Massachusetts State House

Delve into history or watch government in action at this bold, elegant monument to the political values of this proudly historical state. 

Among American cities, Boston has a uniquely long and proud political history. In the Massachusetts State House, it has the real estate to match its pedigree. Rising proudly on Beacon Hill overlooking Boston Common, the State House is located on 6.7 acres (2.7 hectares) of land. Note its imposing façade and distinctive golden dome providing a magisterial emblem for this state’s deep commitment to freedom and democracy.

This Massachusetts State House was built in the 1790s. It was designed by the great autodidact architect Charles Bulfinch, who also built state houses for Connecticut and Maine. Admire the building’s great red-brick façade contrasting elegantly with the portico’s white Corinthian columns. Note the huge gilded dome that sits atop the State House.

Look closely at the top of the dome to see a gilded wooden pinecone, a symbol of the state’s economic reliance on its forests throughout the 18th century. The golden dome was originally made of wood and copper; it was painted dark during the Second World War to avoid drawing bombers’ attention to the city. Today the dome is gilded with 23-carat gold leaf, truly an impressive sight in the afternoon sun. This area was once a cow pasture owned by the legendary patriot John Hancock. Sam Adams and Paul Revere laid the building’s cornerstones, and Revere actually coated the dome in copper himself.

Now, the Massachusetts State House is an excellent place to learn about the history of the building and its role in Boston’s political life. Take a free tour with one of the State House’s well-informed “Doric Docents,” who will explain the marble floors, interior artwork, historical statues and various icons. Don’t miss the excellent wartime murals of Edward Brodney. Your tour will also show you chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate, which are particularly exciting to watch when in session.

The Massachusetts State House is a short walk from the Park Street subway station. The building is open on weekdays. Tours are free but must be booked in advance. As you leave, look for the many brilliant statues on the front lawn.

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