When I wrote about the Freedom Trail, I mentioned the Old South Meeting House as a site that is not to be missed. It is one of those spaces that is compelling, both for the enlightenment simplicity and grace of its inner architecture and for the ideas that have been shared there. It has been consecrated by history, a fact which the curators seem to realize as they have erected see-through images of famous visitors or congregants – ghosts intended to remind us all of the significance of the place.
Please click on the photos to see a click-through gallery of full-sized versions.
There is much to learn here. We spent a good ten minutes outside the front door listening to a park ranger tell the story of December 16, 1773, when more than 5000 colonists packed the building (then the largest in Boston) to debate the tea tax. At the end of this meeting, Sam Adams gave the signal that led the Sons of Liberty to dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The building was considered such a hot spot for colonial rebellion that when the British occupied the city they used the interior as a jumping ground for horses, leaving it in such a state that it required nearly a decade of work to rehabilitate after the war. The building also survived the Great Boston Fire of 1872 and a threat of demolition four years later.
Inside, we were invited to view sculptures of famous (and not-so-famous) members of the congregation as well as artifacts they used in their daily lives and professions. Of interest also was an exhibit called Voices of Protest, which chronicles the story of this building as a place where people could freely speak their minds; it’s been hosting radical speakers without ceasing since the eighteenth century.
Sometimes simple works when it comes to engaging kids with history. Teddy was given a scavenger hunt at the door and was immediately engaged in filling it out. It was perfect for a child his age, with six questions on it about items that could easily be found throughout the meeting house. We had to locate a statue of the slave poet Phillis Wheatley, a teapot, a figure of a boy who was a cobbler (“Draw a picture of what he made for a living. Hint: You are wearing two of these right now!),
the sounding board over the pulpit,
a box pew, and, trickiest of all, a bust of a “famous member of Old South’s congregation” that required looking out the window and across the street.
Teddy was so proud when he had found everything and carefully filled in his answers. He marched them up to the window where he was rewarded with a teapot stamp and a pencil.
On the way out, we saw a restored Paul Revere bell in the basement; one of only 50 in existence, it has since been placed in the steeple and is expected to ring in 2012.
The Freedom Trail offers much to look at and many things to learn; I appreciated this museum that encouraged us to slow down a little and look around one building that has played such an important role in American history.
Want more information on visiting Boston with kids? Check out these posts:
- Marriott’s Custom House: A family-friendly Boston hotel
- Giacomo’s: A great Boston restaurant for families
- Museum of Science in Boston: Fun enough for a day and then some
- Fountain fun in Boston
- Family fun at Fenway
- Breakfast and books in Beantown
- Walking the Freedom Trail with kids
- Petting sharks at the New England Aquarium