Today's Boston Globe has an article about historic pub crawls in Boston being led by the Freedom Trail Foundation, an organization which does good work in promoting Boston's history. What caught my eye was the following: "The last stop on the tour was the Point, a fairly modern-looking bar near the North End. Owners of the bar claim that the Boston Stone, the alleged center of the city, is inside the tavern. Although some historians argue that the real stone is actually down the street from the bar, the Point's Boston Stone is in its bathroom, right next to the toilet."
First, let me state that I haven't been to the Point, nor to its bathroom to see the stone. Despite not having inspected said stone, I can say that the owner's claim is fanciful at best. The true Boston Stone is in Marshall Street, affixed in the foundation of a building. As the illustration from the Library of Congress shows (and note that the advertising sign present in the photo is in the LOC engraving), it was used as an advertising ploy.
Here is a portion of the text, which was published in the 1860s: "When I was a boy, in passing the building, I saw a lad named Joe Whiting, whose father occupied the shop, writing on the Stone these words--'Boston Stone, Marshall Lane.' After I became a man," continues Dr. Elliot, "I asked Mr. Whiting, who set the boy at work on the Stone. He said 'Marshal Lane at that time not being named, it was difficult to designate his place of business. A Scotchman who opened a shop for the sale of Ale and Cheese directly opposite, made a complaint of the difficulty. He said, in London there was a large Stone at a certain corner, marked London Stone, which served as a direction to all places near it, and if I would let Joe write the words Boston Stone on this, people would notice it, and it would set them guessing what it meant, and would become a good landmark.'"(1)
It is important to note that the Boston Stone was never considered the "center of the city," having been put in place in the 1730s. The town market and statehouse would have been considered the center of the town, with the site of the Old Statehouse serving as the measuring point even after the construction of the new Statehouse on Beacon Hill in the 1790s. One can still see the colonial era mile markers in locations around Boston, indicating the distance to the Old Statehouse. I'm also not certain of the above claim that "Marshal Lane at that time not being named". As the 1896 Annual report of the Street Laying-Out Department states:
Marshall's Lane, Boston, 1708; from Hanover Street to Union Street; named Marshall street, April 3, 1822.
(1) "The Boston stone." Opposite the "Marshall House" may be seen the celebrated "Boston Stone" imbedded in the wall, long an object of interest to the curious and antiquary. [186-?]. Full image here. Library of Congress, American Memory Collection.