He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
– excerpt from “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The enduring legend of the Old North Old Church began on April 18, 1775. Robert Newman, the church’s sexton, climbed the steeple. Having seen the British and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land.
Actually “sea” is only sort of right, although more poetic. The British could have marched down the long peninsula or crossed the Charles River to start their march toward Lexington and Concord. The two lights alerted the militia that the British troops were taking the boat route to land in Charlestown.
The church was built in 1723 and survives as the oldest standing church building in Boston.
With its history and its legend, the Old North Church is an obvious choice for inclusion on the list of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.