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A First Visit to Boston's Old State House
Growing up about 60 miles outside of Boston, I’ve visited the city numerous times over the years: as a kid, mainly on field trips and family excursions; as a young adult, for shopping trips or nights out on the town. Despite all of the trips that have brought me past the Old State House, wedged firmly between the tall commercial buildings of the city’s downtown, I’ve never been inside.
A couple of days ago, my 14-year-old daughter and I visited the Old State House for the first time, and I finally experienced what I’d been missing. As we walked over the short distance from Quincy Market, I made sure to remind her of the building’s significance: Built in 1713 as the colony’s seat of government, it’s essentially where the American Revolution was born.
John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and James Otis gathered in its rooms to argue against British intrusions into their lives. In March of 1770, just outside the building, a skirmish between a wig-maker’s apprentice and a British soldier escalated into the Boston Massacre. The Declaration of Independence was written there and first proclaimed from its balcony.
These events were foremost in my mind as I stepped inside, where the first feature of the building immediately presents itself – a beautiful spiral staircase that winds through the center of the building. We moved through the rooms on the main floor, formerly a Merchant’s Exchange, viewing thought-provoking exhibitions that featured artifacts from the colonial era and explored in detail many events leading up to the Revolution. Upstairs, a restaging of what the Council Chamber looked like during colonial times allows visitors to sit at the meeting table and imagine themselves in the historical moment. There are also two kid-friendly rooms that explain the building’s importance and offer coloring books and interactive exhibits.
As we explored the building and viewed the exhibits, one of the museum’s guides announced she’d be giving a talk on the Boston Massacre. A small group of us gathered, and she led us outside for her presentation. Over the next thirty minutes, she related the factors leading up to the massacre, then told of the event itself and the aftermath. She was clearly very knowledgeable, and she seemed to enjoy explaining the “story behind the story” to us as we stood just a few yards from the site.
Without a doubt, visiting the Old State House is a “must-do” Boston attraction for anyone interested in our nation’s history. Standing in the rooms where our country’s forefathers stood, seeing the many 18th Century objects (both ordinary and extraordinary ones) on display, and learning more of the stories of history was an experience I won’t soon forget.