BEACON HILL

With its elegant, 19th-century row houses, quaint grocers, pricey antiques shops, and hidden gardens, Beacon Hill screams “old money” like no other area in Boston. The most exclusive block in the district is the genteel Louisburg Square, which was modeled after the Georgian residential squares of London. Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, the charming Beacon Hill was a veritable checkerboard of ethnicities and wealth – segregated though they were. Little of Beacon Hill’s diversity has survived its inevitable gentrification, but visitors can still experience the neighborhood’s myriad pasts inside its opulent mansions and humble schoolhouses, and along its enchanting cobblestone streets.

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Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill

1. Massachusetts State House

prac_info 24 Beacon St • 617 727 3676 • Tours 10am–3:30pm Mon–Fri (reservations recommended) • www.sec.state.ma.us/trs

A 200-year-old codfish, a stained-glass image of a Native American in a grass skirt, and a 23-carat gold dome crowned with a pine cone – these are the curious eccentricities that distinguish Beacon Hill’s most prestigious address (see Massachusetts State House).

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Gleaming dome and elegant frontage of the Massachusetts State House

2. Freedom Trail

Established in the 1950s to provide visitors with a connect-the-dots guide to Boston’s colonial-era sites, the Freedom Trail runs from Beacon Hill through Downtown, into the North End, and across the Charles River to Charlestown, the site of the famous warship USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.

3. Museum of African American History

prac_info 46 Joy St • 617 725 0022 • Open 10am–4pm Mon–Sat • Adm • www.maah.org

Based in the African Meeting House (the oldest extant black church in the US) and the adjoining Abiel Smith School (the nation’s first publicly funded grammar school for African-American children), the MAAH offers a look into the daily life of free, pre-Civil War African-Americans. The meeting house was a political and religious center for Boston’s African-American community and it was here that abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison delivered anti-slavery addresses in the mid-19th century. The museum has successfully preserved their legacy and that of countless others through its wide and fascinating range of workshops, exhibitions, and special events.

4. Nichols House Museum

prac_info 55 Mount Vernon St • 617 227 6993 • Open Apr–Oct: 11am–4pm Tue–Sat; Nov–Mar: 11am–4pm Thu–Sat • Adm • www.nicholshousemuseum.org

An 1804 Charles Bulfinch design, 55 Mount Vernon is one of the earliest examples of residential architecture on Beacon Hill. Rose Nichols, the house’s principal occupant for 75 years, bequeathed her home to the city as a museum, providing a glimpse of late 19th- and early 20th-century life on the Hill. A pioneering force for women in the arts and sciences, Nichols gained fame through her authoritative writings on landscape architecture and philanthropic projects.

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Nichols House Museum exhibit

5. Harrison Gray Otis House

prac_info 141 Cambridge St • 617 994 5920 • Open Apr–Nov: 11am–4:30pm Wed–Sun • Adm • www.historicnewengland.org

One of the principal developers of Beacon Hill, Harrison Gray Otis, served in the Massachusetts legislature and gained a reputation for living the high life in this 1796 Bulfinch-designed manse. Like a post-revolutionary Gatsby, Otis ensured his parties were the social events of the year. After falling into disrepair, the property was acquired in 1916 by the historical preservation society and has been restored to its original grandeur.

6. Parkman House

prac_info 33 Beacon St • Closed to the public

George Parkman – once a prominent physician at Harvard Medical School – lived in this house during the mid 19th century. In 1849, in one of the most sensationalized murder cases in US history, Parkman was killed by a faculty member, Dr. John Webster, over a financial dispute. Both the crime and its aftermath were grisly – the ensuing trial saw the inclusion of dental records as evidence for the first time, as Parkman had been partially cremated. The house is now a city-owned meeting center.

7. Boston Common

The oldest city park in the country, the Common is a popular gathering place for outdoor concerts, public protests, picnics in summer and, in the winter, ice-skating on Frog Pond.

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Skaters enjoying the Frog Pond on Boston Common

8. Beacon Street

prac_info Boston Athenaeum: 10½ Beacon St • 617 227 7612 • Open to the public noon–8pm Tue, 10am–4pm Wed–Sat • Tours Tue, Thu & Sat, by reservation • Adm

Beacon Street, in the blocks between Somerset and Brimmer streets, features the National Historic Landmark Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest independent libraries in the country, housed in a sumptuous building containing a collection of over 600,000 titles. Also here are the Massachusetts State House, Parkman House, and the Third Harrison Gray Otis House, at 45 Beacon St, considered architect Charles Bulfinch’s finest Federal-style house. The facade of the former Bull and Finch Pub at 84 Beacon St is famed as the exterior of the bar in the TV show Cheers.

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Boston Athenaeum library

9. George Middleton House

prac_info 5–7 Pinckney St • Closed to the public

The oldest remaining private residence on Beacon Hill built by African-Americans is a highlight of the Black Heritage Trail. George Middleton, a Revolutionary War veteran, commissioned the house’s construction soon after the war. Legend has it that he commanded an all-black company dubbed the “Bucks of America.”

10. Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture

prac_info 13–18 Phillips St • 617 523 2324 • Open 11am–5pm Wed–Fri • www.vilnashul.com

The Vilna Shul testifies to the area’s former vibrancy as Boston’s first predominantly Jewish quarter. The congregation was founded in 1903 by immigrants who came from Vilna, Lithuania. It is now a center of Jewish culture with programs and exhibits.

BLACK HERITAGE TRAIL

By and large, America’s history books are dominated by white patriots such as Paul Revere and John Adams. As a refreshing counterpoint, the Black Heritage Trail posits that black Bostonians, despite their marginalized histories, have played an indispensable role in the city’s development. The trail illustrates this point at every turn, taking visitors past the homes and businesses of some of Boston’s most influential black Americans. Tours leave from the Shaw Memorial at 10am and 1pm from July to Labor Day and at 1pm from Labor Day to mid-October. Call a day ahead to book (617 742 5415; www.nps.gov/boaf).

BEACON HILL BY DAY

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MORNING

Take the “T” to the Charles Street/Massachusetts General Hospital stop and exit onto Charles Street. Enjoy a light breakfast at Panificio Bakery (144 Charles St) where the scones and muffins are out of this world. Then continue along Charles Street and turn right onto Beacon Street for a glimpse of the former Bull and Finch Pub – the bar that inspired the TV show Cheers. Continue up Beacon to the Massachusetts State House for a free 45-minute weekday tour; times vary. Afterward, cross the road to the Shaw Memorial, from where National Park ranger-led Black Heritage Trail tours depart. The trail provides an excellent survey of the area’s architectural styles as well as its black culture sites, and ends at the Museum of African American History.

AFTERNOON

Walk back down the hill to Charles Street for a fortifying late lunch. Weather permitting, stock up on fresh fruit, a crusty baguette, and a sampling of imported cheeses at the charming Savenor’s Market (160 Charles St) and have a picnic on Boston Common. Or, for delicious Italian fare, try Artù. After lunch, peruse the sleek accessories, art, and design at Good (133 Charles St) and browse Charles Street’s antique shops (see Antiques and Gift Shops). Round the day off with a pint at The Sevens Ale House.

Antiques and Gift Shops

1. Devonia Antiques

prac_info 15 Charles St • Closed Tue

Head here for fine antique English porcelain and American and European stemware. Thousands of museum-quality and collector items are on display, including hand-painted cabinet plates, and individual pieces, as well as complete dinner services.

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Display at Devonia Antiques

2. Eugene Galleries

prac_info 76 Charles St • Closed Sun, Mon

This shop has an excellent and fascinating selection of antique books, maps, and prints, including many depicting the development and history of Boston.

3. Beacon Hill Chocolates

prac_info 91 Charles St

Handmade boxes of artisan chocolates, decorated with vintage Boston scenes, make ideal gifts. Don’t miss the signature swirl of Caramel Sushi.

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Beacon Hill Chocolates

4. 20th Century Limited

prac_info 73 Charles St

This shop specializes in vintage costume jewelry, but there’s also handsome 1950s barware, vintage accessories, and other collectibles.

5. Boston Art & Antiques Company

prac_info 119 Charles St

Twelve dealers operate in this lower-level space filled with treasures including Asian antiques, militaria, Impressionist landscape paintings, and much more.

6. Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill

prac_info 46 Charles St

This is the place to go for unique Boston-themed gifts such as Make Way for Ducklings pillows and ornaments, as well as high-quality Fenway Park mugs.

7. Elegant Findings

prac_info 89 Charles St • Closed Tue, Wed & Sun

This intimate shop specializes in museum-quality, hand-painted 19th-century porcelain from all over Europe. You’ll also find marble statuary, exquisite linens, and fine period furniture.

8. Upstairs Downstairs

prac_info 93 Charles St

This cozy shop places a refreshing emphasis on affordability and function. Everything from mahogany four-poster beds to belle époque opera glasses is on display.

9. Marika’s Antiques

prac_info 130 Charles St • Closed Sun & Mon

Packed to its dusty rafters with oil paintings, tarnished silverware, and mismatched china – nothing quite beats that thrill of discovery you’ll find here.

10. Good

prac_info 98 Charles St

While many Beacon Hill shops evoke the city’s elite Brahmin past, Good specializes in unique contemporary designs, which include handmade jewelry, apparel, and accessories.

Restaurants and Bars

1. Mooo

prac_info 15 Beacon St • 617 670 2515 • $$$

Mooo specializes in extraordinary beef and classic accompaniments at expense-account prices. The wine list includes many stellar names.

2. City Winery

prac_info 80 Beverly St • 617 933 8047 • $$

This stylish wine bar (see City Winery) boasts an on-site winery, a shop and a concert space, which hosts live music performances every night.

3. Beacon Hill Pub

prac_info 149 Charles St • 617 523 1895

This popular cash-only, no-frills bar represents a holdout of pre-gentrification on Beacon Hill. Beer flows freely and patrons adore the foosball table and arcade games.

4. Alibi

prac_info Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles St • 857 241 1144 • $$$

Located within the Liberty Hotel, the trendy Alibi is a good spot for cock-tails (see Alibi). The hotel also houses Scampo, a chic restaurant with a modern Italian-accented menu.

5. The Sevens Ale House

prac_info 77 Charles St

The epitome of a local Boston bar: dark wood, slightly surly staff, amiable patrons, a dartboard, and a rudimentary pub menu.

6. 21st Amendment

prac_info 150 Bowdoin St

This neighborhood pub near the State House is a classy spot for legislators to indulge in a tipple or two.

7. Lala Rokh

prac_info 97 Mount Vernon St • 617 720 5511 • Closed L Sat & Sun • $$

Authentic Persian cuisine is served in this casual spot. Citrus-based glazes and relishes give meats amazing piquant flavor.

8. Artù

prac_info 89 Charles St • 617 227 9023 • Closed L Sun–Tue • $$$

Tuscan specialties such as porchetta, lamb cutlets, spicy seafood, and roasted vegetables come sizzling off the grill straight to your table.

9. Beacon Hill Bistro

prac_info 25 Charles St • 617 723 1133 • Open for brunch Sat & Sun, closed L Sat & Sun • $$$

This kitchen in the Beacon Hill Hotel puts an American stamp on French bistro cuisine to great effect.

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Dining area at Beacon Hill Bistro

10. 75 Chestnut

prac_info 75 Chestnut St • 617 227 2175 • Closed L except Sat & Sun brunch • $$

This converted townhouse offers one of Beacon Hill’s most popular drinking and dining hangouts for brunch and dinner. The menu offers affordable American bistro dishes.

PRICE CATEGORIES

For a three course meal for one with half a bottle of wine (or equivalent meal), taxes, and extra charges.


$ under $40 $$ $40–$60 $$$ over $60

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