The Old State House has stood as an emblem of liberty in Boston for over 300 years! Built in 1713 to house the colony’s government, the Old State House was at the center of civic events that sparked the American Revolution. James Otis railed against the Writs of Assistance in a fiery speech that ignited the colonists’ rebellion. “Then and there the child independence was born,” John Adams declared. In 1768, the colony’s House of Representatives defied the royal governor and refused to rescind their call for united resistance to British taxes. Patriots everywhere toasted House members for their courage; British officials, however, dissolved the legislature and sent two regiments of the army to occupy Boston. Less than a decade later, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston from the Old State House balcony, and the building became home to the newly-formed government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Its distinctive cupola was once the tallest point in town, and atop its facade are the lion and unicorn, symbols of royal authority, which were torn down and burned after the Declaration of Independence was read from the building's balcony on July 18, 1776.
Today, the Old State House engages visitors with a historic experience of Revolutionary Boston through guided tours, interactive activities, and exhibits. The Old State House invites you to be revolutionary with new exhibits and special events offered every half-hour. Visit America's Revolutionary Museum and choose from live performances, Boston Massacre tours, fun activities, and an opportunity to sit in the Royal Governor's chair in the newly-restored 1764 Royal Council Chamber.
The Old State House is today maintained as an historic site and museum by the Bostonian Society.
LIFE, LIBERTY, AND PURSUIT On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time to the public in Massachusetts from the balcony of the Old State House. Abigail Adams was there, and wrote to her husband John, "When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was given to every word. As soon as he ended... 3 cheers which rended the air... Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen."1
SIGNATURE ITEMS Also on display at the Old State House are the red velvet suit that John Hancock is believed to have worn when he was sworn in as the governor of Massachusetts, a vial of tea saved from the Boston Tea Party, a lantern hung to signal meetings of the Sons of Liberty, silver by Paul Revere, a musket used at the Battle of Lexington, and a drum from the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Freedom Trail Foundation tours that feature this site:
Walk Into History Tour
Walk Into History Tour & joint Old State House admission ticket
Historic Holiday Stroll
African-American Patriots Tour
Old State House/Bostonian Society — Boston National Historical Park
206 Washington Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Open: April 15 - Oct. 31 9:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.; Nov. - April 14 9:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
Closed: Mondays during Jan - March, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day
Reduced admission with joint Walk Into History Tour ticket.
1Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21 - 22 July 1776 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/