For your Boston North End Walking Tour, you should make your way to the front of the bronze statue of Mayor James Curley, located in a small "pocket" park between Congress and Union Streets, just off North Street, about half a block from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Here your local historian guide will be waiting for you.
With your expert guide, you will set off to explore the city’s oldest residential community – North End – where people have lived continuously since the 1630s.
The walk begins near the Blackstone Block , a small network of alleyways and structures dating back to the colonial era. John Hancock lived here, and several of the buildings still stand relatively unaltered from the 18th century. Using the streets themselves as visual clues you’ll consider the topographical advantages of the North End – nearly separated from the mainland by inlets and swamps– for the early settlers in Boston. Your route takes you through Haymarket, one of the city's longest standing outdoor markets and a place where Northenders still buy their groceries.
Tracing a path along streets that still bear the names of important Bostonians or long vanished features you’ll discuss the major developments of the North End as it evolved into one of the busiest shipping ports on the Atlantic seaboard during the colonial era and became America's gateway to Europe.
Your guide will use some of the old storefronts and pubs to discuss the rise of a longshoreman class and shipping industry and paint a portrait of the ethnic and racial changes the North End witnessed as freed slaves and Portuguese whalers settled in the district, followed by Jews, Irish, and eventually Italians.
Of course, the neighborhood's importance is etched on our collective memory through the famous ride of Paul Revere on the eve of the American Revolution, and we will look deeply into how the character of this corner of Boston informed and influenced the radicalism of those events, stopping along the way at such important 18th century monuments as Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church.
Your guide will also talk about more recent history and its effects on the North End.For example, you will learn about the impact of the Industrial Revolution and how Boston declined as New York overtook it in shipping and the factories of the North End moved to the suburbs and then farther afield. Old warehouses, wharves, and tenements are now converted into cafes, restaurants, and condominiums, often stitched delicately into the architecture and context of the city's history.
Depending on time and how the group discussion unfolds you may end the walk down at the waterfront where a park commemorates the Italian immigrants who've defined the North End in the last hundred years. With Boston harbor behind you, you’ll look back at the North End with a unique sense of its role in Boston and American history.