Monthly Archives: March 2009

77 Mount Vernon Street, Boston (1837)

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No. 77 Mount Vernon Street in Boston is part of a row of Greek Revival Houses constructed in 1836-1837 on the site of the former Bulfinch-designed mansion of Jonathan Mason. These buildings are set back 30 feet from the street, in line with other earlier houses in this block. It later nineteenth century, the house at no. 77 was the home of Sarah Wyman Whitman, an artist and graphic designer who created book bindings for Houghton Mifflin. Whitman‘s work appeared on books by such authors as Sarah Orne Jewett, Celia Thaxter, Lafcadio Hearn and many others. In 1936, the house became the headquarters of the Club of Odd Volumes, a society of bibliophiles founded in 1887. The club had previously rented space in a large building across the street.

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87 Mount Vernon Street, Boston (1805)

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No.87 Mount Vernon St. (right); No. 89 (left)

In 1805, Charles Bulfinch began building twin houses on the adjoining lots at nos. 87-89 Mount Vernon Street in Boston, which he had purchased from Harrison Gray Otis. There is an unverified story that he had intended one to be his own home, but facing financial difficulties, he sold them: no. 87 to Stephen Higginson, Jr., the father of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and no. 89 to David Humphreys. The two buildings were set back from the street in order to line up with the adjacent Second Harrison Gray Otis House, also designed by Bulfinch. No. 89 was later replaced by a new building, which was later remodeled in the Colonial Revival style. No. 87 was, for a time, the residence of Gen. Charles J. Paine, a Civil War general and yachtsman. Since 1955, it has been the home of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

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86 Pinckney Street, Boston (1840)

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John J. Smith was born a free black in Richmond, VA and later moved to Boston, where he became a barber. His shop, on the corner of Howard and Bulfinch Streets, was a center of abolitionist activity and abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner could frequently be found there. Smith’s wife, Georgiana, was active in the effort to integrate Boston’s public schools. During the Civil War, Smith recruited for the Fifth Cavalry, an all black unit. After the War, Smith served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Smith, who died in 1906, lived at 86 Pinckney Street in Boston (built in 1840) from 1878 to 1893. The house is a stop on the Black Heritage Trail.

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8 Walnut Street, Boston (1811)

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The initial construction of the Federal-style house at no. 8 Walnut Street in Boston was completed by 1811. The building was enlarged later (possibly around 1850) and has since been converted into condominiums. In the early nineteenth century, it was the home of Dr. George Parkman, a pioneer in the field of mental health and member of a prominent Boston family. In 1849, Dr. Parkman disappeared after a visit to collect debts owed to him by Dr. John Webster, a professor of chemistry and mineralogy at Harvard Medical College. After parts of Dr. Parkman’s body were found in Dr. Webster’s laboratory, Webster was arrested for murder. The 1850 trial was a sensational event which prompted much media attention and public interest. Webster was convicted and hanged for the famous murder. In the twentieth century, interest in the case and debates about Webster’s guilt have continued.

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59 Mount Vernon Street (1837)

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An earlier entry on this blog featured no. 59 Mt. Vernon Street in Boston together with nos. 55-57, but this house is architecturally and historically significant and deserves it’s own seperate entry. Considered to be the great example of Greek Revival architecture on Beacon Hill, the 1837 house was designed by Edward Shaw, an architect and author of such works as Civil Architecture (1831), Operative Masonry (1832), and The Modern Architect (1854). The house was home to Thomas Bailey Aldrich, who replaced William Dean Howells as editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1881. Aldrich was also an author and poet. Images of the house’s great Greek Revival doorway appear in two books about Aldrich: The Life of Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1908) by Ferris Greenslet and Crowding Memories (1920) by Lilian Woodman Aldrich.

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65 Mount Vernon Street, Boston (1903)

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65 Mount Vernon Street in Boston was the site of the residence of Henry Cabot Lodge, the senator and his son, George Cabot Lodge, the poet and dramatist. There is a 1911 biography of George Cabot Lodge, who died very young, written by Henry Adams, and an introduction to his works by Theodore Roosevelt. Although Henry Cabot Lodge is listed as living at 65 Mt. Vernon in 1894, in 1903 an apartment building, known as the Cabot, had been built at the address. One of the residents to move into the new building that year was Charles S. Hopkinson, the portrait painter and landscape watercolorist, who lived there from 1903, the year of his marriage to Elinor Curtis, to 1905. The building seems to have been inspired by the Jacobethan style.

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The Middleton-Glapion House (1790)

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The oldest surviving house built by African-Americans on Boston’s Beacon Hill is the Middleton-Glapion House at 5-7 Pinckney Street. It is also the oldest standing private residence on Beacon Hill. The house has two street numbers because it was originally home to two bachelor friends: George Middleton was a black liveryman and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, who had led the all black company called the Bucks of America; Louis Glapion was a French mulatto barber, who used his half of the house for his work. The property was purchased by the two men in 1786 and a house was first assessed in 1791. The original house was one story. Today it has two stories, but the first floor matches the earliest descriptions. The house is on the Black Heritage Trail.

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