Brattle Street

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The Vassall -Longfellow House

Famous as the home of the great poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and as General George Washington’s headquarters during the early days of the American Revolution, this historic mansion at # 105 Brattle Street was built in 1759 by Henry Vassall’s older brother John to serve as a summer residence. Among the most storied, and studied, of Brattle Street houses, this famous residenceexemplifies the grand architecture of the day. Here, again, is evidence of the twining of the lives of white families who intermarried and those of the people they enslaved, who also intermarried. Henry Vassall’s Jamaican slave Tony (shown here in the form of a doll sewn in his likeness) married Penne’s slave, Cuba, whom she brought north from Antigua. Tony worked at both #94 and #105 Brattle Street and tended to white families – and enslaved members of his own family -- at both residences.

Work spearheaded in recent years by such dedicated staff as Jim Shea at the Longfellow House (link to http://www.american-architecture.info/USA/USA-NewEngland/NE-020.htm) is doing much to recreate the “lost” parts of this famous estate’s history. The Longfellow House is open in the warmer months for tours and special events. Visitors who stroll down Memorial Street beside the Charles River can see the house from that distance. In some ways, this is the best view, since it gives a hint of the estate’s huge domain at the time of the American Revolution. The lawns of the Longfellow House and of the Henry Vassall House used to sweep down to the marshy banks of the Charles River.

 


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