The Boston Tea Party  may have ended in the harbor, but it started at the Old South Meeting House (310 Washington St., 617/482-6439, www.oldsouthmeetinghouse.org , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily Nov.–Mar., 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Apr.–Oct., $5 adults, $4 students and seniors, $1 children 6–18, free children under 6), a brick church building with a grey-shingled tower dating from 1729.
Led by Samuel Adams, some 6,000 patriots gathered here on the night of December 16, 1773, flooding out into the street. After fiery speeches, Adams spoke the code words, “This meeting can do no more to save our country.” Those words were a signal to certain members of the audience to don face paint and feathers and head down to Griffin’s Wharf, where three ships stood loaded down with bins of loose tea.
In all, $33,000 of tea was thrown into the harbor, setting the stage for the battles that followed. (As a postscript, when Queen Elizabeth II visited Boston  for the Bicentennial in 1976, the mayor of the city presented her with a check for $33,000 to cover the cost of the tea—not counting interest.)
The Old South Meeting House still serves as a meeting place of sorts, offering lectures and classical music concerts of a less revolutionary nature. It is also home to a museum that traces the events surrounding the tea party through an “audio exhibit” that features actors reading the words of Sam Adams and the other patriots along with sound effects to re-create the time period.
A separate multimedia exhibit dubbed “Voices of Protests” focuses on Adams, statesman Ben Franklin, and abolitionist Phyllis Wheatley, who were all members of the Old South’s congregation.