King’s Chapel Burying Ground – Freedom Trail Stop 5a Overview

King's Chapel Burying Ground

King’s Chapel Burying Ground

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Oldest Burying Ground in Boston

King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the final resting place for Boston’s earliest settlers including the family of William Dawes (the other rider on Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride) and John Winthrop (the Puritan leader at the founding of Boston in 1630 and the first governor).


Open daily 9 – 5


Plan about 10 minutes to walk through

Background Information

King’s Chapel Burying Ground is Boston’s oldest. It was originally the vegetable garden of Sir Isaac Johnson, which also extended to the area surrounding Old City Hall (just behind the Chapel and Burying Ground). Sir Isaac died within a year of his arrival in Boston and was buried in the garden. It has no association with King’s Chapel, which was not built until 50 years after the Burying Ground was established.

There are many more people buried here than the headstones suggest – often they are buried four deep and sometimes standing up. Also, as with the other early Burying Grounds, the headstones have been moved into more orderly rows, so a headstone may not represent the actual burial site.

The burying ground was full by 1660, which means that none of the famous Revolutionary-era personalities are buried here.

Winthrop Memorial

Winthrop Memorial

There are, however, many internees who played important roles in Boston’s history. The most historically significant is the memorial for John Winthrop (1587 – 1649), who is buried along with his family. Winthrop was the leading figure in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (the trading company that owned the rights to the Massachusetts settlements). He led the Puritans’’ 1630 migration from England that led to Boston’s founding, and he was the first (and a twelve term) governor.

The oldest headstone here, and the oldest remaining in Boston, belongs to William Paddy, who died in 1658. The most famous stone, located just inside the entry gate, is that of Joseph Tapping, who died in 1678. Tapping’s headstone shows Father Time battling with a skeleton over the eventuality of death. Many consider this to be among the most beautiful in Boston.

You will also find the graves of Mary Chilton, who, according to legend, was the first Pilgrim to touch land in America., the family of William Dawes (the “other” rider on Paul Revere’s Ride), and Elizabeth Pain, who inspired Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

The ventilator shaft on the right side of the Burying Ground, close to King’s Chapel, dates from 1898. It is a relic of the first subway system built in America.


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


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.