On April 18, 1775, two lanterns hung from the steeple of the Old North Church, signaling for Paul Revere to begin his midnight ride as the British approached by sea.
Officially known as the Christ Church in the City of Boston, the Old North Church is the most visited historical monument and one of the Freedom Trail's greatest historic sites, known for the famous saying, "One if by land, and two if by sea."
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Each year more than half a million people tour this treasured memorial, located at 193 Salem Street in the North End.
What’s more, the Old North Church & Historic Site includes three large courtyards, two formal gardens and a war memorial to soldiers fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Old North Church History
Architect William Price built the Georgian-style church in 1723 and modeled the building after St. Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe in England. The Anglican congregation remained loyal to the English monarchy during the Colonial era. However, Massachusetts governor Robert Newman was faithful to the cause of the Sons of Liberty, as were many Patriots throughout the 13 colonies. Equally important, thousands felt the stirring of independence as the tides of war soon shifted.
On the night of April 18, 1775, patriots gave Paul Revere the task of riding to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, to alert minutemen that the British army was ready to march. Revere did, in fact, instruct the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Captain John Pulling, Jr. to hang two lanterns if the British troops planned to row by sea across Boston's Charles River. One lantern signaled they were on foot. The two men climbed 154 steps to the top of the eight-story steeple early that night while fellow patriot Thomas Bernard stood watch outside. The two lit lanterns alerted Revere that British ships were in the harbor.
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Paul Revere's famed midnight ride on April 18, 1775, sparked Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's renowned poem about that infamous night. "Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere." The legend and poem say that Revere said to his friend that if the British march by land or sea from the town tonight, hang a lantern in the belfry arch in the North Church tower as a signal light. "One if by land, two if by sea, and I on the opposite shore will be ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm for the country folk to be up and to arm."
Fun Fact: At age 15, Paul Revere was a bell ringer in the chamber of the Episcopal Church.
Revere went to Charlestown to alert the Sons of Liberty of the Redcoats' arrival. He then borrowed a horse and rode through the countryside, warning villagers of the invasion. Revere made it to Lexington sometime after midnight where he notified Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
Old North Church Guided Tours
Explore this historic crypt on a guided visit with one of the church’s historians. These educators teach about early burial practices and discuss those buried in this unique dwelling a hundred years ago. This tour takes guests beneath the church, where 1,100 bodies lie in the sanctuary of Old North Church. Tours last 15 minutes and cost $5 per person. Children five and under are free.
Pro Tip: Visitors should be aware this tour takes guests through darkened hallways and enclosed, tight spaces with low lighting. It is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.
These in-depth tours explore the sanctuary's balcony to learn about early congregant practices and see the church's extraordinary pipe organ with 17th-century carved angels. General admission to the sanctuary is included when you purchase one of the specialty tours for $10.00.
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Prince's Pew Pursuit
This new family activity allows visitors to explore the Old North through a scavenger hunt narrated by the friendly North End cat Prince. Prince used to frequent the church grounds and now provides information about the church's unique history. The church includes this activity with the price of admission.
Educators are on standby to answer questions. Tickets are available online.
Historic Site Hours & Parking
The Old North Church is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check the website for details.
Service Hours: Old Church Sunday service starts at 11:00 a.m. Guests can also join virtually at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday via YouTube.
Pro Tip: Try the Bloomberg Connects app to learn more about the church's rich history. This free arts and culture app explores the impressive congregants, colonial times, town chocolate, etc. The app features digital guides to over 70 museums worldwide.
Parking: Tour parking is available at the Government Center Parking Garage located at 50 New Sudbury Street and Fitz In-Auto Park at the corner of Commercial Street and Hull Street.
Old North Church Today
Today the Old North Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization, manages the Old North Church & Historic Site. The active Episcopal church partners with the Old North Foundation for events and fundraisers.
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The Old North Church is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The Reverend Timothy Cutler leads the congregation of the Christ Church in his inaugural sermon on the text from Isaiah, "My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all people."