The Col. William Lee House (1743)

In 1743, Robert “King” Hooper sold land at what is now 185 Washington Street in Marblehead to Justice William Lee, who had plans to build a new house on the site which were not carried out. Instead, the smaller home located on the property was inherited by his grandson, Col. William R. Lee, a merchant and officer in the Revolutionary War, who hired Charles Bulfinch to design an expansion of his home into a mansion that would resemble that of his uncle, Jeremiah Lee. The house features a wood exterior designed to resemble granite.

The First Harrison Gray Otis House (1796)

The first of three houses designed by Charles Bulfinch for Harrison Gray Otis is located on Cambridge Street in Boston. Otis was a Federalist lawyer and politician who became one of the wealthiest men in Boston in the early nineteenth century, developing the area of Beacon Hill. His brick house, with brownstone stringcourses, displays distinctive traits of the Federal style, including the semicircular window and side lights of the entryway on the first floor (added after 1801), the Palladian window on the second floor and the semicircular, or lunette, window on the shorter third floor. The Otis House‘s design was based on a house that Bulfinch saw in Philadelphia in 1789, the William Bingham House, which in turn was based on a house in London. By the 1830s, the Otis House had been subdivided and rented out and later became a boarding house. In 1916, restoration of the house was begun by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Historic New England), which moved the house about 40 feet from its original location in 1926, to save it from a widening of Cambridge Street. Today the house is attached to additional buildings to the rear and serves as a museum and headquarters of Historic New England. Read More

University Hall, Harvard (1814)


Designed by Charles Bulfinch, Harvard‘s monumental University Hall was built in 1813-1814. Loammi Baldwin, who designed the Middlesex Canal and Harvard’s Holworthy Hall of 1811-1812, supervised the construction of University Hall. Built of Chelmsford granite, it was Harvard’s first stone building. The first floor originally contained four dining halls, one for each class, with kitchens located in the basement. The second floor contained a chapel, marked on the exterior by tall arched windows. These initial interior arrangements have been completely altered over the years and the building‘s original portico was removed in 1842.

87 Mount Vernon Street, Boston (1805)

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.

8 Chestnut Street, Boston (1804)


The double house at nos. 6-8 Chestnut Street in Boston was originally a freestanding building, each half having its own side garden and stables. Built in 1804 for Charles Paine (son of Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence) and attributed to Charles Bulfinch, they were purchased in the 1830s by the merchant and architect Cornelius Coolidge. He built houses on the two side lots, making nos. 6-8 part of a row. No. 8 was later the home of George Parsons Lathrop, an editor of the Atlantic Monthly and author of A Study of Hawthorne (1876), and of his wife, Hawthorne’s daughter, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, who later became a Catholic nun and wrote Memories of Hawthorne (1897). The two seperate homes at nos. 6-8 were later joined inside and, since 1957, the building has been used by the Society of Friends.

13 Chestnut Street, Boston (1806)


The three houses at nos. 13, 15 & 17 Chestnut Street, on Beacon Hill in Boston, were built in 1806 and designed by Charles Bulfinch. These three adjoining houses are known as the Swan Houses, after the heiress, Hepzibah Swan, who had them built as wedding gifts for her three daughters, who were married in 1806, 1807 and 1817. The houses are regarded as among the most architecturally significant on Chestnut Street. They feature recessed arches on the ground floor above stone string courses, while above are tall windows featuring wrought-iron balconies, which emphasize the importance of the second floor, which has double living rooms. Stairs lead to the houses’ basements from street level. The house at no. 13 was occupied by Swan’s daughter, Mrs. John Turner Sargent. From 1863 to 1866, the house was rented to the humanitarian and abolitionist couple, Samuel Gridley Howe and his wife, Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Starting in 1867, Julia Ward Howe held meetings of the Radical Club in the house.

Massachusetts State House (1798)


The Massachusetts State Capitol building in Boston, designed by Charles Bulfinch, was completed in 1798. The government of Massachusetts had previously used the Old State House, so the current building is sometimes called the New State House. It was built on Beacon Hill, on land once owned by John Hancock. The site on Beacon Hill was lowered 50 feet for the construction, with the excavated dirt being used as landfill. Bulfinch modeled his design on William Chambers‘s Somerset House and James Wyatt‘s Pantheon, both in London. The capitol building‘s dome was originally made of wood, which soon leaked. In 1802, it was covered with copper by Paul Revere’s company. Originally painted gray, to resemble stone, it was later painted yellow and, in 1874, gilded with gold. It was most recently regilded in 1997. The building was expanded with the addition of a yellow brick annex in 1895 and the two massive marble wings, on each side, in 1914 and 1917. The State House underwent a restoration in 2000. Today, this important structure, which Oliver Wendell Holmes once called, “the hub of the solar system,” is open to the public for tours.