Beacon Hill. Public Building in Boston, United States

Beacon Hill

Public Building in Boston, United States

Winter in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Boston Photo © Massachusetts Office of...

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Beacon Hill

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	Hill - Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill - Beacon Hill. Photo by Xavier Häpe
Beacon Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It gets its name from a beacon that used to stand on top the hill – the highest point in central Boston – to warn citizens of foreign invasion. This historic colonial area is known for its brick buildings, Federal-style row houses with beautiful doors, decorative iron works, and its narrow streets lit with gas and brick sidewalks. The impressive Massachusetts State House stands atop the Beacon Hill, which is also home to the first African Meeting House in the United States.

Beacon Hill is bordered by Cambridge Street, Bowdoin Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, and Storrow Drive. The area covers about one square mile and was historically made up of three hills. Pemberton Hill and Mount Vernon were flattened to allow for the development of Beacon Hill. It lies along Charles River Esplanade (Wikipedia Article) at the riverfront and just north of the beautiful urban park that is Boston Common.

Charles Street is the area's main street and is lined with restaurants and antique shops. Beacon Hill is regarded as one of the most expensive and high-end neighborhoods in the city. Notable Americans, such as Robert Frost, Daniel Webster, Louisa Mary Alcott, and Senator John Kerry have lived or are living in the neighborhood.

Massachusetts State House	"Interior Dome" - Beacon Hill
Massachusetts State House "Interior Dome" - Beacon Hill. Photo by David Ohmer


The first person who owned land on Beacon Hill was William Blaxton (or Blackstone), the very first European settler in the area. He built a house and orchard on Beacon Hill’s south slope in 1625. After Boston was established by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630, parts of Beacon Hill became used for cattle grazing – Boston Common was also a shared grazing area – and military drills. The signal beacon was placed atop the hill in 1634.

In 1708, a cow path between the hill and Boston Common became known as Beacon Street. After the War of Independence, Charles Bulfinch (Wikipedia
	Article) designed the Massachusetts State House. This was built on top of Beacon Hill and replaced the Old State House in central Boston.

By 1780, the inner city’s neighborhoods could no longer meet the needs of the growing population anymore and the Mount Vernon Proprietors Group was established. They were to develop the area around the three hills. Development started with the design of the new neighborhood’s plans, again done by Charles Bulfinch. Bulfinch became one of America’s most famous and prolific architects. He also designed the United States Capitol, better known as the White House, in Washington D.C.. After two hills were leveled in 1799, Mount Vernon Street was built and construction of mansions started. One of the very first houses on Beacon Hill was Harrison Gray Otis’ house on Cambridge Street.

Beacon Hill Alley - My
	Lucky Shot - Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill Alley - My Lucky Shot - Beacon Hill. Photo by Wolfrage
In the beginning of the 19th century, the area was being developed at a dazzling rate. Symmetrical pairs of houses, row houses, mansions, and residential homes were being erected. Starting around 1830, Mount Vernon Street and Chestnut Street became popular among the wealthier people and families in Boston. The south slope became the seat of wealth and power in the city, while the north slope’s residents were African Americans, immigrants, and sailors. The African Meeting House on Joy Street, a community center for black abolitionists, was the first of its kind in the United States. Beacon Hill was one of the centers of the anti-slavery movement in America.

In the 20th century, architectural commissions were established to preserve this historically significant district. Several urban renewal projects and renovations were carried out. Nowadays, Beacon Hill’s south slope is still home to Boston’s wealthiest residents, and the north slope is the residence for professionals and students.

The neighborhood officially became the Historic Beacon Hill District in 1955 and a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

Visiting Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill lies on Boston’s famous Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking tour that runs through the historic center of the city and past sixteen historically important sites and buildings. Visiting is best done by simply walking around. The neighborhood is made up of narrow, cobblestoned, gas-lit streets, brick buildings, and historic Greek Revival and Federal row houses.

The Black Heritage Trail runs past several historic sites of Boston’s black community. The Boston African American National Historic Site includes Charles Street Meeting House, the Museum of African American History, and the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.

The Massachusetts State House is absolutely worth visiting as well. Its interior consists of marbled corridors, paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.

Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall

Similar Landmarks

Boston is one of the most historically significant cities in the United States and there are many more historic highlights along the Freedom Trail: Boston Common, Granary Burying Ground (Wikipedia Article); Benjamin Franklin Statue, the Old State House; Bunker Hill Monument, Faneuil Hall; Paul Revere House, the Old South Meeting House; Old Corner Bookstore, and King’s Chapel Burying Ground.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 05, 2015

Pictures of Beacon Hill

Boston MA - Massachusetts State House 04 - Beacon Hill
Boston MA - Massachusetts State House 04 - Beacon Hill. Photo by Daniel Mennerich


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