Old South Church in Boston
Looking at Old South Church from Copley Square, visitors see an outstanding and colorful example of Northern Italian Gothic architecture, advocated in the 1850s by the English architectural critic John Ruskin. This National Historic Landmark building is an unusually ornate design for a New England Congregational church. It radiates the opulent taste and the sense of optimism and progress of the Industrial Revolution following the Civil War. The church, constructed between 1872 and 1875 for a congregation founded in 1669, is distinguished by its tall bell tower; brown, pink and grey stonework; walls of Roxbury puddingstone; decorative carvings; a roof striped with tiles of red and black slate; and a cupola or lantern of green and russet-colored copper.
Benjamin Franklin was baptized in 1706 at the congregation’s Cedar Meeting House on downtown Washington Street. Members of this historic congregation include Samuel Adams, Revolutionary patriot and brewer; Samuel Sewall, judge and diarist; Thomas Prince, minister and book collector; William Dawes, Paul Revere’s fellow rider in 1775; Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published black poet; and Elizabeth Vergoose, said to be the Mother Goose of nursery rhymes. Old South is also known for being the church at the Boylston Street finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Old South Church played a significant role in American history through the bold actions of the Sons of Liberty at the Old South Meeting House. There, in 1773, Samuel Adams gave the signal for the “war whoops” that started the Boston Tea Party. During the Civil War, 1,019 men enlisted in one day at Old South to fight for the Union cause. Old South’s ministry has been distinguished by eloquent preaching on matters of theology and conscience by Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wisner, Jacob Manning, George Gordon, Frederick Meek and James Crawford. As poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “So long as Boston shall Boston be, And her bay tides rise and fall, Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church, And plead for the rights of all.” Members of Old South helped found institutions serving economic and social justice-the City Mission Society, the Boston Seafarers Society, Training Inc., Boston Aging Concerns-Young And Old United, and Tent City Corporation.