Lost on the Freedom Trail
The National Park Service and Urban Renewal in Postwar Boston
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Boston National Historical Park is one of America's most popular heritage destinations, drawing in millions of visitors annually. Tourists flock there to see the site of the Boston Massacre, to relive Paul Revere's midnight ride, and to board Old Ironsides—all of these bound together by the iconic Freedom Trail, which traces the city's revolutionary saga.
Making sense of the Revolution, however, was never the primary aim for the planners who reimagined Boston's heritage landscape after the Second World War. Seth C. Bruggeman demonstrates that the Freedom Trail was always largely a tourist gimmick, devised to lure affluent white Americans into downtown revival schemes, its success hinging on a narrow vision of the city's history run through with old stories about heroic white men. When Congress pressured the National Park Service to create this historical park for the nation's bicentennial celebration in 1976, these ideas seeped into its organizational logic, precluding the possibility that history might prevail over gentrification and profit.
"By showing how the entanglements of race, place, and wealth have played out at Boston National Historic Park, Bruggeman helps to clarify how racialized power reproduces itself and how it is sedimented in institutional practices of preservation and commemoration."—Cathy Stanton, author of The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Postindustrial City
"Based on exhaustive research and written in a lively, accessible style, Lost on the Freedom Trail provides valuable insight into the profitability of preservation and heritage tourism, and the synergies and tensions created from establishing a national historic park within a living urban center.”—Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, coeditor of Legacy Cities: Continuity and Change amid Decline and Revival