Old North Church
Old North Church at 193 Salem Street, in the North End of Boston, is the location from which the famous "One if by land, and two if by sea" signal is said to have been sent. This phrase is related to Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

's midnight ride, of April 18, 1775, which preceded the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...


The church is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
Episcopal Diocese of MassachusettsThe Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America....

. It is the oldest active church building in Boston and is a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

. Inside the church is a bust of George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, which the Marquis de Lafayette reportedly remarked was the best likeness of him he had ever seen.

Old North Church was built in 1723, and was inspired by the works of Christopher Wren
Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren FRS is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history.He used to be accorded responsibility for rebuilding 51 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710...

, the British architect who was responsible for rebuilding London after the Great Fire
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...


The lanterns

On April 18, 1775, probably a little after 10 P.M., the 191 ft (58 m) steeple
Steeple (architecture)
A steeple, in architecture, is a tall tower on a building, often topped by a spire. Steeples are very common on Christian churches and cathedrals and the use of the term generally connotes a religious structure...

 of the Church served a military purpose.

Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

 told three Boston patriots
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 to hang two lanterns in the steeple. These men were the church sexton Robert Newman
Robert Newman (sexton)
Robert Newman was an American sexton at the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is considered a Patriot in the American Revolution for hanging lanterns in his church's steeple on April 18, 1775, part of a warning signal devised by Paul Revere during the Battles of Lexington and...

, and Captain John Pulling, the two of whom David Hackett Fischer
David Hackett Fischer
David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. Fischer's major works have tackled everything from large macroeconomic and cultural trends to narrative histories of significant events to explorations of...

 suggests each carried one lantern up to the steeple, and Thomas Bernard, who stood watch for British troops outside the church. The lanterns were displayed to send a warning to Charlestown
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Charlestown is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, and is located on a peninsula north of downtown Boston. Charlestown was originally a separate town and the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; it became a city in 1847 and was annexed by Boston on January 5, 1874...

 patriots across the Charles River
Charles River
The Charles River is an long river that flows in an overall northeasterly direction in eastern Massachusetts, USA. From its source in Hopkinton, the river travels through 22 cities and towns until reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Boston...

 about the movements of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. Revere and William Dawes
William Dawes
William Dawes, Jr. was one of several men and a woman who alerted colonial minutemen of the approach of British army troops prior to the Battle of Lexington and Concord at the outset of the American Revolution....

 would later deliver the same message to Lexington
Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,399 at the 2010 census. This town is famous for being the site of the first shot of the American Revolution, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.- History :...

 themselves, but this lantern method was a fast way to inform the back-up riders in Charlestown about the movements of the British; these back-up riders planned to deliver the warning message to Lexington and Concord in case Revere and Dawes were arrested on the way.

The lanterns were hung for just under a minute to avoid catching the eyes of the British troops occupying Boston, but this was long enough for the message to be received in Charlestown. The militia waiting across the river had been told to look for the signal lanterns, and were prepared to act as soon as they saw them.

The meaning of two lanterns has been memorized by countless American schoolchildren.
One if by land, and two if by sea is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

's poem, "Paul Revere's Ride
Paul Revere's Ride (poem)
"Paul Revere's Ride" is a poem by an American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that commemorates the actions of American patriot Paul Revere on April 18, 1775.-Overview:...

". One lantern was to notify Charlestown that the British Army would march over Boston Neck
Boston Neck
The Boston Neck or Roxbury Neck was an isthmus, a narrow strip of land connecting the then-peninsular city of Boston to the mainland city of Roxbury . The surrounding area was gradually filled in as the city of Boston expanded in population. -History:The Boston Neck was originally about wide at...

 and the Great Bridge
Great Bridge (Cambridge)
The Great Bridge over the Charles River connected Cambridge, Massachusetts, to what is now known as Allston, Boston, Massachusetts. The Great Bridge was built in 1660-1662 at what was then called Brighton Street, and was the first bridge to span the Charles. A toll was authorized in 1670...

, and two were to notify them that the troops were taking boats across the Charles River to land near Phips farm. After receiving the signal, the Charlestown Patriots sent out a rider to Lexington, but this rider did not reach his destination and his identity has disappeared from history. He was the one who might have been captured by a British patrol.

But the warning was delivered miles away to dozens of towns, first by Revere and Dawes on horses, and then by other men on horses and men who rang church bells and town bells, beat drums, and shot off warning guns. (Current status of the lanterns is not entirely clear; one is said to be in the hands of a private collector, another broken during a tour, and yet another is on display at the Concord Museum
Concord Museum
The Concord Museum is a museum of local history located at 200 Lexington Road, Concord, Massachusetts, USA, and best known for its collection of artifacts from authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. It is open daily except major holidays; an admission fee is charged.Founded in 1886,...


U.S. Bicentennial celebration

President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

 visited Old North Church on April 18, 1975. In his nationally televised speech, the President said, in part,
"Let us pray here in the Old North Church tonight that those who follow 100 years or 200 years from now may look back at us and say: We were a society which combined reason with liberty and hope with freedom. May it be said above all: We kept the faith, freedom flourished, liberty lived. These are the abiding principles of our past and the greatest promise of our future."

Following President Ford's remarks, two lanterns were lit by Robert Newman Ruggles and Robert Newman Sheet, descendants of Robert Newman, who, as sexton of the Old North Church in 1775, lit the two lanterns which signaled the movement of British troops. The President then lit a third lantern, which hangs in a window of the church today.

On July 11, 1976, Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 visited Boston and made reference to that event. She said,
"At the Old North Church last year, your President lit a third lantern dedicated to America's third century of freedom and to renewed faith in the American ideals. May its light never be dimmed."

The Queen and Prince Philip
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

 attended a Sunday morning service at the Old North Church, sitting in a pew at the right front. The Rev. Robert W. Golledge led the service and later presented The Queen with a replica of a silver chalice made by Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

. The Queen was shown the iconic statue of Paul Revere by Cyrus E. Dallin
Cyrus Edwin Dallin
Cyrus Edwin Dallin was an American sculptor and Olympic archer.He created more than 260 works, including well-known statues of Paul Revere and Native Americans...

 near the church before departing in a motorcade to attend a function at the Old State House
Old State House (Boston)
The Old State House is a historic government building located at the intersection of Washington and State Streets in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Built in 1713, it is the oldest surviving public building in Boston, and the seat of the state's legislature until 1798. It is now a history museum...


The bells

Eight change ringing
Change ringing
Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called "changes". It differs from many other forms of campanology in that no attempt is made to produce a conventional melody....

 bells at Old North Church were cast in Gloucester, England
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

 in 1744 and hung in 1745. One bell has the inscription: We are the first ring of bells cast for the British Empire in North America, A.R. 1744. The bells were restored in 1894 and in 1975. They are maintained and rung regularly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 Guild of Bellringers.

Steeple damage

The original steeple of the Old North Church was destroyed by the Storm of October 1804
Storm of October 1804
The Storm of October 1804, popularly known as the first reported "Snowicane", was a late-season major hurricane in the 1804 Atlantic hurricane season; it brought vast amounts of snow to New England as an extratropical storm in mid-October, and was the latter of the two tropical cyclones recorded...

. A replacement steeple, designed by Charles Bulfinch
Charles Bulfinch
Charles Bulfinch was an early American architect, and has been regarded by many as the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession....

 was toppled by Hurricane Carol
Hurricane Carol
Hurricane Carol was among the worst tropical cyclones to affect the New England region of the United States. It developed from a tropical wave near the Bahamas on August 25, 1954, and gradually strengthened as it moved northwestward. On August 27, Carol intensified to reach winds of , but weakened...

 on August 31, 1954. The current steeple uses design elements from the original and the Bulfinch version. The church is now 175 feet (53 m) tall. At its tip is the original weathervane.

The other "Old North"

Before the construction of the 'Old North Church' (Christ Church, Boston), there was another church in Boston called the "Old North" (Meetinghouse). This Congregationalist meetinghouse
Meeting house
A meeting house describes a building where a public meeting takes place. This includes secular buildings which function like a town or city hall, and buildings used for religious meetings, particularly of some non-conformist Christian denominations....

 was founded in North Square
North Square (Boston, Massachusetts)
North Square in the North End, Boston of Boston, Massachusetts sits at the intersection of Moon, Prince, North, Garden Court, and Sun Court Streets. Paul Revere lived here, as did other notables in the 17th and 18th centuries. Prior to July 4, 1788, the area was known as Clark's Square.-History:In...

, across the street from what is now called Paul Revere's house.


Currently an archeologist is examining the estimated 1100 bodies buried in 37 tombs in the basement. The crypt was in use between 1732 and 1853, and each tomb is sealed with a wooden or slate door, with many doors covered over by plaster as ordered by the city of Boston in the 1850s. The founding rector of the church, Timothy Cutler, was buried right under the altar above. Other notable figures buried under the church include British Marine Major John Pitcairn, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was entombed along with many other soldiers killed in this battle, and Captain Samuel Nicholson of the U.S.S. Constitution.


  • Timothy Cutler
    Timothy Cutler
    Timothy Cutler was an American Episcopal clergyman and rector of Yale College.-Family background:Cutler was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, a descendant of Robert Cutler who settled there prior to October 28, 1636. His father was Major John Cutler, an anchorsmith, and his mother, Martha Wiswall...

    ; rector 1723-1765
  • James Greaton; rector 1759-1767
  • Mather Byles
    Mather Byles (loyalist)
    Mather Byles II , was a Congregational clergyman at New London, Connecticut until 1768. In 1768 he entered the Established Church, and became rector of Christ Church, Boston....

    ; rector 1768-1775
  • Stephen Lewis; rector 1778-1785
  • William Montague; rector 1786 to 1792
  • William Walter; rector 1792 to 1800
  • Samuel Haskell; rector 1801 to 1803
  • Asa Eaton; rector 1803 to 1829
  • William Croswell; rector 1829 to 1839
  • John Woart; rector 1840-1852
  • William T. Smithett; rector 1853-1860
  • John T. Burrell; rector 1861 to 1868
  • Henry Burroughs; rector 1868-1882
  • William H. Munroe; rector 1882 to 1892
  • Charles W. Duane; rector 1893-1911
  • William Lawrence; rector ca.1912

See also

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
    Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
    Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery is part of the Forest Lawn chain of Southern California cemeteries. It is at 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California, on the lower north slope at the far east end of the Santa Monica...

    , where there is a replica of the church

Further reading

  • Asa Eaton. Historical account of Christ church, Boston: A discourse in said church, on Sunday, December 28, 1823. Boston: Printed by J.W. Ingraham, 1824. Google books
  • Henry Burroughs. A historical account of Christ Church, Boston: an address, delivered on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the church, December 29, 1873. Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1874. Google books
  • Christ Church, Salem Street, Boston, 1723. Boston: 1912. Google books
  • Percival Merritt. The parochial library of the eighteenth century in Christ Church, Boston. Boston: Merrymount Press, 1917

External links

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