Built in 1729 as the largest building in colonial Boston, Old South Meeting House has been an important gathering place for nearly three centuries.
The Puritan congregation built their first wooden meeting house on this site in 1669 as the "Third Church" in Boston. When overcrowding became a problem, they replaced it in 1729 with the beautiful spacious brick meeting house that still stands today.
During the colonial period members of Old South’s congregation included African-Amercan poet Phillis Wheatley who published a book in 1773 while she was enslaved; patriot leaders Samuel Adams and William Otis; William Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere to Lexingtonin 1775, and the young Benjamin Franklinand his family.
Standing in the center of town, the Old South Meeting House was colonial Boston’s largest building and was used for public gatherings as well as for worship. In Boston, meetings too large for Boston’s town hall, Faneuil Hall, were held at the Old South Meeting House because of its great size and central location. It was a prominent building with a bell and an enormous 1768 tower clock that is still working today. The Old South Meeting House clock is the nation's oldest American-made tower clock still operating in its original location.
The congregation that built the brick Old South Meeting House in 1729 was descended from the Puritans who founded Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century. The interior of the meeting house reflects their beliefs. The Puritans had left England in search of new lands and greater religious freedom. They believed in a direct relationship between the individual and God, and felt that the rituals used by the Church of England interfered with this direct relationship. Instead of the rituals, music and elaborate architecture of the Church of England, the Puritans emphasized Bible-reading, sermons, prayers and the unaccompanied singing of psalms in their services.