Old State House

No votes yet.
Please wait...

History buffs will love visiting Boston’s oldest standing public building, the Old State House. In the heart of the Freedom Trail at the intersection of State and Washington Streets, this little building-turned-museum tells a powerful story of the United States’ past.


As the oldest standing public building in a city filled with old buildings, the Old State House and its history are certainly something to note. The structure itself dates back to the colonial government of Massachusetts, constructed between the years of 1712 and 1713. The original structure, which was to replace the Town House built of wood in 1657 and which burned to the ground in Boston’s 1711 fire, prominently displayed statues of a lion and unicorn, emblems of the British Monarchy which it, at the time, represented.

Many important colonial events took place at or near the State House, including the Boston Massacre which occurred on its steps on Devonshire Street on 5 March 1770. This, of course, directly led to the events in 1776. The Old State House, though a huge player in politics from this and several eras is perhaps best known as the location of the city of Boston’s first reading of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The State House was then appointed the seat of the new state’s government until 1798 when it was retired from official use. Then, in 1830, the city re-commissioned the State House as its City Hall, a role which it served in through the 1841 before moving to its current location on School Street.

From the 1840s through 1881, the building was used for various commercial endeavors before its acquisition by the Bostonian Society in that year in direct response to rumors of the building’s destruction. The Society was formed explicitly as a vehicle through which to save the State House, which was then restored to various levels of its former glory, including the recasting of the lion and unicorn statues on the now-museum’s “British side.”

In the 21st century, the efforts of the 1880s Bostonian Society still stand strong even as the Old State House is dwarfed by large commercial buildings in Boston’s financial district. Despite the property value of the building’s location, which is what led to its proposed demolition in the first place, its location at the top of State Street is still one of prominence; indeed, the building can be clearly seen from several locations throughout the city. In addition to its primary role as a museum and stop on the Freedom Trail, the Old State House also houses an MTBA subway stop on both the Blue and Orange lines, which are accessed from the building’s basement.

Main Attraction

A visit to the Old State House can be one of many stops while walking along Boston’s Freedom Trail or simply a cultural field trip in its own right. Open seven days a week with extended hours during the busy summer months, the museum hosts thousands of visitors each year. Admissions rates are quite low and divided among adults, seniors (62+), and youth (6-18). Military members, veterans, and children under 6 are free.

The museum inside of the State House includes not only the relics of the building itself but also artifacts that tell the tale of Boston’s past as well as pieces and history from the nearby Boston Massacre, the next stop for Freedom Trail walkers. Tours through the gallery are included with admissions and offered every hour, on the hour, each day. In addition, groups of ten or more can reserve private tours ahead of time.

In addition to these selections for tourists, the Old State House’s location on the Freedom Trail and role in the story of Boston’s history allows it to offer several education-oriented programs to student groups as well as college-age students and other adult education opportunities. They also frequently offer special events and tours which are often themed and the entire State House can be rented for private events.

Why It’s a Must-See

The history of the Boston area is part of what draws millions of tourists to its streets each year and at the heart of this history is the Old State House. Whether included as part of your walk along the Freedom Trail or as a learning opportunity unto itself, this is a can’t-miss piece of Boston and American history that is worth the trip.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Old State House either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Old State House is available on the Go Boston Card and Boston CityPass.