Old State House

Where the Revolution Ignited

The Old State House is an iconic building that stood at the epicenter of the American Revolution. It was here that the colonists realized their freedom and fought for their independence.

The Old State House in Boston’s downtown is the quintessential historic landmark of Boston. It is not only one of the oldest public buildings that is still standing in Boston, but it is also a location that is rich in meaning to our nation’s history. Boston’s history is greatly intertwined with the history of the Revolutionary War, and no other location in Boston had influenced the tension leading to the revolution more than The Old State House.

One of the largest events in The Old State House’s history occurred on March 5, 1770.  On this day, a mob of protesters gathered at the Old State House to protest encroachments made by the British government.  At The Old State House, the protesters clashed with a sentry of British soldiers.  Then, under disputed circumstances, the British sentry ultimately fired on a crowd of protesters.  At the end of the violence five protesters were dead.  This event was transformed by silversmith Paul Revere into the famous etching “The Bloody Massacre.”  Revere depicted the event as the tyrannical British firing into a peaceful group of colonists.  However, the British soldiers were most likely assaulted by the protesters.  In the background of this famed work, you can see Old State House standing as a prominent figure.  When the soldiers were put on trial, six out of eight of the soldiers were acquitted, but two were found guilty of manslaughter.  This event contributed to increased tensions that would ultimately lead to the want for freedom from the crown and Revolution against the British.

The writing of the Declaration of Independence was the ultimate result of the colonists’ displeasure with British rule. This important document was an announcement to King George III that colonists were ready to fight for independence from the crown. When the document was drafted, the authors included reasons why colonists sought separation, and how a new nation would be formed in place of the colonies. After the document was completed, it was first read to Bostonians in 1776 from the balcony of The Old State House. Hundreds of witnesses celebrated in the streets. During the festivities, the statues of the unicorn and lion, which represented British rule, were torn from the gables of The Old State House and burned. This event symbolized the colonists breaking ties with the British Empire for good. From then on, the structure would be known as an iconic representation of the values of revolutionary Boston.  

The Old State House transformed from a small meeting house into the center of commercial, political, and civic life during the height of the American Revolution.  Ever since the revolutionary era, several measures have been taken in order to restore the physical structure and preserve its history. This included numerous commissioned restorations of the interior and exterior of the building. The Old State House has survived two fires and is continuously being maintained.

Today, thousands come to Boston to see The Old State House and learn how the building played a significant role in the formation of the United States. On site, there is a museum that exhibits artifacts from the revolutionary era. The Old State House is also included in Boston’s National Historical Park as well as the Freedom Trail.  Next time you are in Boston, please visit this historic, influential part of American history.

Images

Old State House

Old State House

Photo of Old State House | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H Dreyer View File Details Page

Demolition of building at 10 State Street, next to Old State House

Demolition of building at 10 State Street, next to Old State House

Source: Government Center Urban Renewal project, Boston Redevelopment Authority photographs, Collection # 4010.001 | Creator: Boston Redevelopment Authority View File Details Page

Cupola of the Old State House

Cupola of the Old State House

Cupola of the Old State House | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H. Dreyer View File Details Page

Old State House plaque

Old State House plaque

Plaque in front of Old State House | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H. Dreyer View File Details Page

Old State House

Old State House

Unicorn | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H. Dreyer View File Details Page

Old State House

Old State House

Eagle | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H. Dreyer View File Details Page

The Bloody Massacre

The Bloody Massacre

Picture made from press made by Paul Revere | Source: http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/edu-res-center/jn-adams/the-boston-massacre.html | Creator: Paul Revere View File Details Page

July 4, 1986 at Old State House

July 4, 1986 at Old State House

4th of July | Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection | Creator: Peter H. Dreyer View File Details Page

East end "Old State House"

East end "Old State House"

East End | Source: Public Works Department photograph collection, 5000.009 | Creator: Boston Transit Commission View File Details Page

Access Information:

The closest T stop, or the "State" T stop, is located right below the building itself. Both the orange and blue lines can be accessed at this stop.

Street Address:

206 Washington Street, Boston, MA, 02109 [map]

Official Website:

http://www.bostonhistory.org/

Cite this Page:

Ben Walters, Dev Sgammato, Hayley Rutkey
, “Old State House,” Boston History, accessed December 18, 2017, http://explorebostonhistory.org/items/show/7.

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