King’s Chapel – Freedom Trail Stop 5 Overview

King's Chapel - Freedom Trail Stop 5 - 1754

King’s Chapel – Freedom Trail Stop 5

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First Anglican Church in Boston

This church, built in 1754, was built around the original 1689 building so as not to disturb services. When completed, the original church was broken up and removed through the windows.

Free, but there is a charge for the Bell & Bones tour (recommended). Wonderful 35 minute music recitals on Tuesday at 12:15, suggested donation $3.

Summer: Mon, Thu, Fri. Sat. 10-3*; Tues,Wed 10-11:00, 1-3* Last entry occurs 15 minutes prior to close. Please check as the church may be closed due to scheduled or unscheduled services or inclement weather.

*Open until 4pm Memorial Day through Labor Day

Official website

617-227-2155617-227-2155

Handicap access: there is a 2.5″ sill at the entrance, otherwise the building is accessible.

Public Transportation: Red or Green lines to the Park Street Station. Alternative, take the Red or Green lines to Government Center.

Plan 15 minutes to walk through.

Background Information

Boston’s Puritan population was successful in resisting the establishment of a Church of England chapel for many years. Finally, when King James II came to power in 1685, he ordered the new Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, to establish one. Andros took charge soon after his arrival in 1686.

First, Andros had to find space for the Anglican congregation to hold services. Finding the Puritans unwilling to share meeting house space, he demanded the keys to Old South Meeting House. The Old South congregation then had to wait outside on Sundays until the Anglican services were finished before they could hold their own services.

As the Puritans were unwilling to sell land for an Anglican chapel, Andros seized the land from a corner of the town’s burying ground by eminent domain. The original wooden King’s Chapel was ready in 1689, and the Old South congregation finally returned to their normal service schedule.

The current granite chapel was started in 1749 when the original became too small. The new chapel was actually built around the old wooden one so as not to disturb the services. When the new chapel was finished, the old one was dismantled and tossed out through the windows. It opened for services in 1754.

As the first Anglican Church (Church of England) in Boston, it wasrecipient of many lavish gifts from the British monarchy. King William III and Queen Mary II (1689 – 1702) sent money, communion silver, altar cloths, carpets and cushions. Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) gave vestments and red cushions. King George III (1760 – 1820) donated more silver communion pieces. The silver pieces vanished when half of the parishioners fled (they were Royalists) when the British left Boston after the Siege of Boston was lifted in 1776.

The chapel was designed by America’s first professionally trained architect, Peter Harrison. Interestingly, Harrison never saw the building or even its location. The congregation provided the requirements by letter and Harrison sent back completed plans. He worked strictly out of his Newport R.I office.

King's Chapel Interior

King’s Chapel Interior

The chapel still contains many original details. The communion table was built in 1686. The box pews are original as are the hand-carved Corinthian columns. The Wineglass pulpit dates from 1717 and is the oldest pulpit in continuous use on the same site in America. The organ is a replica of the original 1713 instrument, which was the first organ to be permanently installed in any church in British America.

In 1785, the congregation adopted a new theology and became the first Unitarian church in America, some 40 years before the Unitarian church became a formal body. Today the church iscombination of Unitarian with some liturgy adopted from Anglican Book of Common Prayers.

For an additional blog posting on King’s Chapel, click here.

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  1. […] Stop 5 – King’s Chapel. Great old church usually open for viewing. Plan 15 minutes to walk through. […]

  2. […] place in historic Boston does the Puritan:Anglican struggle better play out than with King’s Chapel, the first official Anglican congregation in Boston (King’s Chapel is Stop 4 on Boston’s […]