If the embodiment of free speech could manifest in a building, the Old South Meeting House in Boston might get your vote as number one. For almost three centuries this building has been a catalyst for radical ideas--from the Puritans' early outspoken views on religious freedom, to such extreme thoughts as gaining independence from the Brits and forming a country based on democratic principles.
What seems like obvious privileges in present-day America were clearly not always such. The foundations and principles that ground our nation had to be fought for, long and hard, and many of the oral battles happened right here in "Old South." Built in 1729 as a place for the Puritans to gather after outgrowing their simple assembly hall, the raised brick structure was intended to accommodate the masses. In fact, it was the largest building in colonial Boston and became the place both for political pondering and religious worship.
The initial rebellion against British rule and taxation in the 1750s and 1760s was fueled by the bustle and commotion occurring during meetings in Old South. Continuous debates along with concurrent events paved the way for the American Revolution. One of the most significant developments was the December 16, 1773 gathering of some 5,000 men in the meeting hall, fuming with rage over the British government's introduction of the Tea Act. As the debate grew louder and the crowd fiercely refused to give in to the Brits, Samuel Adams finally gave the sign. What followed was the historic dumping of 342 trunks of tea into the waters of Boston Harbor, the event known of course as the Boston Tea Party.
This brick and mortar symbol of American expression is now a museum, yet still represents a place for people to meet, discuss, and act on present-day issues. For example, you can join the "Free Speech Forum," a virtual gathering place to discuss controversial issues, arranged through Old South and its website. You can also visit this National Landmark and learn about its long history through exhibits and activities. The "Anna's World Activity Kit" for children features hands-on items and activities to discover the 18th century Old South Meeting House through the eyes of a 12-year old colonial congregation member.
Special programs and events are offered throughout the year; check the website for a calendar of featured events. You can also rent the Old South Meeting House for private occasions, weddings, and corporate events, accommodating as many as 650 people. The museum shop, housed in the basement and open during regular museum hours, offers historic documents, maps and toys, books for all ages, and special Tea Party mementos.
- April 1 through October 31: 9:30am to 5pm daily
- November 1 through March 31: 10am to 4pm daily
- Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year's Day
- Adults: $5
- Children (ages 6-18): $1
- Seniors (age 62+) and students with ID: $4
- Children under age 6: Free
- Museum members: Free
- (Discounted admission for groups of students or adults with reservations.) Also, check the "Patriot's Pass" for combined, discounted admission to Old South Meeting House and the Paul Revere House.
- Location: 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA (Corner of Washington and Milk Streets)
- Phone: 617-482-6439
- Website: www.osmh.org