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How Well Do You Really Know Boston?

Updated: Apr 3

Travel back in time to full explore the area’s sites and sounds.


As this goes to press, it’s probably above freezing outside. This means it’s time to step outside of our dorm rooms (or SFP / OWA chalets if you’re lucky) and get back to doing outdoorsy activities. Many of us came to HBS with the intention of thoroughly exploring the local area – and we kind of did (if you include thoroughly exploring Harvard / Central Squares as representing all of the Boston area). One popular bucket-list item for many is getting acquainted with the Boston area’s rich history, and the Harbus has some insider intel (from Paul Revere himself) on which sites are worth your while.


Boston: The Birthplace of America


If you learned about US history in school, Boston was sure to come up in some form or fashion. Start your tour at the city center -- Boston Common. The Common, a central park that is endemic to most New England towns, was created in 1634, making it America’s oldest park. The Common’s original purpose was to serve as a grazing area for farmers and their sheep, but over time it played host to a wide array of activities including executions, protests, Revolutionary War encampments, and ice skating. 


A few blocks from The Common sits Faneuil Hall, which dates back to 1742. It was named in honor of Peter Faneuil, a local merchant who gifted the building to the city. Back in the day it served as the public meetinghouse, where individuals would gather to discuss and debate local issues (they didn’t have classcards or cold calls, however). Today visitors can peruse local handicraft shops that have set up stalls in the building and observe the reenactors outside describing what life was like in the 1700s. Heading toward the water, we come to the Boston Tea Party Museum, which chronicles the history of one of the most unique protests. Visitors can relive fights between the American colonies and England, and pretend to throw tea in the harbor (or actually throw tea if the fish are feeling up for it). 


Taking a stroll to the North End, past all the tempting cannoli places, we come to The Old North Church. US history (and National Treasure) aficionados will know that this is the starting point of Paul Revere’s famous Midnight Ride. The church, which is Boston’s oldest free-standing church, was built in 1723 and remains active.  It served as a beacon (but not an architect) for Paul Revere in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. The church’s sexton hung two lanterns to let Revere know that the British were going to be attacking via the Charles River and not over land, and Revere was able to pass this information along to other towns in the area. 


Finally, we cross into the historic Charlestown neighborhood, where we can visit Bunker Hill. This was the site of one of the first battles between the Redcoats (British) and the colonists in 1775, and although the British won (booo…) it set the stage for a much longer conflict. Today the hill is marked by a tall obelisk that serves as a memorial for those who died during the battle, along with a museum. All of the above sites lie on or near the Freedom Trail, which contains a plethora of other sites that will get you acquainted with Boston’s rich history. 


Zooming out from Boston


Massachusetts and broader New England are home to many historical sites well worth a visit. First up is Minute Man National Historical Park, located in Concord, Massachusetts, about 30 minutes from HBS. This site commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which was the first battle fought in the Revolutionary War. Along with well-preserved battle sites and the North Bridge, the park is home to The Wayside, a historical home that counted Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne as residents. 


If you want to really go back in time, head to the town of Plymouth on the coast and see the famous Plymouth Rock. The rock (yes I’m actually recommending you visit a literal rock) is inscribed with the date when the Mayflower made landfall in 1620. In 1774, the rock split in two and was bolted back together, and today it’s housed under a protective structure. You can also visit a replica of the Mayflower next door and learn about the life of the Puritans as they sailed across the Atlantic. 


Finally, for those who want to combine their love of history with the outdoors, check out the Blackstone River Valley National Park. Straddling the border of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the park encompasses a bucolic walking and bike path along the Blackstone River and Canal. The park also celebrates the area’s industrial past -- it is home to several historic textile mills, including the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, which is one of the oldest mills in the US. There are several well-preserved mill towns, such as Hopedale and Ashton, which have maintained buildings such as churches and homes dating back to the 18th century.


This Spring, take some time to delve into the Boston area’s past. Remember – one if by land, two if by sea, and three’s get degrees / three’s company, so take your friends and explore the past!


Prior to joining HBS, Abhiram Karuppur (MBA '25) worked in Houston, TX at Ara Partners, a private equity fund focused on energy transition and decarbonization technologies. A New Jersey native, he graduated with a B.S.E. in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Princeton University in 2019. Outside of class, you can find him biking around Boston’s many trails, dominating (sometimes) at pub trivia, or trying out the local food scene.


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