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Old South Meeting House

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310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
617 482-4376

When Boston’s Old South Meeting House was first built in 1669, it was a wooden building, and it was known as the “Third Church.” When the current brick structure was erected in 1729, it was the largest building in all of Boston. Even its architecture reflects Puritan values, emphasizing equality, a personal connection with God, and an unadorned space in which to worship and meet.

The Old South Meeting House is best known as the gathering point for dissidents shortly before the Boston Tea Party, when 5,000 colonists met there to discuss what was to be done with the 30 tons of tea sitting on British ships in the harbor. Samuel Adams famously said, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country,” which is today rumored to have been a secret signal for the Sons of Liberty to dump the tea into the harbor. The Old South Meeting House was also where Samuel Sewall, assistant magistrate in 1692, apologized for his involvement in the Salem witch trials. Between 1772 and 1775, it was notable for meetings held in the church to commemorate the Boston Massacre.

Notable patrons of the Meeting House have included Benjamin Franklin, who was baptized there; William Dawes, who joined Paul Revere on his midnight right; transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson; Julia Ward Howe, author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; and the poet Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American woman. Wheatley’s book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was inspired by her attendance of services at the Old South Meeting House as a child.

During the British occupation of Boston, the Old South Meeting House was turned into a stable and a riding school for British troops; it was not restored as a place of worship until 1783. The Meeting House was nearly burned down in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, and in 1876, it was sold and slated for demolition before being rescued by activists in the first example of historical preservation in New England. The Old South Meeting House has been a museum since 1877.  

 

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November 2018

A Visit with Louisa May Alcott – Living History Performance with Jan Turnquist

November 28, 2018 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Free

Louisa May Alcott was one of many literary greats who stepped forward in the late 19th century to support Old South Meeting House’s fundraising efforts after its narrow escape from demolition and during its first years as an independent nonprofit organization. On the evening of the Little Women scribe’s 186th birthday, join us at the Meeting House for a captivating living history experience that will bring you behind-the-scenes stories from Alcott’s life – from her unconventional upbringing in poverty, to…

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A Visit with Louisa May Alcott, Living History Performance with Jan Turnquist

November 29, 2018 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
+ Google Map
FREE

Louisa May Alcott was one of many literary greats who stepped forward in the late 19th century to support Old South Meeting House’s fundraising efforts after its narrow escape from demolition and during its first years as an independent nonprofit organization. On the evening of the Little Women scribe’s 186th birthday, join us at the Meeting House for a captivating living history experience that will bring you behind-the-scenes stories from Alcott’s life – from her unconventional upbringing in poverty, to…

Find out more »
December 2018

Rebels and Admirers – Poets of the Old South, 1700s to Today

December 11, 2018 | 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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FREE

Born December 17, 1807, Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier was one of six poets who contributed to the 1877 collection, Poems of the Old South, published as a fundraiser for the Meeting House after it was narrowly saved from the wrecking ball in 1876. Experience poems from that collection as read by local writers and performers, along with excerpts from the works of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, who gained international fame with publication of her 1773 poetry collection.…

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Did You Know?

Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.