Old South Meeting House | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Old South Meeting House

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Luke Tomes

10 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Old South Meeting House

The Old South Meeting House is a historic congregational church situated in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. It gained fame as the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Old South Meeting House history

Old South Meeting House was built in 1729 as a Puritan house of worship, with a congregation in which leaders such as Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin mingled with artists like the famous African American poet Phillis Wheatley.

As tensions grew about the British colonial government in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Old South Meeting House became the home of free speech in Boston.

As the largest building in the town, it was often used as an alternative to Faneuil Hall, which was the official town meeting hall. Therefore, in the 1760s and 1770s it came to be that the Old South Meeting House was the scene of many spirited protests against the British, their legislation and their stationed redcoats, sent in 1768.

On 6 March 1770, the day after the Boston Massacre, crowds gathered at the Old South Meeting House to object to the incident where British troops killed five citizens after shooting at a protest group.

The culmination of these events and one of the most famous events in American history took place at the Old South Meeting House on 16 December 1773, during a heated debate over the British tea tax. Around 5,000 people had crowded into the hall to participate and, when the debate failed to reach a solution, Samuel Adams led the crowd to throw 342 chests of tea into the harbour at Griffin’s Wharf. This became known as the Boston Tea Party.

During the American Revolution, the Old South Meeting Hall suffered devastating destruction when, upon occupying Boston, the British tore down most of the internal parts of the building and used it as a riding school. Since then, the Old South Meeting Hall has survived the 1872 Fire of Boston and escaped demolition, finally being purchased by the Old South Association in 1877.

Old South Meeting House today

Since 1877, Old South has served as a museum, historic site, educational institution, and a sanctuary for free speech. In the 1920s, the house enacted a policy to grant the use of the building to groups otherwise denied a public platform.

Old South continues to serve as a catalyst for intellectual thought and energy by sponsoring public forums, debates, concerts and theatrical presentations year round. It’s ongoing exhibit “Voices of Protest” tells the inspiring, sometimes disturbing, and frequently controversial story of the Old South Meeting House through the voices of the men and women whose achievements have shaped its history.

The Old South Meeting House is claimed to be the second oldest establishment existent in the United States and is currently under consideration for local landmark status by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

Getting to Old South Meeting House

The entrance to Old South Meeting House is located on the west side of the building, on Washington Street, just a few steps off the red brick line of The Freedom Trail and a 3 minute walk away from the Old State House.

If travelling via public transport, the nearest stations to Old State House are State Street (Orange/Blue Line), which is located beneath the Old State House and Old South Meeting House, Government Center (Green Line) and Downtown Crossing (Red Line).

There are several parking sites in the vicinity of the Old State House, including the Post Office Square Garage, Pi Alley Garage, 75 State Street Garage.

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