes, which were designed to keep parishioners warm during the winter. Anyone who purchased a pew (necessary back in the day), could then decorate their box as they wished, and bring in feet warmers as well.