Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s smallest and most historic neighborhoods, featuring a mix of brick townhouses and fashionable shops. It is a neighborhood of about 10,000 people and is known for its narrow, gas-lit streets and brick sidewalks. Today, Beacon Hill is regarded as one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Boston.
Like many similarly named areas, the neighborhood is named for the location of a former beacon atop the highest point in central Boston, once located just behind the current site of the Massachusetts State House. The hill was substantially reduced in height to allow the development of housing in the area.
The entire hill was once owned by William Blaxton (also spelled Blackstone), the first European settler of Boston, from 1625 to 1635; he eventually sold his land to the Puritans. Many famous black abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, David Walker and Sojourner Truth, spoke at the African Meeting House on Joy Street. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who lived for a time on Joy Street, was the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States. In 1860 she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College (which later merged with Boston University) to earn her M.D. degree. Her publication of A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883 was one of the first by an African American about medicine. Beacon Hill was one of the staunchest centers of the anti-slavery movement in the Antebellum era.
Charles and Cambridge Streets are Beacon Hill’s main commercial streets with over 40 antique shops, home decorating shops, delectable food shops and many good restaurants. The Massachusetts State House is at the top of the Hill overlooking Boston Common. Beacon Hill was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1962.