Old Massachusetts State House

Old Massachusetts State House

Robert Twelves, 1712

Altered: Isaiah Rogers, 1830

George A. Clough, restoration, 1881–1882

Goody, Clancy & Associates, Inc., renovation, 1991

National Historic Landmark

Boston Landmark

Preservation Achievement Award, 2005 (general renovation), 2009 (tower renovation)

From the mid-seventeenth century onward, the old Town House and the State House that replaced it were the center of business and political life for the Massachusetts colony. As early as 1634 the stocks and whipping post of Puritan Boston were here, and the earliest marketplace of Boston was established on this site long before the building of the old Town House in 1657 gave the market a home in its open first floor. Following a fire that destroyed the Town House, the State House was built around 1712. In 1772, just two years after the Boston Massacre occurred in front of the building, the first stagecoach to New York left from here. In the nineteenth century it was festooned with advertisements and not treated as the inviolable historic masterpiece it is today.

Despite the tall office buildings around it, the Old State House remains the focus of State Street. Its most notable features include an ornate three-tier windowed tower, a segmental pediment over Corinthian pilasters, bull’s-eye windows, and a gable slate roof punctuated by dormers and concealed at the ends by stepped pedimented façades. Under the lion and unicorn, symbols of the crown, the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from the ceremonial balcony on July 18, 1776. Hauled down and burned in a bonfire following the revolution, the lion and unicorn were replaced with replicas in the 1880s, when an eagle was also added at the opposite end mark the building's American heritage.