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Massachusetts State House

  • Attractions
  • Beacon Hill
  • price 0 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Massachusetts State House, Things to Do, Boston
Photograph: ShutterstockMassachusetts State House

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Designed by Bulfinch and completed in 1798, this magnificent structure replaced the old legislative building across Boston Common, which had been the headquarters of the British government. The dome, originally covered in copper by Paul Revere & Sons, was later sheathed in 23-carat gold. To this day, the shining bulb is one of Boston's best-known landmarks—although it was blacked out during World War II, due to the threat of air raids.

The building is the seat of government for the state, and the stomping ground of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Massachusetts State Legislature. As it proved too small for the growing state, a somewhat incongruous yellow-brick extension was added in 1895, followed by two white marble wings in 1917. Among the rooms covered by the tours (call ahead to reserve a place), are the Doric Hall, with its portraits and sculptures of historical politicos, and the House of Representatives and the Senate Chamber—in the public gallery of the House, look out for the Sacred Cod, an 18th-century carved wooden fish symbolizing the importance of the country's first industry.

Visitors can also conduct the tour unaccompanied, and sit in on meetings in the public galleries of the legislative chambers. Of the statues that adorn the front of the State House, that of Major General "Fighting Joe" Hooker arguably has the most interesting background. A native of Hadley, Massachusetts, he not only distinguished himself as a Civil War general, but also became notorious for his bodily appetites (ironically, the statue next to him is of the Quaker martyr Mary Dyer). An accomplished boozer, Major Hooker would allow loose women to prowl his troops' tents at night. These nocturnal guests became known as "Hooker's Ladies"—and later, simply as "hookers."

Written by
Time Out contributors


24 Beacon St
Cross street:
Park St
Green or Reed Line to Park Street
Opening hours:
Mon–Fri 9am–5pm; Tours Mon-Fri 10am–3pm
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