Beacon Hill is a half-mile square Boston neighborhood just north of the Boston Common. The gold-domed Massachusetts State House sits atop the hill. Architectural changes are strictly regulated so the quaint rowhouses and other buildings retain a 19th-Century look and feel. Brick sidewalks and gas lights add to the atmosphere, particularly along cobble-stoned Acorn Street, the most photographed street in America.
Numerous authors have lived in Beacon Hill, including Louisa May Alcott, George Santayana, John Cheever, along with poets Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath. More recently, novelist Michael Crichton had a home here. Not surprisingly, two well-known Massachusetts politicians, Edward Kennedy and John Kerry have been Beacon Hill residents. They join at least two pop stars, Carly Simon and David Lee Roth, in having called this neighborhood home.
Two Beacon Hill homes which have been turned into museums are the Nichols House Museum and Otis House Museum. Constructed in 1804, the Nichols house is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. The Otis House, designed by legendary Boston architect Charles Bulfinch, was home to Harrison Gray Otis and his wife Sally. Otis served as a member of Congress and later as Boston's mayor. Another home turned museum is the William Hickling Prescott House built in 1808 and purchased in 1944 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. The Colonial Dames have contributed furniture and decorative arts collections which are on display at the Prescott House.
The Museum of African American History focuses on African American contributions to early New England. It is housed in the African Meeting House, also known as First African Baptist Church is the oldest black church still standing in America. This church, built in 1806, is a National Historical Landmark and is next to the African American Abiel Smith School.
After taking in some historical sights, enjoy a rest stop in Beacon Hill's Public Garden. It is the nation's first public botanical garden, established in 1837. Young children especially will likely enjoy the swan boats in the garden's lagoon. Riding these boats has been a traditional summer pastime for Bostonians and visitors since 1877.