Old North Church // 1723

One of the most visited buildings in New England is the stunning Old North Church in the North End of Boston. Old North Church (originally Christ Church in the City of Boston) was established when the cramped original King’s Chapel, then a small wooden structure near Boston Common, proved inadequate for the growing number of Anglicans in the former Puritan stronghold. Subscriptions for a new church were invited in 1722. The sea captains, merchants, and artisans who had settled in Boston’s North End contributed generously to the building fund, and construction began in April, 1723. The church was designed by William Price, though heavily influenced by Christopher Wren’s English churches.

Before the American Revolution, both Patriots and Tories were members of the church, and often sat near each-other in pews, clearly adding to bubbling tensions. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

A full scale restoration of Old North was carried out in 1912-14 under the direction of architect R. Clipson Sturgis and a number of 19th century alterations were then eliminated. In this work, floor timbers and gallery stairs were replaced, the original arched window in the apse at the east end was replaced, and the old square box pews and raised pulpit were reconstructed. Additionally, the interior woodwork was incorrectly repainted white rather than the rich variety of original colors described in the early documents of the church, clearly submitting to Colonial Revival sensibilities. The iconic white steeple is also not original. The original steeple of the Old North Church was destroyed by the 1804 Snow hurricane. A replacement steeple, designed by Charles Bulfinch, was toppled by a hurricane in 1954. The current steeple uses design elements from the original and the Bulfinch version. Even with all these differences, Old North lives up to her name and stands proudly as a symbol of freedom and revolution.

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