Freedom Trail Foundation Grants $100,000 to Benefit Old North Church and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

The Old North Church and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, both in Boston’s North End, will benefit from $100,000 in grants awarded by the Freedom Trail Foundation. Details in the press release below. A check presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 10:30 am at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

Old North Church Steeple (Photo courtesy of Freedom Trail Foundation)


The Freedom Trail Foundation, the official non-profit organization responsible for promoting and helping to preserve Boston’s 16 Freedom Trail sites, announced today its Preservation Fund is awarding a total of $100,000 to two historic sites.  Both located in the North End, Old North Church, Boston’s oldest church building, and Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s Historic Burying Ground Initiative’s Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston’s second oldest burying ground, are recipients of the Foundation’s second annual Preservation Fund grant.

To celebrate the upcoming renovations, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Parks Commissioner Antonia M. Pollak, Reverand Stephen T. Ayres, representatives of the Freedom Trail Foundation, Old North Church Foundation, and City of Boston will hold a check presentation at the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground on Hull Street on Tuesday, September 18 at 10:30 a.m.  Freedom Trail Players, dressed in 18th century costumes, will add excitement to the presentation.

The Freedom Trail Foundation’s Preservation Fund supports beautification, preservation, and capital projects for official Freedom Trail sites.  It is designed to help avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse effects of the elements and man-made wear and tear on Boston’s precious 17th, 18th, and 19th century sites.  In 2011, the Foundation granted its first Preservation Fund award of $125,000 to the Boston Parks and Recreation Department to help fund historic landscape restoration of the Granary Burying Ground.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (Photo courtesy of Freedom Trail Foundation)

“The improvements to the Granary Burying Ground are spectacular,” said Suzanne Taylor, Executive Director of the Freedom Trail Foundation.  “The widened walkways, new standing areas, and new post- and chain- fencing protect the grass and historic headstones, and pruned trees allow in more light for turf growth.  With more than three million Freedom Trail visitors each year, the Granary is particularly susceptible to wear and tear from visitation.  The Foundation is thrilled to be in a position to have helped with the Granary project and continue to fund Freedom Trail sites’ preservation projects.“

In preparation for Old North Church’s 300th anniversary in 2023, the Freedom Trail Foundation’s grant of $75,000 will support the restoration and painting of its iconic steeple and masonry repair.  Standing at 191 feet tall and last restored 12 years ago, the Old North Church steeple is in great need of scraping and repainting.  The steeple restoration, slated to begin in spring 2013, will total $128,800.  Old North Church has also received a $125,000 bequest and $137,500 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund to support the steeple project and the major masonry endeavor, which will begin this fall.

Built in 1723, and immortalized in Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride, Old North Church is an active Episcopal parish and Boston’s most visited historic site.  On the evening of April 18, 1775, the Old North 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 to seize the Colonial store of ammunition.  This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

“The Old North Church is delighted to accept a grant from the Freedom Trail Foundation to paint our world famous steeple as we begin a ten year program of improvements in anticipation of our 300th birthday,” said Old North Church Reverend Stephen T. Ayres.  He added “We are also delighted to see improvements just up the street at Copp’s Hill Cemetery, where Robert Newman, the sexton responsible for hanging two lanterns on April 18, 1775, is buried.”

Boston’s Historic Burying Ground Initiative will receive $25,000 for Copp’s Hill Burying Ground to assist with a significant, ornamental ironwork restoration.  The grant will support the repair of deteriorated cast- and wrought-iron plot fences and an old cast-iron drinking fountain in the center of the site as part of the project, which also includes major work to fencing along Charter Street.  Dating back to the 1840s, various sections of ironwork has been repaired or restored over time; the last ironwork to receive attention was a short portion of fence 11 years ago.

Founded in 1659 as Windmill Hill and later named after shoemaker William Copp who owned the land, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place of merchants, artisans, and craft people who lived in the North End.  Some notables buried in Copp’s Hill are fire-and-brimstone preachers Cotton and Increase Mather; the man who hung the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s midnight ride – Old North Church sexton Robert Newman; and Prince Hall – the anti-slavery activist and founder of the Black Masonic Order.  Because of its height and panoramic vistas, the British used this vantage point to train their cannons on Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill.  The epitaph on Captain Malcolm’s tombstone at Copp’s Hill, is riddled with the marks of vengeful British bullets.

The Copp’s Hill Burying Ground project will cost approximately $265,000 and is also supported by a $73,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund with the $167,000 balance from Mayor Menino’s Capital Improvement Program.  Slated to begin work in the fall, the Parks and Recreation Department expects to complete the restoration in spring 2013.

“We are grateful to the Freedom Trail Foundation for partnering with us on so many rehabilitation projects for our historic sites,“ said Antonia M. Pollak, Boston Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner.  Commissioner Pollak added, “Copp’s Hill is a national treasure and we are pleased that capital work can begin this year which will better secure the site and improve the aesthetics for the millions of people who visit the Freedom Trail each year.”

The Freedom Trail Foundation raises the bulk of Preservation Fund monies through a $1 voluntary donation attached to its Walk Into History Tours of the Freedom Trail.  Annually, close to 90,000 people experience Freedom Trail Foundation tours led by 18th century costumed guides who recount the events of the people and places of the Revolution as it began in Boston.

For additional information about the Preservation Fund, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, and Freedom Trail Foundation programs, including tours, education initiatives, scheduled events, and exhibits at Freedom Trail sites, and ways to support the Preservation Fund please call (617) 357-8300 or visit