Old North Church, on 193 Salem Street, in the North End of Boston, is where the famed “One of the wonders of the world” speech is said to have originated. John Winthrop, the colony’s leader and naturalist, visited this church and stood for several hours in the church’s presiding (or) receiving his well-deserved Nobel Prize. A marble memorial fountain known as the Window of Knowledge, located in front of the Old North Church illustrates Winthrop’s fascination with the spot on the river. Today the location of Old North Church is one of the city’s primary business districts.
As the town’s most historic site, Old North Church serves as a significant focal point for the entire district. The exterior of the building has been restored to its beautiful state, while the interior is alive with energy and vibrancy. Its exquisite stained glass windows showcase the town’s rich history and are surrounded by impressive landscaping.
The story of the restoration of Old North Church is intertwined with that of its founding. In the early years of the colonies, Old North Church was a small, obscure church with less than twenty-one members. As the colony expanded and became a larger political unit, however, it was home to more established churches and received donations from wealthier citizens. In the late colonial period, when the town was a booming colony with a growing population, property values increased and the area was considered a center for the exchange of goods and services between Europe and the colonies. For this reason, the Old North Church was built, including both Old North Church Street and a new Church Street. During the revolutionary year, Bostonians prepared for a battle with England by gathering at the Old North Church to prepare for the Boston Tea Party.
The two streets that border Old North Church Street today are the Freedom Trail and South Water Street. The Freedom Trail is a walking and biking path around the perimeter of the old church that visitors can follow, or they can simply walk a few blocks to the Charles Street Market, where they can buy fresh produce, honey, locally caught fish, and souvenirs. The South Water Street travels along the perimeter of the sanctuary to Bleecker Street and the Boston Common.
When Old North Church was built, it was one of the last buildings standing from an old settlement built by the English. While many of the settlements were destroyed during the revolution, this church was spared. It served as a meeting place and a place of worship for the Mayflower Compact generation, which made it an official church in the city of Boston.
The steeple of Old North Church was designed by none other than Christopher Columbus himself and is one of the oldest symbols of Boston. He used it to guide his fleet as he returned across the Atlantic ocean in search of a better coast. Today, the thirteen steps leading up to the pulpit have been restored and granite flooring has been installed for a very high and authentic feel. Many believe that this is the oldest building in Boston with the highest grade of limestone anywhere else in the city.
Not only does Old North Church contain a wonderful meeting place and a beautiful stained glass window, but it also has a very interesting history. For example, prior to World War II, the British government had the American army to raise money for a new light post at Old North Church. They placed twelve brass lanterns on the top of the building to be used every day in an attempt to light up the beacon to warn approaching enemy soldiers. At night, the twelve lanterns were lit and a twenty-four hour guard was posted outside the entrance to ensure no enemy was able to use the light for their purposes. As the Second World War broke out, this project was dropped, but it wasn’t until the following year that another similar lighting project was undertaken.
When the Third World War arrived, both the American forces and the German forces in Europe were forbidden from using daytime lighting to illuminate the steeple of Old North Church. Instead, the bells of the church were quietly raised every morning in a gesture of peace between the two sides. Today, you can still see those brass lanterns on top of the historic box pews as a peaceful reminder of the hard work and sacrifice that went into making this building what it is today. And no matter what season of the year it is, you can be sure that the gentle tinkling of the brass bells will be enough to stir your soul and make you want to come closer and feel the same caring love that once took place in that old church steeple.
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