The Old North Church (Christ Church)


ABOUT THE BUILDING The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land. The Church was built in 1723 and is the oldest standing church in Boston. It is part of the Freedom Trail. ABOUT THE HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS On Tuesday, August 31, 1954, Hurricane Carol – the worst hurricane to hit Boston in the 20th century – toppled the steeple of Old North Church. Carol wasn`t quite as destructive as the more famous hurricane of 1938. But it passed closer to Boston and did more damage locally. It destroyed 4000 houses and 3500 cars. It put downtown Providence under 12 feet of tidal surge. Block Island recorded a gust of 135 miles per hour. Trees and traffic lights went down, including three old elms in Harvard Yard. Massachusetts governor Christian Herter suspended the blue laws, asking stores to remain open on weekends because most people had lost electricity and their refrigerators weren`t working. The older photo shows the steeple at the instant of collapse. We`re looking north along Salem Street in the North End. Winds tore at the wood structure, and it swayed for more than an hour before finally crashing onto Salem Street. The collapse damaged a four-story house at the corner of Salem and Hull. Only minutes before, police had evacuated half a dozen families. Old North – or Christ Church in the City of Boston, to give it its official name – is the oldest church building in Boston. It was designed by William Price, who probably copied its architecture from depictions of London churches by Sir Christopher Wren. The church`s first service was held in 1723. The belfry steeple didn`t arrive until 1740, and the bells – they are still there – were installed in 1745, after being shipped from England. A 15-year old Paul Revere signed on as one of the original seven bell ringers. Thirty years later, Revere arranged the famous lantern signal from the steeple that warned of the British and kicked off the American Revolution – “One if by land, and two if by sea,” in the words of the poem by Longfellow. Hurricane Carol wasn`t the first storm to fell the steeple. It also had tumbled in 1804. A new one was then designed by Charles Bulfinch, the famed architect of Faneuil Hall and the State House. The steeple we see today, the one that was rebuilt after Carol, is a compromise between Price`s and Bulfinch`s. At its tip is still the original weathervane, the work of a Colonial craftsman named Drowne. 1954 was quite the year for hurricanes. Ten days after Carol came Edna, whice passed east of Boston but bruised the Cape and Islands. Then in October came Hazel, which passed west of us through Pennsylvania and New York on its way to becoming the most famous hurricane in the history of Canada. -Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker, "CITYSCAPES - A Stormy Season", Boston Globe, 24 April 2005

Constructed, 1723


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