Walking Tour of Historical Boston University

From Beacon Hill to Copley Square and on to the Back Bay, this walking tour explores the most notable events and locations in the history of Boston University.

Walking Tour of Historical Boston University

Boston, Massachusetts 02115, United States

Created By: Boston University

Tour Information

Beginning in Boston Common and snaking through Beacon Hill, this walking tour explores the disparate locations of Boston University's original late-19th century campus. Visitors will see the earliest homes of the School of Theology, the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Law, and even the site where Prof. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at the School of Oratory. Paths will intersection with Boston's historic Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail before turning westward into Copley Square where the College of Business Administration began. The tour will then make its way through the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and admire beautiful brownstones and hotels that have served as the University's oldest residence halls. It will move on to the site of the Charles River Campus, a cow pasture in the early 20th century, and conclude at a spot where Gothic, modern, and contemporary architecture converge to demark the University's current home.

Tour Map

Loading Tour


What You'll See on the Tour

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to our historical walking tour of Boston University. “We’re going to begin our tour from none other than Boston Common, the same place where other historical tours such as the Freedom Train and Black Heri... Read more
“In some ways, this is where it all started.  37½ Beacon Street, the home of Isaac Rich.  Now, who was Isaac Rich? “At this location in 1869, Rich sat down at his rolltop desk and he, along with neighbors Lee Claflin and Jacob Sleepe... Read more
“As we make our way to our next stop, we'll pass by the Massachusetts State House.  The State House sits on land that was once owned by John Hancock, Massachusetts' first Governor. “The building was also designed by Charles Bulfinch an... Read more
“Here we are at The Claflin Building at 18-20 Beacon Street.  Notice anything interesting about this building?  “Named after a BU founder, Lee Claflin, the Claflin building was the very first home for Boston University’s newest scho... Read more
Built in 1809, Park Street became a beacon for Christian Evangelicalism (see attached photo).  To this day it is a major landmark for orienting around Boston.
As we round Park Street Church, we'll walk past the historic Granary Burying Ground where Paul Revere, John Hancock, Mother Goose, and the parents of Benjamin Franklin are burried.  We'll then turn right onto Bromfield Street.
Here we are at 40-44 Bromfield Street.  Depending upon how you date the beginning of Boston University, perhaps this site marks the true origin.  Back in 1839, LaRoy Sunderland, along with a small group of other Methodists came together t... Read more
Just next door we have 36 Bromfield Street. In 1870, Boston University found a new home for its founding School of Theology in this Second Empire structure (cf. attached photo).  In doing so, the School of Theology had come full circle, co... Read more
“The original building has been demolished, though an artist’s drawing appears in our app.  But in the mid-1800s a Baptist Church with a grand spire stood here at 12 Somerset Street.  In 1882, Boston University bought the church, took... Read more
Just one block over on Court Street was the building where Alexander Graham Bell, while a professor with BU’s School of Oratory in 1875, invented the telephone.
“Here at 8 Ashburton Place sat the new home for the School of Law in 1884.  A photo appears in our app. “The advantage of this building is that it was less than a block away from the Suffolk County Courthouse.”
11 Ashburton Place marks the sixth home for School of Law.  It’s now demolished, but Mt. Vernon Church once sat here.  Boston University bought the granite building built in the Greek Revival Style and renamed it “Isaac Rich Hall" aft... Read more
“Here we are at historic Pinckney Street in Beacon Hill.  Back in 1867, this house at 23 Pinckney Street became the first Boston home of the Methodist Biblical Institute after it moved south from Concord, New Hampshire.  It then changed... Read more
"Here we are 70-72 Mount Vernon Street in the heart of Beacon Hill.  This building served as the second home of the School of Theology, and would remain its home for nearly 70 years from 1884 to 1950.  “In this twin mansion, there was s... Read more
“This picturesque, cobblestone alleyway is reminiscent of colonial Boston.”
“In 1916, Boston University, for the first time ever in its history, did something that it had never done before and would not do again until the late 1930s.  It constructed a building from scratch that was intended to exclusively serve ... Read more
Part of the Emergeald Necklace system of of parks, this well-curated park was constructed atop mudflats and some 200 years after the Boston Common.”
“We’ll make our way through Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue Mall. “Initially designed in 1856, this 9-block greenway is renowned for its lines of American elms, green ash, maple, and even Japanese pagoda trees.”
In 1933, with a gift of $15,000, the Boston University Women’s Council helped Boston University buy this brown-stone to provide subsidized housing for women students. Under the leadership of its first president, Louisa Holman Fisk, the Wo... Read more
“By 1913, the ratio of men to women attending the College of Liberal Arts had dropped to one in three.  Does anyone know the reason? “In large part, the business courses in the evening were so successful in attracting men that the Coll... Read more
“In 1913, and for the first time in its history, Boston University moved out of Beacon Hill and into Copley Square here at 688 Boylston Street, a building leased to the University by MIT.  “That building is now demolished, but it once ... Read more
Danielsen Hall
“In 1947, with its enrollments skyrocketing from 12,000 students to 25,000 students after World War II, Boston University purchased this beautiful hotel—The Charlesgate.  It would become the University’s first large residence hall fo... Read more
In 1949, thousands of men were entering college on the G.I. Bill.  Consequently, Boston University bought this building, the historic Myles Standish Hotel, and converted it into the University’s first ever large residence hall for men. T... Read more
In 1954, Boston University purchased this building, the Sheraton Hotel.  Famous playwright, Eugene O’Neil lived and died here. After its purchase, it was renamed Shelton Hall and became another large residence hall for women.  Today it ... Read more
In the middle of the 1800s, the waters of Boston's Back Bay were filled in to furnish dry land that could be developed.  In fact, many of the Bay State Road brownstones were built over these title flats during a 10 year period from 1895 to... Read more
Aside from Marsh Chapel, this building is perhaps the most detailed and ornate.  Clearly constructed in the Gothic style, students have long referred to it affectionatley as “The Castle.”  This building was constructed in 1905 by a fe... Read more
Looking out the front door of the Castle, one can see three towers stretching into the sky.  Those towers comprise the Warren Towers residence hall, which was constructed in the 1960s. The Tower on the left is named Fairfield Tower after W... Read more
Boston University struggled financially for nearly 6 decades after the Great Boston fire.  In fact, it was never able to afford the purchase of a centralized college campus.  Instead, BU buildings were scattered all over the City of Bosto... Read more
It would be nearly a decade before the University was able to construct more buildings on the Charles River Campus. But as soon as they were able, they added more Gothic buildings for the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Theology, and... Read more
As we walk around this building, you might notice aspects of it that remind you of The Castle.  That’s because this building makes use of the Neo-Gothic style, and it’s the very first building to take its architectural cues from the et... Read more
We’ll end our tour in front of 765 Commonwealth Avenue because from this vantage point, we have a view of the original Gothic architecture, but also a view of a morer modern style of architecture in the Law Tower/Mugar Library/GSU as well... Read more


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to changerequest@pocketsights.com.