Walking to the “T” station I was stopped by a group of Asian Tourists. By pointing and broken English they managed to ask me what the “Pretty Building in Gold” was. I tried to explain what the Old State House meant to us Americans and especially Bostonians. I think I managed to convey some of it in spite of the language limitations. That tiny building is still a grand and shining symbol.
The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. It was built in 1713 to house the government offices of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It stands on the site of Boston’s first Town House of 1657-8, which burned in 1711. The Old State House was a natural meeting place for the exchange of economic and local news. A Merchant’s Exchange occupied the first floor and the basement was rented by John Hancock and others for warehouse space. As the center of political life and thought in the colonies, the Old State House has been called one of the most important public buildings in Colonial America.
Official proclamations were read from the Old State House balcony, on the east side of the building, looking down State (formerly King) Street. The area beneath the balcony was the site of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, when a handful of British soldiers fired into a taunting crowd, killing five men. Today a circle of paving stones marks the spot of the Massacre.
On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed from here, to the jubilant citizens of Boston.
The Old State House continued as the seat of Massachusetts government until a new State House was built on Beacon Hill. On January 11, 1798, all government functions left the building when the governor, state legislature, and other state officials moved to the new State House.
The building continued to be used for commercial use and entered a period of decline. Eventually a group of concerned citizens formed the Boston Society to rescue the building.
Today this tiny building stands proudly surrounded by modern skyscrapers. It is a stop on the Freedom Trail and houses a museum of Boston History.
The entrance to the State Street Station, a stop on the MBTA’s Orange Line, is accessed by entering the historical building.