Granary Burying Ground is a peaceful cemetery in the midst of Boston’s bustling downtown. If you’re on the Freedom Trail, you’ll find it as you walk down Tremont Street from the Boston Common. And if you join one of our tours, we'll take you in there!
The burying ground used to be part of Boston Common when bodies began to be buried there in 1660. A granary next door, used for wheat storage, gave the burying ground its name. The Park Street Church has stood on the old granary site since 1809. There are an estimated 5,000 bodies buried here, though you won’t see nearly that many tomb stones as most are family tombs. Here’s a list of graves to check out on your visit:
1. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here: John Hancock (left side), Samuel Adams (front right), and Robert Treat Paine (right wall).
2. The victims of the Boston Massacre are buried next to Samuel Adam’s tomb – on his family’s plot in fact! Join our tours to find out why…
3. Paul Revere is buried toward the back of the burying ground. It can be hard to find, as it’s small and close to the ground. But it’s worth searching for to pay your respects to the man famous for the midnight ride!
4. Peter Faneuil, the namesake for Faneuil Hall marketplace, is also buried here. Peter died in 1743, six months after Faneuil Hall opened as his philanthropic gift to the town of Boston.
5. The Infant’s Tomb is the final resting place for hundreds of young children. Infant mortality was quite high in colonial Boston and into the 1800s. You can find the tomb near the Franklin obelisk in the middle of the burying ground. This is where Benjamin Franklin’s parents and many of his relatives are buried, but he is buried in Philadelphia.
6. James Otis is a mostly unsung revolutionary hero, active in Boston's politics in the 1760s. He and Samuel Adams serve as bookends of the burying ground. Learn more about Otis and his wild benders and fights in episode 2 of our podcast, Beer Makes History.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the second oldest graveyard in Boston. It was established in 1659 in the North End. Named after shoemaker William Copp, the burying ground has many tombs of Boston’s less-affluent craftsmen and artisans. Here are some highlights to check out when you visit, perhaps as part of a day in the North End!
1. Daniel Malcolm lived in the North End and was a member of the Sons of Liberty. He evaded paying taxes during the buildup to the Revolutionary War, but he didn’t get to see American independence, as he died in 1769. When the British soldiers occupied Boston, they’d often hang out at Copp’s Hill and use Malcolm’s tomb for target practice!
2. Puritan ministers Cotton and Increase Mather are also buried at Copp’s Hill. You may know them for their fiery role in the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century.
3. Robert Newman was a sexton at the Old North Church. He helped hang the lanterns during Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride: “One if by land, two if by sea…” The sea in Longfellow’s 1861 poem, by the way, referred to the Charles River, which separates Boston from Charlestown. The British placed cannons on Copp’s Hill during the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place in Charlestown in 1775, because it was high ground.
4. You’ll also find the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Edmund Hartt, who was the ship’s master carpenter, is buried at Copp’s Hill.
5. The animal life at Copp's Hill is amazing. On several occasions we've seen a black cat roaming through and bunnies (bunnies!) hiding over in the bushes by Malcolm's grave (#1 on this list).
One of our favorite buildings in Boston, the Old State House, currently has an exhibit about John Hancock's home called "Through the Keyhole." Hancock's uncle built a mansion on the top of Beacon Hill that John later inherited. Before the house was leveled in 1863, Hancock's front door and several items from inside the home were saved and are part of the current display. The North Bennet Street School in Boston recreated the striking doorway.
We recommend visiting the exhibit and then joining one of our tours to find out about John Hancock's impact on revolutionary Boston!
Given its rebellious and revolutionary history, Boston is THE place to celebrate Independence Day! And because revolutionary history is what we do best, we have the perfect recommendations to help you make the most of the holiday. Follow the schedule below for a full day of celebration or pick what fits with your BBQ and beer-drinking plans.
9-10am: Flag-Raising Ceremony and Parade to Granary Burying Ground
Grab your coffee to go and join other Independence Day celebrators at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. The Mayor will give some opening remarks to kick off a parade toward Granary Burying Ground, where city officials will lay wreaths on the graves of those who helped launch the American Revolution, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence – Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.
10-10:30am: Reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House
Continue on the parade route to assemble in front of the Old State House for a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. But the first time it was read in Boston, it was broadcast from the very balcony you’ll see it read from today. Abigail Adams attended the reading and wrote, "Great attention was given to every word...and then three cheers."
10:30am-1pm: USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise
The USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides,” is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Launching from its home in Charlestown Naval Yard at 10:30am, the ship will head out to Castle Island to fire a 21-gun salute at 12pm. You can watch the ship come and go from much of Boston Harbor, but local sailing groups and boat companies also offer tickets to ride alongside Old Ironsides on her annual expedition.
8-11pm: Boston Pops Firework Spectacular on the Esplanade
The city’s most famous Fourth of July event takes place at the half shell, along the Esplanade and Charles River. There will be crowds, so stake out a spot anywhere along the Esplanade throughout the day. The concert starts at 8pm and the fireworks fly from 10:30-11pm. You can see the fireworks from most places downtown with a view of the Charles River. This year’s guest performers include Queen Latifah and Arlo Guthrie.
Not a fan of big crowds? Celebrate a day early! Join us for a tour on July 3 at 2pm to learn some revolutionary history and drink local craft beer. Afterwards grab some dinner and head to the Esplanade. The Boston Pops have a full dress rehearsal (without the fireworks) from 8-10pm that’s much less crowded.