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Friday, May 9, 2014

Brattle Street "Tory Row" Walking Tour

Last Saturday I attended a "Tory Row" walking tour along Brattle Street in Cambridge hosted by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and led by Boston historian Charles Bahne, author of The Complete Guide to Boston's Freedom Trail. The tour focused on mansion homes along Brattle Street that were owned by wealthy Cambridge Loyalists, also known as "Tories," citizens who were loyal to the British Crown at the outbreak of the American Revolution.

The tour began at the William Brattle House at 42 Brattle Street, which is now the main facility of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. General Major William Brattle Jr. was a decorated military hero of the French and Indian War. Although he appeared to sympathize with the patriots he was a Loyalist, siding with the British Crown in the tensions leading up to the American Revolution. In August of 1774 Brattle wrote a letter to Thomas Gage, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, informing him of the formation of local militias and the storing of gunpowder in local arsenals. Three days later Gage ordered three hundred soldiers to sail up the Mystic River to Charlestown to seize the gunpowder. The "Powder Alarm" enraged the citizens of Cambridge, who formed a rally of four thousand attendees on the Cambridge Common the next day to protest Gage's actions and to demand the resignation of three Loyalist members of the Mandamus Council appointed by the British Crown. One of the members, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Oliver, rode to Boston to prevent Governor Gage from sending soldiers in an attempt to suppress the crowd. Oliver returned to Cambridge, assuring the crowd that Gage would not employ military action in order to persuade the crowd to disperse peacefully. However, a hated tax collector, Benjamin Hallowell, rode past the crowd in his carriage, and a group of enraged citizens pursued his carriage. After these episodes William Brattle, as well other Cambridge Loyalists, left their Cambridge homes for safer lodgings in Boston. The Loyalists remained in Boston during the Siege of Boston in 1775-1776 and departed from Boston with the British soldiers on Evacuation Day, March 17, 1776.1

The Henry Vassall House at 94 Brattle Street is named for its original owner, Henry Vassall, a wealthy Loyalist landowner and heir to his father's Jamaican plantation and trading interests. Henry Vassall died in 1769. His wife Penelope Royall Vassall vacated the home in 1775 with other Cambridge Loyalists. This home served as the medical headquarters of the Continental Army. Dr. Benjamin Church, a renowned Boston physician, was named by the Continental Congress as the Surgeon General of the Continental Army. Church was later revealed as a traitor to the Revolutionary cause and was held prisoner in this house until his exile from the American Colonies in 1778. 2

The Longfellow House-Washington Headquarters National Historical Site at 105 Brattle Street was built by John Vassall Jr., a Loyalist nephew of Henry Vassall. John Vassall Jr. married Elizabeth Oliver, the sister of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Oliver. The Vassall Family fled the house in 1774 after the "Powder Alarm" rally on Cambridge Common and the ensuing harsh treatment of Governor Oliver. General George Washington established his headquarters here during the Siege of Boston. Fireside poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived in this house from 1843 until his death in 1862. At Longfellow's 1843 marriage to Fanny Appleton her father, Nathan Appleton, gave the newly-married couple this house as a wedding gift. Longfellow's descendants lived in this home until 1950.3:

The Lechmere-Sewall-Riedesel House at 149 Brattle Street was originally the home of Richard Lechmere, proprietor of Lechmere Point in East Cambridge. The home was later owned by Jonathan Sewell, a Loyalist and the last Attorney General under British rule in Massachusetts. The Sewall family left Cambridge with other Loyalists after the "Powder Alarm" rally on Cambridge Common in September 1774. After the capture of British General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga Baron Von Riedesel, the leader of the German mercenaries, known as Hessians, lived in this house with his wife as prisoners of war. 4

The Hooper-Lee-Nichols house at 159 Brattle Street was built by Dr. Richard Hooper in 1685 and is the second oldest home in Cambridge. The home was later owned by Joseph Lee, a Loyalist Mandamus councillor and a founder of Christ Church. Lee resigned from the Mandamus Council and fled his home in September 1774 after the "Powder Alarm" rally on Cambridge Common. Subsequently the home of George Nichols the house became the headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society in 1957.5

The Ruggles-Fayerweather house at 175 Brattle Street was owned by George Ruggles, a Loyalist who fled Cambridge in the 1770s and sold the house to Thomas Fayerweather. During the Siege of Boston the house was confiscated by the Continental Army and utilized as a hospital. The Fayerweathers moved to another home during the Siege of Boston and reclaimed their home after the British evacuation.6

The Thomas Oliver house at 33 Elmwood Avenue was built by Loyalist Thomas Oliver, the last lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a brother-in-law to John Vassall Jr. Oliver quieted the crowd during the "Powder Alarm" rally on Cambridge Common in September of 1774, but later that day his home was surrounded by patriots, demanding his resignation. The house was subsequently the home of Vice President Elbridge Gerry and was later owned by Fireside poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), a lifelong resident of the home. The house's location on 33 Elmwood Avenue was once a portion of Brattle Street.7

We also visited other historic homes along and near Brattle Street that were built after the American Revolution.

The Oliver Hastings House at 101 Brattle Street, adjacent to Longfellow-Washington Headquarters, was the home of local builder Oliver Hastings.

The Joseph Worcester House at 121 Brattle Street was the home of lexicographer Joseph Worcester, author of Worcester's Unabridged English Dictionary.

The "Wash Tub" Square homes of art scholar Denman Waldo Ross at 25 Craigie Street and the Eben Horsford House at 27 Craigie Street are magnificent examples of Victorian architecture.

The William Brewster House at 145 Brattle Street was the home of ornithologist William Brewster and was the original site of the Lechmere-Sewall-Riedesel House.

The Gardiner Hubbard House at 146 Brattle Street was owned by philanthropist Gardiner Greene Hubbard. Gardiner's daughter Mabel married famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

The Thomas Lee House at 153 Brattle Street was built in 1799 and is a fine example of Colonial architecture.

Charles Bahne also led the "Cambridge in 1775" walking tour in April. For information about this tour please visit my blog post Cambridge in 1775 Walking Tour. For additional information about classes and walks at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education please visit their website at https://www.ccae.org.

1Cambridge Historical Society, "Cambridge and the American Revolution: William Brattle House,", Brattle House (http://cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Brattle%20House.html: 09 May 2014). Cambridge Historical Society, "Cambridge and the American Revolution: Powder Alarm,", French and Indian War (http://cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Powder%20Alarm.html: 09 May 2014).
2Cambridge Historical Society, "Henry Vassall House,", Vassall House (http://cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Vassall%20House.html: 09 May 2014).
3Cambridge Historical Society, "Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House,", Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House (http://www.cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Longfellow%20House.html: 09 May 2014). "Henry Wadsworth Longfeollow - His Homes,", The Homes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(http://www.hwlongfellow.org/house_overview.shtml: 09 May 2014).
4Cambridge Historical Society, "Lechmere-Sewall-Riedesel House,", Lechmere-Sewell-Riedesel House (http://cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Riedesell%20House.html: 09 May 2014).
5Cambridge Historical Society, "Hooper-Lee-Nichols House,", Hooper-Lee-Nichols House (http://www.cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Hooper%20Lee%20Nichols%20House.html: 09 May 2014).
6Cambridge Historical Society, "Ruggles-Fayerweather House,", Ruggles-Fayerweather House (http://www.cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Ruggles-Fayerweather%20House.html: 09 May 2014).
7Cambridge Historical Society, "Elmwood,", Elmwood (http://www.cambridgehistory.org/discover/Cambridge-Revolution/Elmwood.html: 09 May 2014).

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