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Boston Immigrant Trail

Home > Boston Immigrant Trail

Boston's Immigrant Heritage Trail is an exciting new journey through the city's parks, side streets, churches, cemeteries and historic buildings, where you'll discover the rich ethnic composition of Boston. The Immigrant Heritage Trail begins at Boston's newest visitor attraction, the Dreams of Freedom Museum , a multimedia exhibit and celebration of Boston's immigrant communities.

Click on the button to link to timelines and information on Boston Immigrant groups.

Downtown | Back Bay | Chinatown/South EndDreams of Freedom

Dreams of Freedom Immigration Museum
Prudential Center Skywalk

Boston's newest celebration of the city's rich ethnic heritage offers a new multimedia show tracing the city's glorious immigrant history. Meet the courageous Pilgrims who founded Boston. Listen to Ben Franklin explain what liberty means to newcomers. Meet the intrepid Kennedy clan who reshaped Boston and American politics. Enjoy the poetry of America's first African-American writer, Phyllis Wheatey. Find out if Sacco and Vanzetti were put to death because they were criminals or immigrants. Learn about immigrants coming to Boston in the 21st century: Kosovars, Sudanese, Irish, Chinese and dozens more.

Boston Irish Famine MemorialMore Information
Boston Irish Famine Memorial Washington and School Street
(781) 849-4444

The Irish Famine Memorial was unveiled in June 1998 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine, which killed one million people and caused another two million to flee Ireland. Over 100,000 Irish refugees arrived in Boston between 1845-49, transforming the city. Successive waves of Irish settled, making them the majority ethnic group by 1900. Irish-Americans now comprise about 20% of Boston, and 26% of Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry, the highest concentration in the US.

Artist Robert Shure created the twin sculptures, which are encircled by eight narrative plaques. The Friends of the Boston Irish Famine Memorial group maintains the park and has joined with the New England Holocaust Memorial committee to provide joint educational programs to student groups. It hosts an annual candle light vigil at the park on St. Patrick's eve, and various other activities throughout the year. It has also formed the Irish Famine Institute to support the work of Irish relief agencies in Congo, Rwanda, Sudan and other famine-afflicted countries.

The Hungarian Revolution Monument
Hungarian Revolution Monument
Liberty Square
Milk and Kilby Streets

This monument is dedicated to "those who never surrendered" in October 1956, when Soviet troops answered an anti-Communist student uprising with enforced repression. 200,000 refugees fled Hungary, some of them settling in greater Boston. The monument, created by Hungarian artist Gyuri Hollosy, was dedicated in 1988, sponsored by the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts. A quote on the memorial from President Kennedy reads:

"October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the annals of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph. No other day since history has began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever the sacrifice required."

Dock Square
Congress Street entrance to Boston City Hall

This site marks the embarkation location of 17th century European immigrants, indentured servants, African slaves and free African-American sailors. In 1991 the City of Boston placed a plaque at this site, which reads:

Boston: An Immigrant's Gateway

America's promise has drawn people from all corners of the world to Boston, in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Their traditions and values have become the fabric of our neighborhoods. Here in Boston we seek to fulfill that promise by providing a life filled with peace, dignity and opportunity for all who make this great city their home.

New England Holocaust MemorialMore Information
Carmen Park
Congress Street and Union Street
(617) 859-5969

Dedicated in October 1995, this memorial pays homage to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, which historians consider perhaps the most devastating and cruel episode of the 20th century. The Memorial features six luminous glass towers, representing the six main death camps. The 54 feet high towers are lit at night, and set on a black granite path. Mist rises from charred embers at the bottom of the chambers, and six million numbers are etched in an orderly pattern, suggesting the ghostly ledgers of the Nazi bureaucracy.

The Memorial offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the meaning of freedom and oppression, and on society's respect for human rights.

The Friends of the New England Holocaust Memorial and the Friends of the Boston Irish Famine Memorial have created a joint program to work with students and visitors by providing tours, educational materials, forums and commemorative ceremonies throughout the year.

Paul Revere House
19 North Square
North End Boston, MA 02113
(617) 523-2338

Paul Revere (1734-1818) was the son of French immigrant Apollos Rivoire. The Rivoire family came from Riocaud, France, and Apollos anglicized the family name to Revere in the 1720s.

Paul Revere apprenticed as a silversmith with his father, and owned the North Square house from 1770 to 1800. In the 1770's Revere was a messenger for local officials. It was while living in this house that Revere left for his famous "midnight ride" to warn colonists of advancing British troops on April 18, 1775. The Paul Revere House, built about 1680, is the oldest building in downtown Boston. It is part of the city's Freedom Trail.

The Paul Revere statue, located nearby at The Prado, was created by artist Cyrus Edwin Dallin in 1885 and placed in the park in 1940.

St. Leonard of Port Maurice ChurchMore Information
Prince and Hanover Streets, North End
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 523-2110

St. Leonard's was the first Italian Catholic Church in New England, established in 1873 to meet the growing needs of Italian immigrants coming to Boston. The Church continues to serve mass and hold nightly devotions in both Italian and English during the week.

St. Stephen's Church
401 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113
(617) 523-1230

Created by architect Charles Bulfinch in 1804, St. Stephen's became a Roman Catholic Church in 1862, when the North End was populated mostly by Irish and later Italian immigrants. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of President John F. Kennedy, was baptized in this church. It was restored in 1965 and is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Boston.

Vilna Center for Jewish HeritageMore Information
Vilna Center 14-18 Phillips Street Beacon Hill, Boston
(617) 523-2324

The Vilna Shul was built in 1919 by Jews from Vilnius, Lithuania, and is the last of over 50 places of worship that flourished in Boston during the era of great Jewish immigration. The building is modeled after Europe's oldest synagogues. Three layers of original wall art discovered under layers of sanctuary paint evoke centuries-old Eastern European carved and painted synagogue interiors. The Vilna Center for Jewish Heritage Inc. has rescued the building and is currently raising funds to restore it as Boston's Jewish museum and cultural center. The Vilna Shul was declared an American Treasure in 1999 by Save America's Treasures, a partnership of the White House Millennium Council and The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Vilna Center is open with trained docents in attendance on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00 from mid-April through mid-November. Tour groups can arrange visits at other times by calling (617) 523-2324 and leaving a message.

Museum of Afro-American HistoryMore Information
Joy Street and Smith Court
Beacon Hill
(617) 742-1854

Established in 1963, the Museum of Afro-American History depicts the contributions of the African-American community of New England during the colonial period. Through workshops and classes, exhibits, forums and special activities, the Museum places the African-American experience in an accurate social, cultural and historical perspective.

The Museum is housed in the African Meeting House, established in 1806, and now the oldest surviving Black church edifice in the United States. Officially designated as the Boston African-American National Historic Site, the Meeting House is one of 14 sites along the city's 1.6 mile Black Heritage Trail, which covers 19th century African-American landmarks in downtown Boston.

Downtown | Back Bay | Chinatown/South End

Lafayette Monument
Boston Common along Tremont Street (next to Visitor Information Center)

Marie Joseph De Lafayette is perhaps the leading French hero of the American Revolutionary War. He paid eight visits to Boston, including one in 1780 when he announced that the King of France would send ships and troops to aid the colonies in their war against England. In 1824 he returned to Boston and was given a hero's welcome on the Boston Common. It was described as "an occasion of special splendor, with a military review followed by a dinner for 1200 people under a marquee erected for the event."

This bronze and granite monument was erected on August 24, 1924 to commemorate the centenary of the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to Boston. The artist was John Francis Paramino.

May 20 is Lafayette Day in Massachusetts, and each year a wreath is laid at the monument in a small ceremony by Boston's French community.

Commodore John Barry MemorialMore Information
John Barry Memorial
Boston Common, along Tremont Street (Next to Visitors Information Center)

Irish-born John Barry (1745-1803) was the first commander of the US Navy, appointed by President George Washington in 1794. During the Revolutionary War Barry won the very first and last naval battle of the war. He is widely considered to be the Father of the American Navy. Barry came from County Wexford, also the birthplace of John F. Kennedy's ancestors.

The Partisans
The Partisans Boston Common, along Charles Street (Between Boylston and Beacon Streets)

This tribute to guerrilla freedom fighters everywhere was created by Polish artist Andrzei Pitynski in 1979. It portrays the soldiers as weary but determined. Pitynski was born in Poland in 1947. The sculpture is on temporary loan to the City of Boston.

Tadeusz Kosciuszko
Tadeusz Kosciuszko
Boston Public Garden, along Boylston Street (Between Arlington and Charles Streets)

An artillery colonel under George Washington, Polish-born Kosciuszko was one of many Europeans who rallied to the American Revolution, fighting with distinction at New York and Yorktown. This statue was unveiled in 1927, and was commissioned by Boston's Polish community to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kosciuszko joining the Continental Army. The sculptor is Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson.

Colonel Thomas Cass MemorialMore Information
Public Garden along Boylston Street (Between Arlington and Charles Streets)

Born in Queen's County, Ireland, Thomas Cass (1822-1862) was a successful businessman and member of the Boston School Committee in the 1860s. When the Civil War began, Governor Andrew asked Cass to form an Irish Regiment, the 9th Massachusetts Volunteers. Cass led the Regiment into battle, and was gravely wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill in July 1862. An initial granite memorial of Cass was replaced by a bronze memorial created by artist Richard E. Brooks, and was officially dedicated in 1899 at a ceremony attended by Cass's family and by Veterans of the Civil War.

French Library and Cultural Center
53 Marlborough Street at Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 912-0400

Formed after W.W.II by a group of devoted French and American Bostonians, the French Library began as a one-room lending library and today contains over 25,000 books, videos, audio tapes and other materials dedicated to French language and culture. The Center occupies two mansions in Boston's Back Bay, and offers a year round menu of exhibits, lectures, cooking and wine tasting courses, language classes, children's activities and visits by leading French writers, artists, musicians and film makers. It also provides translation and interpretative services.

The Center hosts a day-long celebration each July on Bastille Day that includes a street party, gala dinner and fireworks.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-5740

Formed in 1845, this venerable institution is a world-renowned center for family history research. In addition to its holdings of old Boston and New England family collections, the Society also has a wealth of information on Irish, Italian, German and other ethnic groups. The Society has a 200,000-volume research library in Boston: a 25,000-volume book-by-mail lending library; an active publications department; research and photocopy services; and educational programs, conferences and tours. It has over 18,000 members worldwide. Time Magazine called the NEHGS "one of the top three resources in the country."

Goethe Institute of Boston
170 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 262-6050

The Goethe-Institut is a nonprofit organization with more than 150 institutes in 78 countries. Its task is to promote the German Language and to foster international cultural cooperation. The Goethe-Institut Boston offers workshops and teacher training seminars for teachers of German as a second language, and also provides an extensive examination program. The information center of the Goethe-Institut Boston serves as a resource for those interested in contemporary Germany, and for those interested in teaching and studying German as a foreign language. More than 9,000 books, videos, audiocassettes and computer software are available.

Patrick Collins MemorialMore Information
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
(Between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets)

Collins was the second Irish-born mayor of Boston (1902-05). Born in 1844 in Fermoy, County Cork, his family moved to South Boston. Collins worked as an upholsterer while studying at Harvard University. He became a lawyer and was a member of the state legislature and US Congress, and served as Consul General in London. Funds for his memorial were raised in just six days by thousands of small contributions from Boston residents. The statue was commissioned to Henry and Theo Kitson and unveiled in 1908.

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
(Between Gloucester and Hereford Streets)

Known as the father of public education in his homeland, Argentina, Domingo Sarmiento (1811-1888) was also that country's president. Sarmiento was a disciple of American educator Horace Mann and his wife Mary. In the 1860s, while serving as Minister in the Argentina Embassy, he initiated a number of educational projects between North and South America. The Government of Argentina offered this monument to the City of Boston in 1913, and Mayor John Fitzgerald accepted. It wasn't actually delivered to the city until 1973, when Mayor Kevin White was in office. The artist was Argentinean Ivette Compagnion.

Leif Eriksson
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Charlesgate East

The Viking explorer may have been the first European to set foot on North America, and this statue commemorates that possibility. Many people, like philanthropist Eben N. Horseford, believed that Eriksson and his Norsemen named the discovery Vinland, and that they purportedly went up the Charles River. Horseford purchased the statue, created by artist Ann Whitney, in 1887.

Kahlil Gibran
Copley Square
(Dartmouth Street facing the Boston Public Library)

Internationally regarded poet and artist Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was born in Besharri, Lebanon, and spent time in Boston, which he remembered as a significant time in his life. His book, The Prophet, is recognized as one of the most important books of the 20th century. The plaque reads in part:

"Kahlil Gibran found literary and artistic sustenance in the Denison Settlement House, the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Public Library. A grateful city acknowledges the greater harmony among men and strengthened universality of spirit given by Kahil Gibran to the people of the world in return."

The plaque was created by Gibran's cousin, Kahlil George Gilbran in 1977.

Boston Public Library
Copley Square
Dartmouth and Boylston Streets
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 536-5400

The BPL is the nation's oldest public library, formed in 1848 when the first waves of Irish immigrants began settling in Boston. Today it is the fourth largest library in the country, containing over 6.6 million books, 1.2 million rare books and manuscripts, plus maps, musical scores and prints. It has been referred to as "The People's Palace" and the "University of the People" because of the educational value it offered to immigrant families and working people seeking a better life.

The BPL contains a variety of public statues dedicated to immigrants like John Boyle O'Reilly, Hugh O'Brien and Sacco and Vanzetti, all of which are described on this web site.

Sacco and Venzetti MemorialMore Information
Boston Public Library
McKim Building, Third Floor

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants living in Boston in the 1920s who became part of perhaps the most infamous political trial in Boston history. They were accused, convicted and executed for a brutal robbery in which two people were killed in 1920 in nearby Braintree. Their trial took place during a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and fear of communism were rampant. Despite seven years of appeals, Sacco and Venzetti were executed in 1927. 200,000 people lined the streets of Boston for their funeral procession.

In 1997 Governor Paul Cellucci and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino officially unveiled the memorial to Sacco and Venzetti at the BPL. The City of Boston is currently searching for funding and a public space to place the memorial.

Hugh O'Brien Bust
Boston Public Library

McKim Building, Bates Room, Second Floor
(617) 536-5400

Hugh O'Brien (1827-95) was Boston's first Irish-born mayor, serving four consecutive terms from 1884 to 1888. He silenced the skepticism of the Yankee plutocracy by providing a democratic and accessible political environment that benefited all city residents. During his term in office he supported Frederick Law Olmsted's creation of the city's Emerald Necklace park system, and laid the cornerstone in 1888 for the Boston Public Library McKim building at Copley Square. He was viewed as a champion of workers. The bust was created by John Donoghue.

John Boyle O'ReillyMore Information
John Boyle O'Reilly Boylston and Fenway Streets

Known as "a champion of the people," John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-90) was a soldier, poet, athlete, journalist and statesman who influenced Boston's transition to a multiracial, multiethnic city. He escaped from a British penal colony in Australia and came to Boston in 1870, during a post-Civil War period where anti-immigrant sentiment, poor working conditions, and injustice for American Blacks prevailed. He became Boston's leading reconcillor, defending Chinese, Jewish and Italian immigrants, challenging anti-Catholic sentiments, and calling for equality for African-Americans.

The O'Reilly memorial was created by artist Daniel Chester French and dedicated in 1896 in a ceremony that included Vice President Adali Stevenson and O'Reilly's wife and daughters.

There is also a bust of O'Reilly in the Boston Public Library, created by artist John Donoghue.

Japanese Temple Bell
The Fenway, Near the Rose Garden

This is one of the oldest works of public art in Boston. The bronze bell was cast in 1675 by Tanaka Gonzaemon under the supervision of Suzuki Magoemon, and dedicated to Bishamon, a Buddhist God of children and good luck. The bell was contributed to the Japanese war effort in 1940 but ended up on a scrap heap in Yokosuku. Sailors from the USS Boston salvaged the bell after World War II, and offered it to the city of Boston in 1945. In 1953 Japanese officials presented the bell to Boston as a symbol of peace.

Roberto Clemente Memorial
Back Bay Fens
Roberto Clemente Field

Dominican baseball star Roberto Clemente (1934-72) was killed in a plane crash while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was considered one of the great players of baseball. The memorial was created by artist Anthony Forgione in 1976.

Downtown | Back Bay | Chinatown/South End

Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Winthrop Square
Devonshire and Otis Streets

Author of Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns (1759-1796) is Scotland's most famous and beloved poet. The Burns Memorial Association of Boston commissioned artist Henry Hudson Kitson to create this bronze statue, which shows Burns walking with a book in one hand and his hat in the other, followed by his collie. It was originally placed in the Fenway, and was unveiled by Governor Calvin Coolidge on New Year's Day, 1920. In 1975 the statue was moved to Boston's Financial District.

Ping-On Alley
Off Oxford Street near South Station

Ping On Alley (literally, road of peace and security) is located in Boston's old garment district and near South Station's railway hub. It is believed to be the home for Boston's first Chinese settlers, workers who took trains out to Boston following the conclusion of contracted work at Sampson's Shoe Factory in North Adams, Massachusetts. They pitched tents on Ping On Alley and eventually moved into more permanent housing on Oxford Place, Oxford Street and Harrison Avenue, forming what is now known as Chinatown, as other Chinese came to Boston to work.

Ramon Betances MuralMore Information
Villa Victoria Housing Development
Aquadilla Street, south of Tremont Street
South End

Often called the "Abraham Lincoln of Puerto Rico, "Dr. Ramon E. Belances (1827-1898) was exiled from Puerto Rico by the Spanish colonial government after an unsuccessful uprising. The ceramic mural, 14 by 45 feet, was created in 1977-78 by artist Lilli Ann Killen Rosenberg with the help of over 300 children and residents from the Villa Victoria estate, and is inscribed as "a gift from the Hispanic community to this and future generations."




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