Explore Boston’s Irish Side: The Irish Heritage Trail

If you are planning a trip to Boston for an authentic Irish St. Patrick’s Day experience, then you might want to check out the Irish Heritage Trail while you are in town. The Irish Heritage trail is a 3 mile route that takes you through statues and landmarks paying tribute to Irish immigrants that helped shape Boston history since the 1700’s.

The trail consists of 20 sites that tell the story of important Irish soldiers, artists, politicians, and others that had a lasting impact on Boston. The trail was created in 1994 as a way to educate the public and honor all of those who contributed to Irish Heritage in and around Boston.

Rose Kennedy Gardens

The first stop on the Irish Heritage trail is a park called The Rose Kennedy Gardens dedicated to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of President John F. Kennedy. This one mile stretch of greenways and gardens was officially dedicated in 2004 and runs from the north end of Boston to the Wharf District of Chinatown.

Kevin White Statue

Next up on the tour is a statue of Boston’s 45th mayor, Kevin White. Some of White’s key contributions as mayor was the re-opening of Quincy Market as a way to breathe life back into Boston’s downtown economy. He also took on the desegregation of Boston schools and the busing issues during his 16 years as mayor.

James Curley Statues

The James Curley Statues are a tribute to a man who served in office for close to 50 years. Curley served one term as governor, two terms as a congressman, and four terms as Boston’s mayor. You can find the two statues on none other than Congress St. in Boston.

Boston City Hall

Irish Americans held the position of mayor for the vast majority of the 1900’s. This includes a 63 year consecutive run starting in 1930. It is easy to see why Irish heritage is so prominent in Boston.

Boston Irish Famine Memorial

This memorial is for the over 100,000 Irish refugees that traveled to Boston between 1845 and 1849 due to the Irish potato famine causing starvation in Ireland. The memorial is also part of the Freedom Trail and tells the story of the Irish potato famine.

Granary Burying Ground

This is Boston’s third oldest cemetery founded in 1660. The cemetery is located on Tremont St and is the resting place of Revolutionary war hero Paul Revere, victims of the Boston Massacre and Declaration of Independence signers Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

This memorial honors the 54th Massachusetts Infantry led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and was created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It depicts Colonel Shaw leading the infantry to fight in the civil war. This is the first memorial to honor African American soldiers.

Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House holds a rich history of Irish American Governors and officials. There are portraits and plaques paying tribute to James Sullivan, Maurice Tobin and other important Irish Americans including Jeremiah O’Brien who captured a British Naval ship during the Revolutionary War. Outside is a life size statue honoring John F. Kennedy.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

This monument is for the foot soldiers and sailors killed during the Civil War. Created by Irish born brothers Martin, James and Joseph Milmore, this monument was dedicated in 1876.

Boston Massacre Memorial

This memorial was created to honor the five victims of the Boston Massacre. Locals were originally against the idea of paying tribute to the victims because they were considered to be misfits. Later Irish born poet and novelist John Boyle O’Reilly helped public perception by reading a poem he wrote for the victims during monument dedication.

Commodore John Barry Plaque

John Barry was actually born in Ireland but is vastly considered to be the father of the American Navy. He is a war hero of the revolutionary war. Commodore John Barry has two plaques, one in the Charlestown Naval Yard and one in Boston Common on Tremont St.

Central Burying Ground

Created in 1756, the Central Burying Ground is where the remains of American patriots from the Battle of Bunker Hill and some British soldiers from the revolutionary war. It is said to be the only Boston cemetery to have Celtic crosses carved into headstones.

Colonel Thomas Cass Statue

Thomas Cass was an Irish born man who led “the Fighting Ninth”. This was an infantry that fought in the civil war made up of mostly Irish American soldiers. The original statue of Colonel Cass was later replaced because of the poor quality of the original.

David I. Walsh Statue

The first Irish Catholic governor of Massachusetts in 1914 and later becoming the first Irish Catholic Massachusetts Senator in 1918. His statue is on display at the Hatch Shell Esplanade.

Maurice Tobin Statue

Tobin was a politician born in Boston in 1901. He was an ambitious young man by being elected as Massachusetts State congressman at the age of only 25. He would later go on to defeat James Curley two mayoral elections and also serve as Massachusetts governor in the 1940’s.

Patrick Collins Memorial

While running for Boston mayor, Collins made history by pulling off a complete sweep and winning all the wards in the election. The beloved Irish born politician surprisingly died while on a trip to Virginia in 1905. Money was raised soon after his passing for a statue honoring Collins which can be found on Commonwealth Avenue.

John Singleton Copley Statue

As the artist behind famous portraits of George Washington, John Hancock and Paul Revere, Copley is known as America’s first great portrait artist. Both Copley Square and Copley Plaza are tributes to the famous colonial artist.

Boston Public Library

There is a collection of 13,000 Irish important historical and meaningful artifacts at the Boston Public Library. Material on the Free Irish State and Abby Theater plus Civil War images taken by Mathew Brady. The bust of Boston’s first Irish mayor Hugh O’Brien also can be found at the library.

John Boyle O’Reilly

In the year 1870 before coming to America, John Boyle O’Reilly was arrested and sentenced to 20 years of servitude for crimes against Britain as part of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. After escaping to Boston, O’Reilly became an integral part of Boston and a spokesman for Irish sentiment. He was a journalist, poet and lecturer and his statue has been on Boylston St. since 1896.

Fenway Park

We have made it to the end of the Irish Heritage Trail to finish with the most famous of landmarks, historic Fenway Park. Built by Irish immigrant Charles E. Logue. Charles was also responsible for building local Boston schools and churches, but Fenway Park is by far his most famous build.

The Irish Heritage trail highlights and honors the spirit of America through the lens of the Irish immigrants who came here looking for a better life. The American Dream is made up of stories like the ones found on the Irish Heritage Trail. Hard working people who were given a chance to build a life for themselves and their family. From the sacrifice of soldiers to the vision of artist politicians, the Irish Heritage Trail could teach us all a lesson in Americanism.