Old State House - Seat of Power, Site of the Boston Massacre

Directions & Parking

Old State House

206 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02109


Google Maps

The entrance to the Old State House is located on the south side of the building, facing the pedestrian walkway, just a few steps off of the red brick line of the Freedom Trail.

Please note that public transit is undergoing major renovations in Boston. If visiting our sites via public transit, please consult with MBTA.com before your trip for the latest updates.

  • Orange / Blue Line to State Street (Stations located beneath the Old State House and Old South Meeting House)
  • Green Line to Government Center (The Old State House is one block south down Court Street)
  • Red Line to Downtown Crossing (Follow Washington Street east several blocks)
There are several parking garages in the vicinity of the Old State House and Old South Meeting House. A few recommendations:
  • Post Office Square Garage
    Zero Post Office Square
    Boston, MA 02109
  • Pi Alley Garage
    275 Washington Street
    Boston, MA 02201
  • 75 State Street Garage
    75 State Street
    Boston, MA 02109

Hours & Admission

10AM - 5PM

The unique relationship between these two iconic sites creates a rich and dynamic story that speaks to the heart of urgent questions about self-government, free speech, and the role of civic engagement in a free society. Visit both museums for one price.

  • Adults $15
  • Seniors (65+) $14
  • Students $14
  • Children (12 and under) $8
  • Members FREE

For more information on memberships, please visit our Become a Member page.

*Does not apply to groups of 10 or more.

Join Revolutionary Spaces for a half-mile guided walking tour that illuminates the circumstances and events that led to the Boston Massacre, examines how the people of Boston responded to it at the time, and explores the ways later generations remembered and used the history of the Boston Massacre.

  • Adults $22
  • Seniors (65+) $20
  • Students $20
  • Children (12 and under) $10
  • Military/Veterans $5
  • Members FREE

Tours subject to change and/or cancellation due to dangerous or extreme weather.

Learn more →

Currently available for private bookings only. Public tours available March-November. Check availability.

See how events in our backyard have shaped the entire nation. Trace the ideals of the Revolution through Independence, abolition, struggles for civil rights, and into the present day. Includes entry to the Old State House and Old South Meeting House.

Tours subject to change and/or cancellation due to dangerous or extreme weather.

Learn more →

For group ticket inquiries, please email booking@revolutionaryspaces.org and include the number of visitors, the type of group you are (school, corporate, family, etc), and the date and time you'd like to visit. <!--For information about field trips and student groups, visit School Programs. To reserve tickets for a group, fill out a Group Reservation Request Form.-->
Revolutionary Spaces is proud to provide FREE admission to the following groups:*
  • Active US Military (including free admission for up to five guests)
  • Veterans (Blue Star Museums)
  • Massachusetts Teachers
  • EBT cardholders**

*ID, certification, or Proof of Service required before receiving free admission

Mass Cultural Council's Card to Culture program is a collaboration with the Department of Transitional Assistance, the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, and the Massachusetts Health Connector. See the complete list of participating organizations offering EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare discounts.

Photos without flash are permitted inside the Old State House. Excess light can damage some of the artifacts on display. If you are interested in filming or more involved photography, please contact communications@revolutionaryspaces.org.
  • Is the Old State House wheelchair accessible? No, unfortunately the site is currently not accessible. Although the building is exempt from ADA regulations as a National Historic Landmark, Revolutionary Spaces has prepared plans to install handicap ramps and lift. In the meantime, please be aware that there are many stairs in the building.

  • How many floors/stairs are there inside? The galleries are located on the first and second floor with restrooms and preservation information in the basement rotunda. There are 6 steps to enter the building and approximately 30-40 stairs in the main interior spiral staircase.

  • Do you have an elevator? At this time, the only way to access the different levels of the building is the spiral staircase in the rotunda. The first floor galleries are accessible with encountering limited amount of stairs.

  • Is my dog allowed inside? Dogs are allowed inside the gift shop, but ONLY service animals are allowed inside the museum. Service animals should be vested.

  • Do you have an audio tour? Our galleries are designed to be self-guided, with information on the walls. We do not have audio tours at the moment.

  • Do you have restrooms? Restrooms are for museum ticket holders only. Excepting an absolute emergency, someone must have a ticket in order to access the restrooms. They are located down the spiral staircase in the bottom rotunda. Closest public bathroom is at Faneuil Hall. We do not have baby changing tables available.

  • Can I go out onto the balcony? The balcony is not open to the public.

  • Can I go up to the tower? The tower is not open to the public.

  • Do you have restrooms? Restrooms are for museum ticket holders only. Excepting an absolute emergency, someone must have a ticket in order to access the restrooms. They are located down the spiral staircase in the bottom rotunda. Closest public bathroom is at Faneuil Hall. We do not have baby changing tables available.

  • Can I bring a stroller into the museum? Visitors may bring strollers into the reception area and museum shop, but they may not be taken into the museum galleries. Strollers can be conveniently checked at the front desk and baggage claim area.

  • Can I bring my backpack, luggage, baby carrier, or shopping bags into the museum galleries? All large bags, large umbrellas, back baby carriers, hiking packs, and luggage must be checked in the baggage claim area at the front desk.

  • Can I bring food into the museum? Food is not permitted in the museum galleries.

  • I heard you have _______ in your collections? Our current exhibits deal with the role of Boston during the American Revolution and the preservation of historic buildings and the stories that are remembered. Our exhibits are rotated routinely and we may not have what you are looking for currently on display.

  • Can I drop off an object to donate to Revolutionary Spaces? No, the museum and library cannot accept unsolicited donations in person or through the mail without prior approval by staff and we reserve the right to dispose of unsolicited items. Please contact our staff before sending a donation or with any questions.

  • Why are many of the items on display replicas? Many of the items in our collection are photosensitive and can be damaged by continued exposure to light. The originals are kept in secure storage while replicas are on display. The originals may be displayed to the public again in limited capacity in the future.

  • Where is the Visitors Center? The National Parks Visitors Center has moved to the first floor in Faneuil Hall across the street. There is also a Visitors Center located at the start of the Freedom Trail at the Boston Common.

  • Where is Faneuil Hall? Faneuil Hall is the next stop on the Freedom Trail heading towards the north part of the trail. It can be seen outside the windows-the brick building with white trim, circular windows and triangular roof. If they follow the Freedom Trail to the left as they exit the building, the next site will be Faneuil Hall.

  • What is the Freedom Trail? The Old State House is centrally located on Boston’s Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long walking route marked by a red line on the sidewalks and streets that connects Revolutionary-era historic sites throughout the city. The red line begins at the Boston Common. For more information about the Freedom Trail visit thefreedomtrail.org.

  • Where is the Freedom Trail? The Freedom Trail is the red brick line on the ground outside of the building. Turning right out of the entrance of the Old State House will take you to the Boston Common starting point. Turning left will take you towards the Bunker Hill Monument starting point.

  • Where is the Massacre site? The Boston Massacre site is located on the east side of the building by Congress Street. It is marked by a circle of stones with a star in the center. It is also visible through the windows facing Congress Street in the gift shop.

The Old State House was the focal point for many of the dramatic events of the Revolution in Massachusetts, although it was not known as the State House until after the Revolution. When this building was first constructed in 1713, it was known as the Town House and it was the center of royal government in the Massachusetts Bay colony.

In 1879, a group of determined citizens formed the Boston Antiquarian Club. Two years later, the group reorganized as the Bostonian Society, and organized a museum of Boston’s history in the Old State House. The Bostonian Society merged with the Old South Association in January 2020 to form Revolutionary Spaces.

Today, the Old State House is located amid the skyscrapers of downtown Boston as a museum of Boston’s role in the American Revolution. Operated by Revolutionary Spaces and owned by the City of Boston, the Old State House is a site within the Boston National Historical Park on the Freedom Trail.

What Happened Here

The governing bodies of the town, county and colony, as well as the courts met at the Old State House. The second floor housed the Governor’s Council Chamber, the Supreme Judicial Court, and the central area of the second floor was the meeting place of the Massachusetts Assembly, an elected body, one of the most independent of the colonial legislatures.

James Otis’ oration against the Writs of Assistance in 1761 was first major protest against British laws. The writs permitted customs officials to search for contraband goods without what would now be called probable cause. Merchants hired James Otis to argue against the issuing of these writs in the Superior Court. Thomas Hutchinson was the chief justice; the court met in this building, upstairs in the Council Chamber. Otis made a four-hour speech, defending the rights of citizens… “This writ is against the fundamental principles of law… the privilege of house. A man is as secure in his house as a prince in his castle.” After conferring with authorities in England, the court upheld the writs. None the less, John Adams would later write of that day saying, “There and then the child independence was born.”

The Bloody Massacre
The Bloody Massacre

The Boston Massacre occurred in the square in front of the Town House. It was some of the first bloodshed in the years before the Revolution, and a dramatic escalation in the disputes between the British and colonists. In 1768, armed troops were brought to Boston to help control colonial resistance. Nearly 2,000 Regulars arrived in the town of 15,000 people over the next 2 years. The soldiers and the colonists had an uneasy relationship from the beginning, which deteriorated until violent conflict was almost inevitable. The event itself was not really a massacre but an instance of mob violence due to tension between colonists and soldiers, tragically five Boston residents were killed in the scuffle. The event was used by patriots to rally other colonists to their cause against British rule and became an iconic, if misunderstood event. 

The Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in Boston from the balcony of the Old State House on July 18, 1776. Abigail Adams was in the crowd that day, and wrote to John (still in Philadelphia) about the event. The emotional scene on this balcony was not the first time Bostonians gathered here for important news, nor the last. The accession of King George III was proclaimed from here in 1761. Just 19 years later, the election of John Hancock as the first governor of the new state of Massachusetts was announced from this balcony. Years later in the 20th century, Queen Elizabeth II visited this same balcony and greeted the people of Boston.

Preservation of the Old State House

The Old State House is over 300 years old, and a National Historic Landmark. Revolutionary Spaces bears sole responsibility for capital repairs and maintenance under the terms of a 2005 lease between the city and the Bostonian Society, one of our predecessor organizations.

Preservation efforts led at the Old State House have garnered a number of awards on the national and local level. In 2006, the American Association for State and Local History presented the Society an award for its preservation project on the northeast corner, a project which was also featured on an episode of the History Channel’s series Save Our History. The Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA) awarded its 2008 Preservation Achievement Award for the restoration of the tower on the Old State House. In 2015, BPA gave another Preservation Achievement Award for the restoration of the iconic lion and unicorn statues atop the east parapets of the Old State House.

In 2014, work was completed on the restoration and repair of the west façade of the Old State House, which faces Court Street. All mortar joints along the entire façade were repointed. Loose bricks were reset or replaced, and windows were restored.

The balcony of the Old State House.The Old State House balcony, from which the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time to Bostonians in July 1776, was in dire need of repairs and restoration in 2014. Dramatic seasonal differences between interior and exterior levels of temperature can create stressful environmental conditions where the two environments meet. An analysis of the balcony conducted in 2011 concluded that the balcony remained structurally sound, but that its wooden and metal elements required major restoration and refurbishment, particularly where they join the building’s masonry. Funds were raised to execute the work in 2014-15.

In the fall of 2014 the two iconic statues on the east façade were repaired. The two statues were carefully lowered into specially constructed crates and transported to Skylight Studios where they were cleaned, patched, and regilded with layers of gold and platinum leaf. Unveiled during a festive ceremony outside the building in the fall of 2014, they were hoisted back onto their perches atop the east façade.

The Old State House is owned by the City of Boston and operated on behalf of its citizens by Revolutionary Spaces. We are pleased to partner with the City of Boston and the National Park Service in the ongoing restoration and preservation of the Old State House.

For information on ways in which you can help preserve this national treasure, please call (617) 720-1713 ext. 160, or send an email to development@revolutionaryspaces.org.

What’s on at the Old State House

  • Reflecting Attucks
    Reflecting Attucks
    A virtual exhibit that examines the memory of Crispus Attucks, a man of African & Native descent who was the first to die in the Boston Massacre.
    Read more →
  • Unfinished Business Film Series
    Unfinished Business Film Series
    A film series exploring the legacy of protest, representation, and revolution embodied in our historical sites.
    Read more →
  • Hands on History
    Hands on History
    For young visitors and the young at heart, there’s no better way to understand history than to reach out and touch it at the Old State House.
    Read more →
  • Colony to Commonwealth
    Colony to Commonwealth
    Your first stop in Boston! See how Massachusetts and its residents played a pivotal role in the birth of America.
    Read more →
  • Council Chamber
    Council Chamber
    Once an exclusive space for the most powerful men in Massachusetts, now all are invited to connect to our nation’s history in this meticulously-restored 18th-century room.
    Read more →
  • The Humble Petitioner
    The Humble Petitioner
    In Colonial America, those without the right to vote were forced to pursue other avenues to have their voices heard.
    Read more →
  • Gallery Talks
    Gallery Talks
    Join Revolutionary Spaces staff for brief gallery talks highlighting the key stories and themes in each of our gallery spaces.
    Read more →
  • Framing Mass Killings
    Framing Mass Killings
    Exploring how the words we use to describe mass killings in American history affect whether and how we remember them.
    Read more →