Boston, MA

This Day In History: Massive Bonfire on King Street as Bostonians Burn Statues to Celebrate Independence

Dianna Carney
Old State House, Boston MassachusettsImage by Tim Ball from Pixabay

On July 18, 1776 , 246 years ago, Bostonians gathered under the East Balcony of the Old State House to hear the news, which would go on to change the course of history; the United States announced their independence from Britain- they were free people, no longer under the rule of the Monarchy.

With two-thirds of Boston residents supporting the revolution, the crowd that heard the first reading of The Declaration of Independence immediately began celebrating the great victory. It is reported that the crowd became so “jubilant”, so overwhelmed with joy, that they removed the lion and unicorn statues that stood on the top of the Old State building.
Old State House photo Uploaded by Glenn beltz on Flickr

These figures once stood as great symbols of the Monarchy that ruled over them from across the ocean. The crowd went on to burn the lion and unicorn in a massive bonfire on King Street.

You can’t say they weren’t symbolic, even if they were a raging mob.
Image by Margit Wallner from Pixabay

It should be noted that King Street was later renamed State Street.

In 1882, gold-colored replicas of the lion and unicorn were put back on the East side of the building, and on the West side sits a new edition. An eagle was placed to represent America's freedom which had once been celebrated 106 years prior.
Queen Elizabeth views spectators below from a window in Boston's Old State House on July 11, 1976Twitter UK Consulate Boston on Twitter

The buidlings royal connection didn't end there. On July 11, 1976, Queen Elizabeth II addressed a crowd of Bostonians from the famous East balcony, creating a truly full circle moment.

Today, the Old State House stands in Boston's financial district surrounded by skyscrapers. Since 1904 the State Street MBTA station has occupied part of the building's basement. The building is available for private parties, and some rooms have been turned into museum collections that feature exhibitions of the history of the historic landmark.

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