Boston, Massachusetts

Paul Revere & The Old North Church
Boston Historic District
Friday, October 1, 1999

This statue of Paul Revere on the Freedom Trail
guides through a lovely mall to the Old North Church.

The church was built in 1723, and it is the city's oldest church.
In 1775, two lanterns in its steeple signaled that the British were marching
toward Concord. Paul Revere rode across the countryside to warn his fellow colonists.

In those days, American settlers in the thirteen British Colonies had grown apart from the faraway mother country. Many wished to govern themselves. The taxes levied by the British and the laws that restricted what the Americans could do were unfair. They didn't like the British soldiers who had been sent to Boston to keep order. Paul Revere, a silversmith, was one of the Americans who spoke out and took action against the English king and his government. He and many others felt that war with Britain was sure to come.

On the cold, windy night of April 18, 1775, the British soldiers secretly headed out of Boston to the nearby Concord, where they had heard, the colonists' arms were being stored. The Americans had been expecting them to do this. Boston was almost an island in those days, and they didn't know which route out of Boston the British would choose—across the Charles River by ferry or down the Boston isthmus across the land around it's mouth.

Robert Newman was picked to watch the army's movements from the tower of the Old North Church. From there, with a good view of the whole city, he saw the British begin to move in boats across the water. He signaled to Paul Revere and others, who rode ahead of the soldiers and warned the Americans that the British were coming.

The next morning, the American minutemen—who could be ready to fight in a minute—were up and armed. They fired on the British soldiers, forcing them to retreat to Boston. This battle was the first in the American Revolution, which ended with the surrender of the British genera Charles Cornwallis to George Washington six years later.

This story was immortalized in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Here's a link to the text of Paul Revere's Ride posted on the Poet's Corner.

The steeple of the Old North Church rises above the trees lining the mall behind the church. We enter through a narrow passageway between the church and what is now the gift shop that helps support the church. Even today with the competition from modern skyscrapers, this steeple commands the Boston skyline in this area, and can be seen for many miles.

The appearance of the Sanctuary of the Old North Church is little changed from Paul Revere's day.

While there, we learned that the purpose of the little fences around the pews was to preserve the heat. Families paid for their pews, and they were reserved for them. They also had little individual heaters, in size less than a cubic foot to heat their family pew area.

The design of the church includes huge windows all around and above the balconies. New England winters were quite cold and heating systems primitive.

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This page last modified August 31, 2000.