Massachusetts Historical Society


Lost on the Freedom Trail: The National Park Service and Urban Renewal in Postwar Boston


Seth Bruggeman, Temple University, in conversation with Michael Creasey, General Superintendent of the National Parks of Boston and Susan Fainstein, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Boston National Historical Park is one of America’s most popular heritage destinations, drawing in millions of visitors annually. Tourists flock to see the site of the Boston Massacre, to relive Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and to board Old Ironsides—all of these bound together by the iconic Freedom Trail, which traces the city’s revolutionary saga. Seth C. Bruggeman will discuss the Freedom Trail’s role in tourism, how it was devised to lure affluent white Americans into downtown revival schemes, and how its success hinged on a narrow vision of the city’s history run through with old stories about heroic white men. When Congress pressured the National Park Service to create this historical park for the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, these ideas seeped into its organizational logic, precluding the possibility that history might prevail over gentrification and profit. Professor Bruggeman will present his book and then be joined by experts with knowledge of the Freedom Trail today and from the past.

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