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Freedom Trail stops get facelifts

Paving stones have been added to the walkways in the Granary Burying Ground along Tremont Street. It was part of a major effort to spruce up the cemetery and other historic Freedom Trail sites.
Paving stones have been added to the walkways in the Granary Burying Ground along Tremont Street. It was part of a major effort to spruce up the cemetery and other historic Freedom Trail sites.(David L Ryan/Globe Staff)

With a prime location near Boston Common and the graves of notables including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere, the Granary Burying Ground is one of the country’s most visited cemeteries. But for years, the site had little in the way of curb appeal.

A cast iron fence stood corroding atop a cracked stone wall, and many visitors had to walk on dirt paths as they explored the shady site along Tremont Street.

Now, after hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations, city officials on Wednesday said they believe they have emphasized the historic experience at the site, which Mayor Martin J. Walsh said gets more than a million visitors each year — the most in the northeast.

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“It’s important for us to remember our history. Because we get a lot of tourists that come in . . . and they’re learning the history of this country,” Walsh said at a news conference to show off the improvements.

“Oftentimes, I think we, as Bostonians, take some of this for granted.”

The project, which features restored fencing and a refurbished entryway, are part of a wider effort to spruce up the Freedom Trail, making the 2.5-mile walking path more accessible to those with disabilities in the process.

The effort on the Freedom Trail has already made significant — if subtle — changes to its streetscape. In recent weeks, the city has redone the pedestrian access ramps at a nearby corner of Park and Tremont streets, widening one and adding another to face Winter Street.

A detail of the new exterior fence work.
A detail of the new exterior fence work.(David L Ryan/Globe Staff)

Other aspects of the project include the restoration of the bricks marking the trail, and the replacement of paint with more attractive, durable, and visible “thermoplastic” stripping. Hundreds of feet of sidewalk are being rebuilt.

The initiative also includes a $25 million effort to improve access to historic sites around the city, which will eventually add another 1,800 feet of new construction to the Freedom Trail.

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At the cemetery, the improvements were sorely needed. The fence, with its alternating round and octagonal pickets, had been damaged many times since it was built in 1840, and it has undergone makeshift repairs since then.

At times decades ago, damaged parts of the fence were provisionally replaced with broomhandles, according to Kelly J. Thomas of the city’s Historic Burying Grounds Initiative. It had never undergone an overhaul until this year’s $283,585 effort.

City officials showed off improvments at the Tremont Street site.
City officials showed off improvments at the Tremont Street site. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

The improvements also follow another recent project that added pavers to the cemetery paths, making it easier for people to get around the historic area.

The projects have made a difference, visitors said Wednesday in the cemetery.

Larry Clouse, who was making one of his regular visits from New Hampshire to take friends on a tour, said “I think it looks a lot better,” adding that the accessibility improvements on the Freedom Trail will help his wife, who uses a wheelchair.

“I’m very thankful for that,” he said.


Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.