At 20 Hancock Street on Beacon Hill in Boston is the home once occupied by Senator Charles Sumner. It was built in 1805 by Ebenezer Farley and was purchased by Sumner’s father in 1830. Charles Sumner was a fiery opponent of slavery and the victim of a famous caning, delivered by Representative Preston Brooks on the floor of the Senate on May 22, 1856. After the Civil War, Sumner was a leader of the Radical Republicans. He lived in the house until 1867 and was possibly the one who added the Greek Revival portico that links nos. 20 and 22 Beacon Hill.
The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston was built in 1806 to house the first African Baptist Church of Boston, known as the First Independent Baptist Church. A commemorative inscription above the front door reads, “Cato Gardner, first Promoter of this Building 1806.” Cato Gardner, born in Africa, raised more than $1,500 toward the total $7,700 needed to construct the Meeting House. The building, which was constructed almost entirely with black labor, served as the cultural, educational and political center of Boston’s black community for many decades. In 1808, Primus Hall‘s school relocated from the adjacent carpenter’s shop to the Meeting House, using a schoolroom funded by Abiel Smith. It later moved to the Abiel Smith School next door. William Lloyd Garrison held the founding meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society in the Meeting House on January 6, 1832. The building, which has a facade adapted from the design for a townhouse published by Boston architect Asher Benjamin, was remodeled in the 1850s, with the windows being elongated and converted to having arched tops.
The Baptist congregation moved to Boston’s South End in 1898 and the Meeting House became the African Methodist Episcopal Church. By the late nineteenth century, many African Americans had moved to other neighborhoods and new immigrants occupied the neighborhood around the African Meeting House, which was sold in 1904 to the Hassidic Jewish Congregation Anshe Lebawitz. In 1972, the building was acquired by the Museum of African American History. The first phase of restoration work on the Meeting House was completed in 1987 and the building was opened to the public as a museum. The African Meeting House, the oldest surviving black church building in America, is also the last stop on the Black Heritage Trail.
The Nathan Appleton House, at 39 Beacon Street, and its partner, the Daniel Parker House, at no. 40, were designed for the two former business partners by Alexander Parris, a noted Boston architect. Built in 1818, a fourth floor was added to both houses in 1888. These two bowfront row houses which are transitional between the Federal and Greek Revival styles, at one time mirrored each other more closely, but the Appleton house had an extra window added on each of its floors. Nathan Appleton was a pioneering textile manufacturer. The marriage of the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to Appleton‘s daughter, Fanny, took place in the house in 1843. From 1914 into the 1990s, the building housed the Women’s City Club of Boston. In more recent times, it has been subdivided into condominiums. There is a video of the house’s exterior on YouTube.
The house at 51 Chestnut Street, on Boston’s Beacon Hill, was built in 1830. It was the home of Rev. Charles Lowell, who was the pastor of West Church in Boston from 1806 to 1861. Rev. Lowell, who was the father of the poet, James Russell Lowell and grandfather of the Civil War General Charles Russell Lowell, later acquired and moved to Elmwood, a Georgian-style house in Cambridge.
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.
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.
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.