Beacon Hill Monument
Photo - Dave Wieneke, MCET

Architect: Charles Bulfinch

Installed: 1865 & 1898

When the Puritans arrived in Boston in 1634, one of the first orders of government was to build a Beacon on top of Boston's tallest hill, which would give notice to the countryside of approaching danger.

Here, on what would be called "Beacon Hill" a sixty-five foot tall mast was constructed. An iron bucket of tar was readied so it could be lit in the event of an approaching attack. Over time a succession of beacons blew down and were rebuilt. Though they were not ever used to warn of attack, the beacon became a landmark and an important connection to Boston's past.

Governor Hancock had offered to rebuild the beacon with his personal funds. But it was Charles Bulfinch, America's first architect, who proposed a permanent monument. Rather than constructing a warning, Bulfinch proposed creating the first public monument dedicated to the American Revolution. Bulfinch raised public donations to construct the monument, designed it, and worked with community leaders to refine its message.

Reverend Jeremy Belknap, the founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society, advised Bulfinch on the monument's inscription. In 1791 the Boston press hailed Bulfinch's contribution, " a civic ornament it affords conviction of American refinement -- and so far as it is military, of the dignity of her powers."

New England's harsh weather took its toll on the column, which by 1811 had decayed beyond repair. Before it was leveled, the original inscribed tablets were removed and safely stored inside the State House.

In 1865 the Massachusetts General Court approved rebuilding the column with funds provided by the Bunker Hill Monument Association. The original stone tablets were added to the new column in 1898. Though it is no longer a beacon, it is appropriate that today's Bulfinch Column calls us to remember that we are the recipients of benefits purchased in America's revolution.