A colorful folk-art mosaic embedded in the sidewalk marks the site of the first public school in the country. Founded in 1634, 2 years before Harvard College, the school educated Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Cotton Mather. The original building (1645) was demolished to make way for the expansion of King’s Chapel, and the school moved across the street. Other alumni include Charles Bulfinch, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana, Arthur Fiedler, and Leonard Bernstein. Now called Boston Latin School, the prestigious institution later moved to the Fenway neighborhood and started admitting girls.
Behind the fence in the courtyard to your left is the Benjamin Franklin statue, the first portrait statue erected in Boston (1856). Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 and was apprenticed to his half-brother James, a printer, but they fought constantly. In 1723, Benjamin ran away to Philadelphia. Plaques on the base of the statue describe Franklin’s numerous accomplishments. The lovely granite Second Empire–style building behind the statue is Old City Hall (1865), designed by Arthur Gilman (who laid out the Back Bay) and Gridley J. F. Bryant. The administration moved to Government Center in 1969, and the building now houses commercial tenants.
To continue on the Freedom Trail: Follow School Street to Washington Street.