Beacon Hill, situated just north of Boston Common, is one of the city’s oldest—and most beautiful—neighborhoods. A stroll down any of the narrow gas-lit streets will take you past bow-fronted Federal-style brick row houses that recall the eras when architect Charles Bulfinch, author Louisa May Alcott, and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., resided here. More recent residents have included poets Robert Frost (Hon.’61) and Sylvia Plath, former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry (Hon.’05), and actress Uma Thurman.
Once owned by William Blaxton, the first European to settle Boston, the area was then known as Tri-mount, or Tremont, because of its three peaks, and was later sold to the Puritans. The peaks were shorn off in the early 1800s so the area around them could be turned into buildable land. The neighborhood got its name from the hill that was topped by a beacon, which once alerted Bostonians of danger.
During the 19th century, the area was home to both the richest and the poorest Boston residents. On the south side lived some of the Hub’s most patrician families, the so-called Boston Brahmins, and the less prosperous north slope was home to many African Americans, a center for black and white abolitionists, and an important station on the Underground Railroad.
Today Beacon Hill is one of the city’s most exclusive residential neighborhoods. Pricey one-of-a-kind boutiques and antique stores line Charles Street, a draw for residents and tourists alike. But the neighborhood also offers some affordable (or free) pleasures. Below, we’ve put together a list of places you won’t want to miss.
Boston Common is the oldest public park in the country. It began as 44 acres held in common by Puritan colonists as grazing land for their livestock. Today, it’s a lovely 50-acre green oasis lined with benches …