Next Friday, 22 February, will be George Washington’s actual birthday. The Longfellow National Historic Site is observing the occasion by offering free tours of the general’s 1775-76 headquarters to the public all day.
Longfellow House in Cambridge was built in 1759 by John Vassall, a wealthy young Loyalist. He and his family moved to Boston in September 1774 after it became clear that royal authority no longer extended beyond the border of the capital, and they later left the country. During the first few months of the war, the empty Vassall mansion was used as a barracks by Col. John Glover’s regiment from Marblehead.
Then in July 1775, the new commander-in-chief moved in. Over the next several months, the Vassall house was where Washington conferred with his generals, met with members of the Continental Congress (including Benjamin Franklin), sent subordinates such as Benedict Arnold and Henry Knox on their missions north and west, received a leader of his Oneida allies, reorganized the Continental Army, and made his final plans to drive the British army from the province. Over the course of the Revolutionary War, Washington had his headquarters at Longfellow House longer than any other location except Newburgh, New York, at the end of the conflict.
The Cambridge house was later owned by:
- Merchant Nathaniel Tracy, who entertained French officers in a memorable way.
- The Apothecary General of the Continental Army, Andrew Criagie, and his widow, who had to take in boarders, including Washington biographer Jared Sparks.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” and his family.
Longfellow House is at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, a short walk from Harvard Square. Tours will start at 10:30 and 11:30 A.M., and on the hour from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. All tours will be led by National Park Service rangers or trained volunteers, and for this day will focus on Washington’s tenure in the House. There is a limit of fifteen people per tour, so call 617-876-4491 to reserve slots.