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Built : 1713

Architectural Style : Georgian

Timings : 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (Thursday- Sunday), Monday- Wednesday closed

Address : 206 Washington St., Boston, MA 02109, USA

Admission Fee : USD 12 (adults), USD 10 (seniors and students), USD 5 (ages under 12)

Exhibits : The Old State: A Hands-on-History, the Boston Massacre exhibit, From Colony to Commonwealth, Revolutionary Characters, Preservation of the Old State House

Major Event : Proclamation of the Declaration of Independence

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Old State House, Boston Overview

One of the oldest remaining buildings in Boston, and the seat of the Massachusetts General Court, the Old State House is a National Historic Landmark and one of he 16 Freedom Trail sites. The building is now a museum that not only attracts visitors for its architecture but also for its involvement in government proceedings and its association with the Boston Massacre and the country’s freedom.

The Old State House was built in 1713 in the Georgian style of architecture and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It has served as the seat of the Massachusetts General Court, the colony government and the state government at different points in time along with being the Boston city hall. The House is currently a museum that houses exhibits and other attractions to provide information about its history and also the infamous Boston Massacre that took place close by.

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The Establishment of a National Historic Landmark- Old State House

Built in 1713 where the first Boston city hall used to be, the Old State House was constructed in order to create space for offices of the Massachusetts Bay Colonial government. While it is difficult to pinpoint who the primary architect was, Robert Twelves, Thomas Dawes and Isaiah Rogers are some who have been credited with its establishment and renovations.

The brick building has a very prominent feature that symbolises the British monarchy; a pair of lion and unicorn wooden figures (replicas of the original that were burnt down) which stand tall at 7 feet, while the cupola used to be the tallest point in the city at one point of time. A number of chambers were assigned for different purposes; Merchant’s Exchange, warehouses, Council Chamber of the Royal Governor, Massachusetts Assembly central hall, Supreme Judicial Court room, legislative chamber, Courts of Suffolk County etc.

The Chamber for the Massachusetts Assembly was the first to have public galleries in chambers meant for elected officials. It was in 1748 that the building’s interiors had to be rebuilt following the 1747 fire.

What Was the Old State House Used For?

Since the structure was built in 1713, the Old State House was used for a number of purposes, political and economic, some of which are as follows:
  • The Massachusetts Town House: Between the years 1713 and 1776, the building served as the seat of the colony government. There were warehouses in the basement while the Merchant’s Exchange was on the first floor. On the east and west wings of the second floor were the Council Chamber of the Royal Governor, and Courts of Suffolk County and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court chambers respectively. The Massachusetts Assembly chambers with the public galleries were at the centre.
  • The Massachusetts State House: In July 1776, Col. Thomas Crafts proclaimed the Declaration of Independence from the east balcony to the public and later to the members in the Council Chamber. It was also when the lion and unicorn figures were burned in a bonfire. Following the Revolution, the House was the seat of the state government till 1798, when it was moved to Massachusetts State House.
  • Boston Hall: The Old State House was Boston’s city hall from 1830 to 1841 and shared the building with the Boston Post Office and other businesses. William Llyod Garrison, The Liberator’s editor, was provided refuge here until he was taken to Leverett Street Jail. Later, in 1841, the City Hall was moved to School Street.
  • Commercial Use: Once the City Hall was moved to another location, the Old State House was rented out for different commercial activities, between 1841 and 1881. About 50 odd businesses operated from within the building at once, with some of the occupants being tailors, insurance agents and clothing merchants.

Formation of the Bostonian Society to Save the Old State House

In 1881, there were talks of demolishing the Old State House owing to its real estate potential, and this led to the formation of the Bostonian Society for its preservation. Around 1881-82, restoration work was carried out for the building and the lion and unicorn replicas were created and put atop the East side, while an eagle statue was put atop the West side, commemorating the building’s association with the country’s history.

Not only does the Boston Marine Museum have rooms here, lent by the Society, a part of the basement is used as the State Street MTBA Station. Later, in 1976, Queen Elizabeth II visited the House and delivered a speech from the balcony, talking about the country’s colonial past and independence.

The Old State House Museum

The Old State House, having been the location of several political and economic activities since its establishment, is now a museum that people can visit in order to admire the architecture and to get an idea of where the many political proceedings took place. Besides being able to enter the different chambers like the King’s Council Chamber, visitors can also sit on the chairs and experience what it was like sitting on a governor’s chair. Moreover, the museum houses a number of artefacts that belonged to the Revolution-era such as weapons, clothes, furniture etc. There are a number of exhibits at the museum that offer insight into its history, its occupants and its involvement in historic events such as the Boston Massacre that occurred right in front and also the Revolution.

How to Reach Old State House

Located on the Freedom Trail, visitors can explore this historic structure along with the other 15 sites while walking the Trail itself. Moreover, it is possible to get here via public transportation; the Subway, train or bus. The Orange or Blue line drop passengers off at State Street, the Green line at Government Center and the Red line at Downtown Crossing. Buses 504, 92, 93 and SL5, and trains Fitchburg, Framingham/Worcester, Greenbush, Haverhill and Lowell bring passengers close to the House. Also, there are garages where visitors can park their cars; Pi Alley Garage, 75 State Street Garage, Post Office Square Garage.

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