Museum folks can be tough to impress. But on a recent trip to Boston I was enthralled by a tour guide at The Old North Church, the site of Paul Revere’s famous two lantern signal that “the British were coming by sea.”
The Old North Church – officially known as Christ Church in the City of Boston – is the oldest church in town. It was built in 1723 and continues to be an active Episcopal congregation today.
On April 18, 1775 Paul Revere arranged for an unknown church insider to hang two lanterns from the church’s steeple as a signal that British troops planned to seize rebel munitions in Lexington and Concord. Revere had been a bell ringer in the church when he was 15 years old, but was never a member of the church.
Old North has “box pews” that were rented by the year to wealthy Boston families who were allowed to decorate them and personalize them any way they wished. The “cheap seats,” as the guide put it, were up in the balconies and could see how each family embellished their pew. Visitors are invited to sit in the pews while listening to a short presentation.
Our guide gave a 10 minute overview of the history of the church, including the events of April 18, 1775. He was so enthusiastic, in spite of having given the same talk over and over again that week and probably hundreds of times this season. He spoke to us as if he had the greatest story in the world to tell, and he was just thrilled to be sharing it with us! Very impressive.
There are two ways to visit the Old North Church:
No reservations are necessary to visit the church, even for group tours. A guide is available during regular hours to give a short presentation or to answer any questions. Outside the church there is a stanchioned-off area with a sign where you can wait until the previous group exits. A self-guided map provides information on the artifacts found in the church. There is no charge for a Drop-In Tour, but visitors are encouraged to leave a donation on their way out.
For a fee visitors can take an in-depth tour of the church which includes the bell ringing chamber in the steeple and a crypt beneath the church where 1100 bodies are interred. Behind-the-Scenes Tours are available on weekends in June, daily from July –October and during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Visit the church’s website at oldnorth.org for up to date information.
The Old North Gift Shop, operated by The Old North Foundation, is located just outside the church. Purchases in the shop help support the preservation and educational programs at the church.