The soaring 217 foot steeple of the Park Street Church used to be the first landmark that people saw when coming into Boston.
Now, although the tall buildings of modern Boston frame it, the steeple still reaches for the sky.
Located at the corner of Tremont and Park Streets across from Boston Common, the church stands on a site filled with history that ensures its place on Boston's Freedom Trail.
But the church, built in 1809, is actually one of the buildings on the Trail, and is most famous for events that occurred almost 100 years after the War for Independence.
Most Freedom Trail Tours go past Park Street Church and include commentary about its role in American history.
Top Photo: Park Street Church viewed from Boston Common
Colonial Beginnings of the Park Street Church
Park Street Church, built well after the American Revolution, occupies land once part of Boston Common.
The Puritans built a public grain storage building, a long wooden structure called the Old Granary, in 1729 in the space now occupied by the church.
Adjacent buildings included a workhouse, an almshouse, and a prison to house criminals and the insane. The Granary Burying Ground occupied a spot behind it since 1660.
After rats and weevils infested the Granary, the Town of Boston sold the building, which was finally torn down, and in 1809, Park Street Church was erected for a Trinitarian Evangelical congregation that broke off from Boston's Old South Church due to concerns about the growing influence of Unitarianism.
Upon completion, the church drew acclaim as one of the city's most beautiful buildings, with soaring spires popularized in London by Sir Christopher Wren.
Unfortunately, the steeple proved unstable and had to be shortened in the late 1800s, but otherwise, the church you see today is the original.
Partly because the church's early preachers delivered thunderous sermons emphasizing hellfire and brimstone, and partly because a crypt in the basement stored real "brimstone" (sulfur used for gunpowder) during the War of 1812, the corner of Park and Tremont where the church stands is known as Brimstone Corner.
Park Street Church & Social Justice
Park Street Church's contributions to the nation and the world have not been limited to religion. A number of firsts closely associated with American freedom and the church's mission of human rights and social justice have taken place here.
In 1829, William Lloyd Garrison gave his first major speech in Boston against slavery from the pulpit. In 1831, the Park Street Church Children's Choir sang Samuel Francis Smith's America (My Country 'Tis of Thee) here for the first time.
The Boston chapter of the NAACP and prison reform both had their beginnings at the Park Street Church.
Additional important Park Street Church "beginnings" include the 1815 launch of the world-renowned Handel and Haydn Society of Boston (America's first oratorio society), the Animal Rescue League (America's first humanitarian society), and the American Temperance Society (a group opposed to drinking alcoholic beverages).
In addition to being part of the Freedom Trail, Boston's Park Street Church conducts well-attended Sunday worship services and offers numerous community activities.
The church welcomes Freedom Trail and other visitors from Tuesday through Saturday, but is reserved for church services on Sundays.
Visiting Park Street Church Today
The best views of Park Street Church are from the outside as you walk along the Freedom Trail.
Park Street Church continues to be the place of worship for an active Trinitarian Evangelical congregation. Visitors are welcome to attend worship services on Sundays, and the church provides additional visitation hours.
Tours through Boston's History
Directions & Other Information for Park Street Church Visitors
Location: One Park Street, across from Boston Common on the Freedom Trail
Open: Tuesday - Saturday during July and August, and on Sundays throughout the year
More information: 617-523-3383; Park Street Church website
Getting there by subway: Red and Green Lines/Park Street