Bone Up On Your Boston History With A Hike Along The Irish Heritage Trail
If you grew up anywhere in Massachusetts, chances are your elementary school dragged you on at least one jaunt along Boston’s Freedom Trail. Don’t get me wrong, the history of our fair city is incredibly fascinating and important, but as a kid, I really just wanted to go to the aquarium and watch the penguins.
Aside from shaping the country as we know it, Boston also has a proud Irish heritage that most of us are far less familiar with. Sure, we celebrate each year with some pretty epic St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but Boston’s Irish legacy is far greater than green beer and corned beef.
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With the holiday still over a month away, there’s plenty of time to bone up on our city’s Irish History, and the Irish Heritage Trail is the way to do it. There are 20 sites spanning 3 miles across Downtown Boston and the Back Bay, and if you’re really dedicated to learning Massachusetts’ full Irish history, there are 50 additional landmarks spread throughout the state!
The 3 mile Boston trail is designed as a self-guided tour. Maps are available at the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors centers on the Common and at the Prudential Center. Click here to learn more about guided tours led by the Boston Irish Tourism Association.
The tour begins at the Rose Kennedy Garden in the North End. I think we all know the contributions Rose’s famously Irish family made to this country.
Next come statues of famous Irish politicians, Kevin White and James Michael Curley. White was Boston’s 45th mayor, in office during the difficult years of desegregation. Curley, the “Purple Shamrock” or “Rascal King” was the son of Irish immigrants and managed to become mayor of Boston 4 times in 4 different decades.
As you stroll onward, you’ll visit City Hall, the Irish Famine Memorial commemorating the hardships faced by Boston’s Irish refugees in the 1800s, and the Granary Burying Ground where many early non-Catholic settlers were laid to rest.
Beacon Hill offers the Colonel Robert Shaw Memorial and the Massachusetts State House which once served as the Bridewell Prison, housing escaped Irish indentured servants.
After a few more stops along Tremont and Boylston Streets, you’ll make your way to the scenic Charles River Esplanade to see the David I. Walsh and Maurice Tobin statues. Walsh was MA’s first Irish Catholic governor and senator. Tobin was a liberal crusader who eventually beat out Curley for mayor in 1944.
Back on Boylston you’ll hit the majestic Boston Public Library – arguably the most beautiful library in the country. It houses many important historical tomes, as well as writings, art and music contributed by Boston’s early Irish immigrants.
The John Boyle O’Reilly memorial honors the man that is considered the most influential Boston Irishman of the 19th century. He became a spokesman for the downtrodden as well as a poet, a patriot and a prisoner for the cause.
And the final stop on your tour of Irish Boston leads you to none other than 4 Yawkey Way – Fenway Park! Built by Irish immigrant Charles E. Logue, Fenway remains a symbol of hope and endurance. Numerous Irish events have been held at Fenway in honor of its iconic builder.
Just think how impressed your friends will be when you drop some authentic Irish knowledge on them come St. Paddy’s Day!