Relive USA History In Beautiful Beantown

26 August 2016
Read Time: 3.8 mins

Words by Renae Spinks

Boston is a city of firsts, packed with history from Puritan settlers to Red Sox revellers. Founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England, the city is also known for being a hotbed of agitators leading up to the American Revolution against British rule. In 1773, the Boston Tea Party, where political protesters dumped an entire East India Company shipment of tea into Boston Harbour, is said to have escalated the revolution.

The Boston skyline viewed from the waterfront.
Picture: Getty Images

The Massachusetts capital is also associated with anti-slavery activities in the Civil War era, the Kennedy family, and literary luminaries such as Longfellow, Henry Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In fact, the city is so old that it’s hard to fit all its history into just one visit. Here’s but a sampler of historical highlights and a few hidden gems to discover. Plus, read on to find out how Beantown got its name ...


Settle in to Boston life – with a British flavour – at The Langham, Boston in the former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, built in 1920s Renaissance Revival style. It’s a stone’s throw from historic sites such as the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The last word  in luxury, the hotel even chauffeurs guests around in a bright-pink London-style taxi.

The Langham, Boston exterior.
Picture: The Langham, Boston

Slightly older is the lovingly restored Fairmont Copley Plaza, which opened in 1912 to much fanfare, and is close to the Boston Public Library and the historic Freedom Trail.

Eat & Drink

The story goes that Beantown derived its name from the traditional baked beans that were slow-cooked with molasses – also a key ingredient in the city’s booming rum industry of the late 1600s. Hit Island Creek Oyster Bar for a side of old-school baked beans and some of that famous New England clam chowder.

Picture: Getty Images

Head over to have lunch at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (pictured above) near the waterfront, which has been a marketplace and meeting hall since 1743. It has dozens of restaurants, pubs and food vendors from which to choose, as well as a hearty serving of history. It was here that firebrand Samuel Adams rallied citizens to the cause of independence, and the hall has hosted speakers from George Washington to Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy.

Feeling thirsty? Head to the Samuel Adams Brewery – named for the aforementioned Mr Adams – for a tour, where you can learn about the craft-brewing process and sample a few of the award-winning beers.

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The four-kilometre Freedom Trail walks you through 16 of Boston’s historically significant sites, including Boston Common (pictured below), the first public park in the US;  Massachusetts State House; churches and cemeteries; Benjamin Franklin statue; Old Corner Book Store; the site of the Boston Massacre, where British Army soldiers killed five civilians; Paul Revere House; and more. For a shorter walk, join a public tour with a costumed guide at the Boston Common Visitor Information Centre.

Boston Common.
Picture: Getty Images

Just across the Charles River in Cambridge sits the Ivy League Harvard University – the first college in the US, and alma mater of no fewer than eight US Presidents, as well as three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, tech-preneurs Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Stop in at the much-lauded Harvard Book Store in Harvard Square (est 1932) while you’re there.

Back in Boston proper, check out Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team since 1912. Ask around for ‘Autograph Alley’, where a former player may be signing autographs – if you’re really lucky, it might even be a big-name player.

Hidden Gems

Want to take some history home with you? Time your visit for the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets – which bill themselves as America’s oldest outdoor antiques market. They happen three times a year (next up: September 8-10). For something new, check out the Boston Wax Museum, which is due to open in the northern autumn this year, and will feature influential Bostonians through the ages.

Meanwhile, Boston’s Black Heritage Trail follows the houses of worship, homes, schools and Underground Railroad sites of the free African American community of the 19th and 20th centuries, who led the movement to end slavery and achieve equal rights. Find out more at the Museum of African American History Boston and Nantucket.

Boston Library reading room.
Picture: Getty Images

For another first, visit the Boston Public Library (pictured above), founded in 1848, the first large free municipal library in the nation. It holds 23 million items, including first-edition folios by Shakespeare and original music scores from Mozart.

And finally, for something a little quirky, visit the Skinny House at 44 Hull Street in the North End. The ‘spite house’ is only 3.16 metres wide and reportedly built after a dispute between brothers. Or venture into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, housed in what looks like a Venetian palace, with a collection of 19th century artefacts. If you’re in Red Sox gear, there’s a discount; and if your name is Isabella or it’s your birthday, it’s free!



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