The third stop on Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, Park Street Church was founded in 1809, by a group of Bostonians who had mostly been members of the Old South Meeting House (a later stop on the Freedom Trail). They chose as the site of their church building a spot adjacent to the Granary storage building and the Granary Burying Ground, at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets.
The church was designed by architect Peter Banner to be reminiscent of the church architecture of Christopher Wren. Its most striking feature is its high 217 foot steeple. In its day it was the highest landmark approaching travelers could see from a distance, and today it still is the highest point in the area and can be seen from multiple surrounding neighborhoods. Services were first conducted in the church on January 10, 1810.
Park Street Church is best known for being a hotbed of political activism throughout its history. In 1816, it joined with Old South Church to form the City Mission Society to serve Boston’s poor. It has been involved in prison aid and prison reform since 1824. In 1829, William Lloyd Garrison gave his first public Abolitionist speech at Park Street Church, and it remained a major Boston site for Abolitionism throughout the history of the movement. Women’s suffrage was an important issue for Park Street Church.
The Church is also known for starting the first Sunday school, in 1818. Samuel Francis Smith debuted his composition My Country, ‘Tis of Thee (A.K.A. America) at Park Street Church in 1831.
In modern times, the tradition of activism and service has continued, for instance in support of the Civil Rights Movement.
Park Street Church still is an active church holding weekly services. It is of the Congregationalist denomination. Its current work for social justice includes programs for the homeless and for women with unplanned pregnancies, and in 2002 it helped launch a private high school in a poor, primarily minority, inner city neighborhood.
Visitors are welcome to see the inside as well as the outside of the Park Street Church, though of course you won’t want to interrupt at a time that weekly services are being conducted.
“Park Street Church.” City of Boston.
“Park Street Church.” ParkStreet.org.
“Park Street Church.” The Freedom Trail.