The history of the New England colonies is thick with names from New England, including many places people can visit now: battle sites, graveyards, and homes of writers, thinkers, and heroes. In Plymouth, MA, you can see Plymouth Rock and tour a replica of the Mayflower. Boston’s Freedom Trail -- an urban walking trail -- touches churches and meeting houses where the American Revolution was ignited. Newport, RI, looks much like it did as a trading center in the 1700s. Every New England state has sites from the era before American came to be.
Freedom Trail – Boston
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walking trail through Boston that leads to 16 historic sites where the American Revolution was fought or hatched in the New England colonies. Kids are enthralled by the stories and the costumed guides. The Trail begins at Boston Common, a bright urban park, and a brick path guides walkers the entire way. Sites on the Trail include the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel, Old Corner Book Store, Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, The Old North Church, USS Constitution, and Bunker Hill Monument.
USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”
The first view of the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard, is truly a thrill. At the USS Constitution Museum, only a few steps from the ship, galleries take visitors on a 200-year voyage into the heart of the New England colonies. See how sailors climbed masts 200 feet in the air; learn how the ship earned its nickname. During summer, USS Constitution takes short cruises in Boston Harbor.
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace – Boston
Often referred to as "the cradle of Liberty," Faneuil Hall hosted America's first Town Meeting, where the Sons of Liberty proclaimed their dissent against royal oppression. This imposing building is open daily, hosting historical talks every 30 minutes. Next door is Quincy Market, an indoor-outdoor mall with dozens of gift shops, wonderful food stalls and restaurants, and a front seat to free street music and street theater.
Concord Museum – Concord
Concord was home of the most original thinkers and writers of the American literary Renaissance. The Concord Museum is the one place where all of Concord's past is brought to life through a historical collection including the famed Revere lantern, literary treasures such as Emerson's study and Thoreau's desk, Concord-made clocks, silver and furniture -- all in self-touring galleries with hands-on activities for kids.
National Heritage Museum – Lexington
Paul Revere's midnight ride went right past the doorstep of the place where the National Heritage Museum is housed. This mid-sized museum is open daily and admission is free. An exhibition, "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution," describes the part played by ordinary people in shaping historical events at Lexington's Battle Green on April 19, 1775. From May to October, a Liberty Ride bus leaves the museum for 90-minute tours of the Lexington-Concord area.
Nantucket Whaling Museum – Nantucket
The workings of the early (1600-1800) whaling industry is on display at the Nantucket Whaling Museum on Broad Street. Nantucket became a part of the Bay Colony of Massachusetts in 1692 and very soon Nantucketers began to organize whaling expeditions in small boats to pursue the right whales that passed nearby on annual migrations. Deep-sea whaling began around 1715. It built towns and sea captains’ fortune, and inspired classics like "Moby Dick". Open seasonally.
Alden Historic Site – Duxbury
John Alden and Priscilla Mullins Alden, travelers aboard the Mayflower, settled and raised their 10 children in the town of Duxbury. Their home still exists at the Alden Historic Site. Priscilla Mullins Alden is arguably the best known Pilgrim woman because of the poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” written by their descendant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem’s memorable phrase, "Speak for yourself, John," placed the Aldens solidly into American lore.
Adams National Historical Park -- Quincy
Adams National Historical Park fascinates visitors with the story of four generations of the Adams family, from 1720 to 1927. The park has several sites: the birthplaces of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; Peacefield, including the home to four generations of the Adams family; and the Stone Library, which contains more than 14,000 volumes. This family of accomplished Americans comes to life through these exhibits.
Stonington Borough – Stonington
Stonington Borough, a tiny seaside village within the Town of Stonington, extends along a narrow peninsula into Fisher’s Island Sound. Colonial-period houses and traditional churches are packed tightly together, and many buildings on the main street house fine little antiques and jewelry shops. Restaurants are small and friendly, and they include a famous seafood restaurant overhanging the harbor, with lots of boat traffic to watch. In season, window boxes overflow with flowers and decorative flags flap everywhere.
The Borough has a yacht club, boatyard, and two commercial marinas. The Borough has the last remaining commercial fleet in Connecticut, harvesting its well-known "Bomster" scallops and flounder. The town’s Portuguese fishing traditions are on display at the Blessing of the Fleet festival each summer at the Town Dock. Fine historic sites are the Old Lighthouse Museum at the very end of the peninsula, and the home of Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer, who discoverer Antarctica in the winter of 1820-1821. Both are open to the public (seasonal hours).
Lebanon Green – Lebanon
The very large town Lebanon Green is on the National Register of Historic Places because of the number of buildings and places connected directly to the war effort during the American Revolution. Sometimes called "the heartbeat of the Revolution,” Lebanon was the home of the war governor and an important center of patriot activity.
Lebanon leaders William Williams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Jonathan Trumbull, a Colonial governor and governor of the state, were major drivers of the war effort. Trumbull’s leadership inspired much local action in providing soldiers, supplies, and armaments to the Revolutionary armies. George Washington and Lafayette visited the town. Today, visitors can explore the Lebanon Historical Museum, the War Office, and two Trumbull homes.
Ancient Burying Ground - New London
The Ancient Burying Ground in New London could be an art museum from standpoint of the craftmanship of early gravestone carvers. Each headstone is a work of art; experts can identify individual carvers. In his book on the topic, James Slater wrote, "of all Connecticut's burying grounds, this may contain the greatest variety of different carving schools. New London was an ancient port and reasonably wealthy. Stones were certainly shipped by sea from Newport and the Boston area and down the Connecticut and Thames rivers…."
Custom House Maritime Museum – New London
Built in 1833, the Custom House remains the oldest operating custom house in the nation. Robert Mills, America's first federal architect, who also executed the Washington Monument, the United States Treasury Building, and other significant government structures, designed the building. A classic Greek Revival granite building, the front doors are made from wood from the USS Constitution. In 1839, U.S. Customs played an important role in the early steps to freedom of Africans brought to New London with the slave ship Amistad. Open April through December, daily, 1-5 p.m. except Mondays; January through March, by appointment. Information: 860-447-2501.
Institute for American Indian Studies -- Washington
Education and preservation of the American Indian cultures is the mission of the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington. Visitors are treated to Native artifacts and art, an indoor longhouse, a simulated archaeological site, trails, a replica of a 17th-century Algonkian village, and a fine gift shop. The institute's primary exhibit, As We Tell Our Stories, is divided into seven sections about Native culture: land, exchange, clay, corn living spaces, deer, manitou, and ways of war.
The Museum of Newport History – Newport
Newport is dense with artifacts of the Colonial period, and much of it is out in plain sight today, in the narrow streets, clapboard houses, and historic churches and wharves. At the Museum of Newport History, visitors can see James Franklin’s printing press, the figurehead from the yacht Aloha, Colonial silver, objects of daily life and more. The town’s history, beginning in the 1600s, runs the gamut from slavers, shipping magnates, and pirates to yachtsmen and Gilded Age plutocrats. The museum's operator, the Newport Historical Society, also offers lots of interesting walking tours of the town, year-round. Museum open year-round; call ahead for hours.
Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House – Newport
Built in 1697 and now the oldest house in Newport, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was owned by a succession of community leaders, including Martin Howard Jr., a prominent Loyalist during the American Revolution, who was hanged in effigy on in 1765 for his Tory sentiments. The house expanded over generations from its original single room on each side of a central chimney and garret on top. The house reflected the tastes and aspirations of a thriving seaport town. Each change to the building is based upon the tastes of the owner and his family, Quaker themes, and the architectural influences of a commercial and cosmopolitan center. For tour information call 401-846-0813 or visit www.newporthistorytours.org.
God's Little Acre: America’s Colonial African Cemetery – Newport
The African slave trade and Newport share common origins. Newport, one of the most prosperous of Colonial American ports, saw unprecedented growth throughout the 18th century from the export and trade of rum, spermaceti candles, and slaves. By the beginning of the American Revolution, Newport had a large Free African community. Today, Newport is home to a historically significant burial ground that the African American community commonly called God's Little Acre. This burial area on Farewell Street has some of the oldest markers of free Africans and slaves dating back to the late 1600s.
Great Friends Meeting House – Newport
The Great Friends Meeting House, built in 1699, was where Quakers from throughout New England gathered to pray and discuss the issues of the day, including war, slavery, and women's rights. This is the oldest surviving house of worship in Newport. Quakers dominated the political, social, and economic life of the town into the 18th century, and their plain style of living was reflected in Newport's architecture, decorative arts and early landscape. For tour information visit www.newporthistorytours.org or call 401-846-0813.
The Colony House – Newport
The Newport Colony House, dating from 1739, was a government meeting place and the site of celebrations, the Stamp Act riot, reading of the Declaration of Independence, and more. Many important events associated with the shaping of the United States occurred at the Colony House. In 1761, the death of George II and the ascension of George III were announced from the balcony. In 1766, citizens of Newport celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act in the Colony House. On July 20, 1776, Major John Handy read the Declaration of Independence from the front steps. During the British occupation of Newport from 1776 to 1779, the Colony House was used as a barracks. For tour information visit www.newporthistorytours.org or call 401-846-0813.
Brown University – Providence
Spread across many acres of property on College Hill, part of the East Side overlooking downtown Providence, Brown University is a pleasure to visit. Travelers enjoy strolling the streets and gazing at the elegant Colonial, Federalist, and Victorian buildings of the neighborhood. The epicenter of the university is College Green, but its buildings then spread out through a neighborhood of elegant mansions. The neighborhood has lots of green spaces to sit and enjoy the passing academic world. The restaurants and shops of Thayer Street, which passes through the campus, offer lots of variety in ethnic foods, casual foods, and youthful shopping. The neighbor has an old-time, arty movie theater with a small foyer and a single screen. The university publishes a helpful map and guide for a self-guided tour of the campus.
John Paul Jones House – Portsmouth
The Portsmouth Historical Society cares for a diverse collection of furniture, paintings, ceramics, costumes, and maritime artifacts at the John Paul Jones House on Middle Street, which was built in 1758 for a sea captain and merchant. (John Paul Jones, the naval hero of the American Revolution, spent time in Portsmouth in 1777 and 1781-82. He is believed to have rented a room in this house during 1777). Portsmouth was well known as a center for the furniture trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and the society displays some exceptional examples of Portsmouth craftsmanship. The collection also includes portraits, glass ceramics, China trade wares, textiles, clothing, needlework and kitchenware.
Ethan Allen Homestead – Burlington
Only a short drive from downtown Burlington, the Ethan Allen Homestead offers hands-on history, spectacular scenery, and riverside picnic areas and walks. The Homestead provides a genuine slice of 18th century life, and an intimate look at Vermont's most colorful founder. Ethan Allen, who has become a folk hero in Vermont, was an unusually flamboyant backwoodsman-turned-statesman from Connecticut and one of the early inhabitants of Burlington. He is best known for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and his leadership of the Green Mountain Boys. The museum and house are open on a limited basis during the warm months, but the grounds are always open from sunrise to sunset.
Bennington Battle Monument - Bennington
Built in the late 1880s, this monument is a dedication to the famous Battle of Bennington that took place during the Revolutionary war in 1777. Here the American Colonists maintained a store of weapons and food, which British General Burgoyne needed to restock his troops. The monument is a 306-foot-tall stone obelisk north of VT Rte 9, about 4 miles east of the New York border. An elevator takes visitors to the observation floor for spectacular views of Bennington and three states. A diorama and several interpretive exhibits are on the ground floor. A gift shop specializes in historical items relating to the Battle of Bennington and Vermont. Open mid-April to October 31, daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Museums of Old York – York
Museums of Old York is nine historic buildings, including a Colonial tavern, an old jail, an estate filled with antiques, and a warehouse that once belonged to patriot John Hancock. Also on the site are a nature preserve, museum shop, contemporary art gallery, and restored gardens. Visitors experience more than 300 years of New England heritage and hear tales of sea captains and their families, jailers, prisoners, and others. Also on display are beautiful decorative objects and antiques, including the only complete set of 18th-century American crewelwork bed curtains known to exist. Museum buildings include the John Hancock Warehouse, Jefferds' Tavern, the Old Gaol, the Old Schoolhouse, the George Marshall Store, and others.Open June to Columbus Day, daily except Sundays. The museums host many seasonal and special events that bring history to life for adults and kids.