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A narrow cobblestone street going uphill and there are townhouses on either side. f11photo/Shutterstock

Beacon Hill architecture tour in two hours or less

Federal and Greek revival styles play outsized roles in this map because they play outsized roles in Beacon Hill

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Beacon Hill is one of the oldest urban neighborhoods in the United States and one of the most walkable. Put those two together and you have the makings of one heck of an architecture tour.

This one takes you to some of the best examples of federal architecture in the U.S., never mind Boston, with Greek revival thrown in—all in two hours tops. The points of interest together form a rough square. So start at any of the four points and work your way around.

If you still have some energy left over, why not take our tour of the hidden gems of the Public Garden and Boston Common?

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1. Louisburg Square

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Louisburg Square
Boston, MA 02108

The Greek revival townhouses facing the private park in this tony square went up in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. The square was exclusive then and it’s exclusive now.

But taking in the bow-fronted facades of its houses is absolutely free. The whole thing makes for a very pleasant stroll, though it might consume a good chunk of your two-hour tour of Beacon Hill architecture.

Edward Fielding/Shutterstock

2. William Hickling Prescott House

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55 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02108

Built in 1808 and named after the historian who lived there in the mid-1800s, this mansion is from the hand of Asher Benjamin, who would end his career working in the Greek revival style.

This is a federal work, though through the pilasters and the Doric columns you can almost see a more vigorous approach yearning to show itself.

It’s now a museum that the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America runs. (Bonus federal: Benjamin also designed 54 Beacon.)

swampyank/Wikimedia

3. African Meeting House

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46 Joy St
Boston, MA 02114

Asher Benjamin, a pioneer in the federal and Greek revival styles, designed this building, which went up in 1806 and remains the oldest African-American church building in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the building served as a hotbed of abolitionism in the early 1800s, and became a synagogue in the 20th century.

The Museum of African American History purchased it in the 1970s, and it remains a part of that institution.

4. Otis House Museum

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141 Cambridge St
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 994-5920
Visit Website

Federal-style potentate Charles Bulfinch designed this mansion for Harrison Gray Otis, a congressman, senator and Boston mayor.

It was completed in 1796, and its flat facade positively drips of the architecture. It was later used as a clinic and a middle-class boarding house; and is now a museum.

5. Old West Church

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131 Cambridge St
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 227-5088
Visit Website

Another Asher Benjamin creation, the Old West Church was originally erected in 1806 for a Congregational parish whose church the British destroyed during the Revolutionary War. (The redcoats thought that colonial troops were using the steeple to signal their compatriots in Cambridge.)

After a century and half, it became a branch of the Boston Public Library and has been a Methodist parish since the early 1960s.

6. Massachusetts State House

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24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

The State House was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned. Charles Bulfinch, the first American architect to achieve wide fame, designed it.

It is a particularly prominent example of the U.S.-born federal style.

The exterior of the Massachusetts State House. The building is red brick and there is a gold dome. There are white columns on the facade. Glenn Leblanc/Getty Images

7. Boston Bar Association/Chester Harding House

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16 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02108

A builder named Thomas Fletcher constructed this four-story rowhouse in 1808. Various owners renovated it throughout the 19th century, including painter Chester Harding, who lived there in the late 1820s.

The Unitarian Church Association acquired 16 Beacon Street in the 1920s, and adapted the house for use as an office. In 1963, the Boston Bar Association moved in, and renovated it some more (the group still owns the property).

Yet its facade especially retains the trappings of that federal style.

Bostonbar/Wikimedia

1. Louisburg Square

Louisburg Square, Boston, MA 02108
Edward Fielding/Shutterstock

The Greek revival townhouses facing the private park in this tony square went up in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. The square was exclusive then and it’s exclusive now.

But taking in the bow-fronted facades of its houses is absolutely free. The whole thing makes for a very pleasant stroll, though it might consume a good chunk of your two-hour tour of Beacon Hill architecture.

Louisburg Square
Boston, MA 02108

2. William Hickling Prescott House

55 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108
swampyank/Wikimedia

Built in 1808 and named after the historian who lived there in the mid-1800s, this mansion is from the hand of Asher Benjamin, who would end his career working in the Greek revival style.

This is a federal work, though through the pilasters and the Doric columns you can almost see a more vigorous approach yearning to show itself.

It’s now a museum that the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America runs. (Bonus federal: Benjamin also designed 54 Beacon.)

55 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02108

3. African Meeting House

46 Joy St, Boston, MA 02114

Asher Benjamin, a pioneer in the federal and Greek revival styles, designed this building, which went up in 1806 and remains the oldest African-American church building in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the building served as a hotbed of abolitionism in the early 1800s, and became a synagogue in the 20th century.

The Museum of African American History purchased it in the 1970s, and it remains a part of that institution.

46 Joy St
Boston, MA 02114

4. Otis House Museum

141 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

Federal-style potentate Charles Bulfinch designed this mansion for Harrison Gray Otis, a congressman, senator and Boston mayor.

It was completed in 1796, and its flat facade positively drips of the architecture. It was later used as a clinic and a middle-class boarding house; and is now a museum.

141 Cambridge St
Boston, MA 02114

5. Old West Church

131 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

Another Asher Benjamin creation, the Old West Church was originally erected in 1806 for a Congregational parish whose church the British destroyed during the Revolutionary War. (The redcoats thought that colonial troops were using the steeple to signal their compatriots in Cambridge.)

After a century and half, it became a branch of the Boston Public Library and has been a Methodist parish since the early 1960s.

131 Cambridge St
Boston, MA 02114

6. Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
The exterior of the Massachusetts State House. The building is red brick and there is a gold dome. There are white columns on the facade. Glenn Leblanc/Getty Images

The State House was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned. Charles Bulfinch, the first American architect to achieve wide fame, designed it.

It is a particularly prominent example of the U.S.-born federal style.

24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

7. Boston Bar Association/Chester Harding House

16 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108
Bostonbar/Wikimedia

A builder named Thomas Fletcher constructed this four-story rowhouse in 1808. Various owners renovated it throughout the 19th century, including painter Chester Harding, who lived there in the late 1820s.

The Unitarian Church Association acquired 16 Beacon Street in the 1920s, and adapted the house for use as an office. In 1963, the Boston Bar Association moved in, and renovated it some more (the group still owns the property).

Yet its facade especially retains the trappings of that federal style.

16 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02108