Government Health & Environment

Old North Church Opens its Restrooms to the Public

Old North’s Gift Shop has opened 2 restrooms to the public on a trial basis.

With no public funding in sight to re-open the Hull Street restrooms on the Freedom Trail, the Old North Church has opened its own toilet facilities to the public on a trial basis. The two bathrooms are located in the basement of the gift shop.

These are the only restrooms open to the public on the North End Freedom Trail between Faneuil Hall and Charlestown.

Old North’s restrooms will be open 9am – 6pm daily and they will be asking for a dollar per use with the hopes of breaking even after the costs of cleaning and maintaining the facilities, according to a congregation message from Vicar Steve Ayers.

9 Hull St. visitors center / restrooms are closed.

It has been two years this September since we penned the story about poor Johnny and his mother, desperate to find a restroom on the North End’s most historic pathway.

Old North’s efforts are the most significant change since the State’s $50,000 earmark by former Speaker Sal DiMasi for the Hull St. restrooms disappeared in 2010 despite use by over 800 tourists on a summer day. A city plan to place a coin-operated facility on the Prado fell through. Most restaurants limit restroom use to paying customers. The Greenway Conservancy continues to oppose restrooms on the Greenway, preferring to build a $2.9 million replacement carousel, partially with State funding.

Most North End restaurants will take mercy for those in an emergency, but this Hanover St. sign makes the policy clear.

On the waterfront, the Harborwalk benefits from public restrooms at hotels, including a new one at the Marriott Long Wharf on the ground level accessible from the outside near Tia’s and Starbucks. Also, the Paul Revere House in North Square is expected to have restrooms for its visitors when its expanded education center opens.

2 Replies to “Old North Church Opens its Restrooms to the Public

  1. The opening of two small single-user restrooms in a basement hallway at Old North Church is a welcome initial step in restoring desperately-needed amenities for visitors to Boston’s North End. They certainly are not capable of handling the previous capacity (often more than 800 daily Freedom Trail strollers) who dropped by the Michelangelo Visitor Center before it was shuttered in September 2009. Still, the accessible toilets at Old North are a promising first-step in jump-starting the restoration of the 1200 s.f. comfort station on Hull Street. They will confirm that folks are prepared to pay a $1.00 user fee for sanitary and safe restrooms in the same manner that similar amenities are commonplace in European cities and tourist sites. And, it really costs that much for staffing, insurance, cleaning and maintenance as well as for soap and paper products.

    North Enders may not realize that the installation of the Hull Street visitor center was promised by local agencies which were awarded development rights by the city of Boston for creating affordable housing and elder care services at the former public school and auditorium. Old North Church and the Paul Revere House offered to supervise the visitor facility and even established a tax-exempt corporation with a hand-picked board of directors for oversight. The ball was dropped when a significant annual line-item fell victim to budget cuts after Speaker DiMasi’s resignation.

    Some of us are old enough to recall the ubiquitous ‘dime’ toilets in public lavatories and restaurants in the 1950’s and 1960’s when modest charges for use of a sanitary restroom were universally accepted. It should be noted that this was the era of the ten cent Coke and nickel candy bar. In real dollar terms, those charges were the equivalent of today’s can of soda ( $.80 to $1.00) or two Milky Ways ($1.20 or higher). Therefore, viable user fees of in the range of one dollar cannot possibly be considered exorbitant.

    Local businesses and the North End Chamber of Commerce now have an opportunity to lend a hand in reopening the original Michelangelo visitor center and restrooms. It really would be a win-win situation for the Freedom Trail sites and merchants who should be embarrassed by the NO RESTROOM signs festooned on the doors of restaurants, cafes and shops. With a combination of modest sponsorships and corporate advertising as well as user fees, a permanent solution is within reach.

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