Granary Burying Ground (Boston, Massachussetts, U.S.A.)

Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground, the city’s third-oldest cemetery, dates to 1660. A major stop in our Freedom Trail Tour, it is steps away from Boston Common and is shadowed by the towering skyscrapers of the city’s Financial District (however, just a few moments here made me forget that I was in the center of a large city). It was Independence Day when Jandy and I visited and the graves of famous personalities buried there where marked with US flags and floral wreaths. Guides, in American Colonial attire, were busy touring visitors around the cemetery.

The Egyptian Revival-style gate

This cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Revolutionary War-era patriots such as Paul Revere (pedestal-shaped gravestone behind the Franklin Memorial) , the five victims (including African-American Crispus Attucks) of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre (in a common grave near the Tremont Street entrance) and three signers of the Declaration of Independence – Samuel AdamsJohn Hancock and Robert Treat Paine (at the side of a brick wall).

Lady guide, in American Colonial attire, touring visitors around the cemetery

As such, because of its historical connections, this quiet but fascinating, tree-filled, shade-dappled ground has been sometimes called the “Westminster Abbey” of Boston. After 1856, most burials were prohibited here.

Tomb of John Hancock

The cemetery, adjacent to Park Street Church and immediately across from Suffolk University Law School, has 2,345 grave-markers and 204 tombs but historians estimate that as many as 5,000 people are buried in it.  The reason for this is that, to save money and space, many of the graves have multiple bodies buried, four deep, under one headstone, something that was common in most old burial grounds.

The pedestal-shaped tomb of Paul Revere

Formerly known as the New Burying Ground and South Burying Ground, in 1737 it took on the name of the Old Town Granary, the granary building which stood on the site of the present-day Park Street Church. An attempt was also made to change the name to “Franklin Cemetery,” to honor the family of Benjamin Franklin, but the effort failed.

The Franklin Memorial

The cemetery’s striking and imposing but decidedly uncolonial Egyptian Revival iron gate and fence along Tremont Street, designed in 1840 by Boston sculptor and architect Isaiah Rogers (the supervising architect of the Ohio State House, he also designed an identical gate for Newport’s Touro Cemetery and the Bunker Hill Monument), was built at a cost of US$5,000 (half paid by the city and half by public subscription).

Samuel Adams Tomb

A 21-ft. high obelisk, constructed with granite from the Bunker Hill Monument quarry and dedicated on June 15, 1827, was erected to replace the original gravestones (which had been in poor condition) of the parents and relatives of Benjamin Franklin (he was born in Boston but is buried in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania). Josiah Franklin, Franklin’s father, was originally from Ecton, Northamptonshire, England while his mother, Abiah (Josiah’s second wife), was born in Nantucket.

Robert Treat Paine Tomb

The second oldest memorial, for John Wakefield (who died on June 18, 1667, aged 52), lies near the Franklin monument. Many of the 17th century grave stones are carved with elaborate letters, death’s heads, and fruits of paradise.  The oldest grave stone, that of the children of Andrew Neal, was carved by the ‘Charlestown Carver’ and dates to 1666.

Children of Andrew Neal Tomb

Other prominent people buried here include:

Common grave of the 5 victims of the Boston Massacre

Granary Burying Ground: Tremont Street an Bloomfield Street, Boston MA 02108, Massachusetts. Open daily, 9 AM – 5PM. Tel: 617-635-4505.  Admission is free. To keep the burial ground protected, please make sure you stay on the designated paths.

How to Get There: If you are arriving by public transportation, take the Red and Green Lines/Park Street, the closest T station, to Boston Common and walk northeast on Tremont Street towards the Park St Church. Past the church you’ll find the Granary Burial Ground.

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