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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.  

 

Past Events

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May 2016

Marriage, Taxes, and a Dose of Rebellion – Dinner & A Show at the Meeting House!

May 19, 2016 | 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
$40

Local author Martha Lufkin will perform her original, one-act comedy, “Marriage is Taxing,” during a fun-filled evening at Old South Meeting House. This comedy takes its inspiration from the documented rush to marry in the weeks before the infamous Stamp Act took effect in 1765 – to avoid the impending tax on marriage certificates. What can go awry when an odd assortment of characters race against time to say their vows? This performance will take place on the 250th anniversary…

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March 2017

3rd Annual Fifth of March Anniversary – Speak Out!

March 22, 2017 | 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Get your history on for this free event. Each year from 1772 to 1775, massive gatherings of men, women and children were held at Old South Meeting House to commemorate the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, with rousing speeches by patriots John Hancock, Dr. Benjamin Church and Dr. Joseph Warren. Hear selected excerpts of these speeches, performed by an inter-generational group including students, actors, and historians, in the grand hall where the orations took place nearly 250 years ago. Audience…

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September 2017

Why Thoreau Still Matters: Lessons on Environmentalism & Civil Disobedience

September 27, 2017 | 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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200 years after Henry David Thoreau’s birth in Concord, Massachusetts, a distinguished panel will consider Thoreau’s lessons for today’s world. Explore how Thoreau’s ideas have informed 21st-century civil disobedience and contemporary conversations about humans’ relationships with the natural world. Panelists will include artist and filmmaker PAUL TURANO (Wander, Wonder, Wilderness), LAURA DASSOW WALLS, author of the new biography, Henry David Thoreau: A Life, acclaimed memoirist HOWARD AXELROD (The Point of Vanishing), MARIA MADISON, president of The Robbins House: Concord’s African…

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October 2017

The Legacy of Publishers Ticknor and Fields in the Old Corner Bookstore

October 20, 2017 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$6.00

Publishing company Ticknor and Fields reinvented American publishing.  Housed across the street from Old South Meeting House at the Old Corner Bookstore from 1832 to 1865, Ticknor and Fields helped establish the careers of some of the nation’s literary greats, including Longfellow, Hawthorne, and Thoreau. In this lively talk, literary historian ROB VELELLA will share highlights from Ticknor and Fields’s evolution, its role in making Boston the center of 19th-century American literary culture, and how the Old Corner Bookstore headquarters was nicknamed…

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November 2017

“An Angel of Light”: Thoreau’s Plea for Captain John Brown

November 3, 2017 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$6.00

On November 1, 1859, Thoreau delivered a speech in Boston that sparked the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator to comment that John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia “seems to have awakened the hermit of Concord.” Delivered at Tremont Temple, this speech praised Brown’s character in the aftermath of his attempt to incite an armed slave revolt in Harpers Ferry.  Thoreau described Brown as “an old-fashioned man in respect for the Constitution,” “a man of great common sense,” even “an angel…

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Music from the Thoreau Family Library at the Old South Meeting House

November 8, 2017 | 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Free

Join us to experience the intersection of politics, music, and Thoreau family life in this dynamic performance by the ENDICOTT CHAMBER PLAYERS, including the abolitionist song, The Captive’s Lament." Specialists in performing on historical instruments, the Players will perform songs, marches, and dances from a collection of printed music and manuscripts that Henry’s sister Sophia donated to the Concord Public Library, and a volume of flute duets discovered at the Alcott family home, Orchard House.  The program features the abolitionist…

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Music from the Thoreau Family Library

November 8, 2017 | 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Free

The Old South Meeting House and the Boston Literary District invite you to experience the intersection of politics, music, and Thoreau family life in this dynamic performance by the ENDICOTT CHAMBER PLAYERS. Specialists in performing on historical instruments, the Players will perform songs, marches, and dances from a collection of printed music and manuscripts that Henry’s sister Sophia donated to the Concord Public Library, and a volume of flute duets discovered at the Alcott family home, Orchard House.  The program…

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February 2018

The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History

February 22, 2018 | 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$10.00

The Old South Meeting House is pleased to welcome you to a program dedicated to a chapter of Boston's "sweet" history. In 1765, Dr. James Baker of Dorchester was said to have stumbled upon Irishman John Hannon “crying on the banks of the mighty Neponset River." Hannon, though penniless, possessed the rare skills required to make chocolate, a delicacy exclusive to Europe, and Baker, with pockets bursting, wished to make a name for himself. Using a mill powered by the…

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April 2018

Boston in the American Revolution: Occupation 1768

April 26, 2018 | 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Free

Part of the “Occupation” Series, marking the 250th anniversary of Boston’s 1768 occupation by British troops In 1768, British Parliament enacted a military solution to what was not yet a military problem by dispatching thousands of British troops to Boston. Many Bostonians feared standing armies and struggled with the presence of these armed men in their streets and buildings. BROOKE BARBIER, author of Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire and founder of Ye Olde Tavern Tours, will…

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August 2018

Phillis Wheatley Day

August 18, 2018 | 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Travel back in time to the 1770s with African-American poet Phillis Wheatley to explore the Meeting House as it was when she attended church here! Phillis Wheatley, portrayed by a Freedom Trail Foundation Player® dressed in full 18th-century costume, will share her experiences as a writer, churchgoer, and enslaved woman in colonial Boston.  FREE WITH MUSEUM ADMISSION.

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October 2018

Frederick Douglass – Prophet of Freedom

October 15, 2018 | 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Free

In this remarkable new biography of great American orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, historian David W. Blight has drawn on new information from both a private collection and recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. The first major biography of Douglass in a quarter century tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages, his complex extended family, and his fierce support of the Republican party together with black civil and political rights. An eloquent man, and a thinker steeped in Biblical…

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Eugene O’Neill –Banned in Boston, 1929

October 26, 2018 | 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$6

Born October 16, 1888 in New York, renowned American playwright Eugene O’Neill made Boston history when his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Strange Interlude, was barred from production here. Neil Miller, author of Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil, tells the story of how the city canceled Hollis Street Theatre’s scheduled run of the 1928 play, effecting its exile to nearby Quincy. The demand for a public forum on this incident of…

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Middays at the Meeting House, Eugene O’Neill –Banned in Boston, 1929

October 26, 2018 | 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Born October 16, 1888 in New York, renowned American playwright Eugene O’Neill made Boston history when his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Strange Interlude, was barred from production here. Neil Miller, author of Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil, tells the story of how the city canceled Hollis Street Theatre’s scheduled run of the 1928 play, effecting its exile to nearby Quincy. The demand for a public forum on this incident of…

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In Conversation: Authors JENNA BLUM and RANDY SUSAN MEYERS, Partners in Public Dialogue with VILNA SHUL and Old South Meeting House

October 29, 2018 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Cost: $18/conversation only or $38/conversation and signed copy of Blum’s book Tickets: https://vilnashul.org/events/event/Jenna-and-Randy More information: https://www.osmh.org/visit-us/events Join Boston’s center for Jewish culture, Vilna Shul, at Old South Meeting House for a conversation with local authors Jenna Blum and Randy Susan Meyers. New York Times Best Selling local author Jenna Blum will read from her new book, The Lost Family, talk about her career, and answer questions about her writing process with author Randy Susan Meyers. Guests have the option to attend the conversation…

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November 2018

Old South Meeting House Film Screening: Strange Interlude with Norma Shearer and Clark Gable

November 1, 2018 | 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$15

The drama that sparked a controversy: Strange Interlude! Robert Leonard’s devastatingly dramatic 2-hour film adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play unites a sizzling Norma Shearer and Clark Gable. Watch as Nina (Shearer) has a secret affair with the dashing doctor Ned (Gable); a liaison which echoes throughout their lives. Filmed just four years after the play hit the stage, this 1932 motion picture encapsulates the fearlessness and psychological insight of O’Neill’s script. This is a unique opportunity to experience this rarely shown…

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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
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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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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

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, registration requested at http://osmhdec11-18.bpt.me Doors at 5:45; Light refreshments will be served. 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 works of African-American poet…

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February 2019

Happy Birthday, Mr. Longfellow!

February 18, 2019 | 10:00 am - February 22, 2019 | 4:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on January 1, 1970 at 10:00am

Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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$1.00 - $6.00

Monday, February 18 through Friday, February 22 SCHOOL VACATION WEEK  Brighten up your February by celebrating Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birthday month with us! Perhaps most famous for his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Longfellow also wrote a poem just for Old South Meeting House – one of six poems collected in a book published as a fundraiser to Save Old South in 1876. Explore an illustrated timeline of fun facts about Longfellow in Boston history, and design your own Longfellow-inspired birthday…

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October 2019

An Afternoon with Edgar Allan Poe: A Living History Performance with Rob Velella at Old South Meeting House

October 6, 2019 | 3:00 pm
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States
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Join us for an afternoon with celebrated poet Edgar Allan Poe! A writer and literary critic whose work spans genres, Mr.Poe will regale us with a selection of gothic and romantic poetry and short stories. He will read excerpts from stories that feature female characters, as we embark upon a season of programming highlighting women’s history and suffrage. For a man whose writings defined the horror genre to visit the Meeting House in October is a treat indeed! FREE to…

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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.