Massachusetts State House

sights / Architecture

Massachusetts State House information

Boston , USA
cnr Beacon & Bowdoin Sts
Getting there
Metro: Park St
More information
admission free
Opening hours
9am-5pm, tours 10am-4pm Mon-Fri
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High atop Beacon Hill, Massachusetts’ leaders and legislators attempt to turn their ideas into concrete policies and practices within the State House. Charles Bulfinch designed the commanding state capitol, but it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who called it ‘the hub of the solar system’ (thus earning Boston the nickname ‘the Hub’).

For most of the 18th century the seat of the Massachusetts government was the Old State House. After the revolution, when state leaders decided they needed an upgrade, they chose the city’s highest peak – land that was previously part of John Hancock’s cow pasture. Other Sons of Liberty also had their hands in building the new capitol, literally: Sam Adams and Paul Revere laid the cornerstones. Paul Revere’s silversmith skills were later tapped when the leaking dome was covered with copper. Today the State House is much bigger than Bulfinch’s original design, thanks to later additions. Another evident difference is that the dome is no longer copper, but rather gilded with 23-carat gold leaf.

A free 40-minute tour of the State House covers its history, artwork, architecture and political personalities. Knowledgeable ‘Doric Docents’ provide details about the many statues, flags and murals that decorate the various halls. Tours also visit the legislative chambers: the House of Representatives, also house of the famous ‘Sacred Cod’; and the Senate Chamber, where Angelina Grimke spoke out against slavery in 1838. These chambers are particularly intriguing when congress is in session, so you can see who’s voting ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’

On the front lawn, statues honor important Massachusetts figures, among them orator Daniel Webster, Civil War general Joseph Hooker, religious martyrs Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, President John F Kennedy, and educator Horace Mann. Unfortunately, these lovely grounds are closed to the public, so you’ll have to peek through the iron fence to catch a glimpse.