Look for the beautifully restored clock tower that tops this religious and political gathering place, best known as the site of an important event that led to the Revolution. On December 16, 1773, a restive crowd of several thousand, too big to fit into Faneuil Hall, gathered here. They were waiting for word from the governor about whether three ships full of tea—priced to undercut the cost of smuggled tea and force the colonists to trade with merchants approved by the Crown—would be sent back to England from Boston. The ships were not, and revolutionaries haphazardly disguised as Mohawks cast the tea into the harbor. The meetinghouse commemorates that uprising, the Boston Tea Party. You can even see a vial of the tea.
Originally built in 1669 and replaced by the current structure in 1729, the building underwent extensive renovations in the 1990s. In 1872, a devastating fire that destroyed most of downtown stopped at Old South, a phenomenon considered evidence of the building’s power. The exhibit “Voices of Protest” tells the story of the events that unfolded here.
The meetinghouse frequently schedules speeches, readings, panel discussions, and children’s activities, often with a colonial theme. Every December 16, it stages a reenactment of the debate that led to the Tea Party—it's especially fun for kids, who can participate in the heated debate. Check ahead for schedules.
To continue on the Freedom Trail: Exit through the gift shop and look across Milk Street to see Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace. In a little house at 17 Milk St., Franklin was born in 1706, the 15th child of Josiah Franklin. The house is long gone, but look at the second floor of what’s now 1 Milk St. When the building went up after the Great Fire of 1872, the architect guaranteed that the Founding Father wouldn’t be forgotten: A bust and the words birthplace of franklin adorn the facade.
Now backtrack on Washington Street (passing Spring Lane, one of the first streets in Boston and originally the site of a real spring) and follow it to State Street.