Last month the Boston Globe ran a story on the restoration and opening of the Edmund Fowle House, funded by the Historical Society of Watertown. In 1775 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress used this building as the headquarters of the Council it had set up to serve as the executive wing of its government, Gov. Thomas Gage having lost the loyalty of the people and being otherwise engaged.
Why Watertown? It was far enough away from Boston to be safe, near enough to the lines for news to travel quickly, and about equidistant between the northern and southern ends of the siege lines. Henry Knox and the printer Peter Edes also set themselves up in Watertown after escaping from Boston.
Why the Fowle house? Apparently it had an unusually large room for a private dwelling. According to the Globe:
The second floor was still unfinished—mostly because Fowle’s wife had died in childbirth before it was completed—when the Provincial Congress took over the house in 1775; at the time, it sat barely 3 miles from the Continental Army’s encampment on Cambridge Common.The New England army actually occupied many camps ringing Boston, but Cambridge housed the headquarters of its commanding generals, Ward and Washington. The Fowle house was moved off Mount Auburn Street in 1871, but it’s still near the old center of Watertown.
The memory of the Fowle house’s use in 1775-76 didn’t last long.
“Within a decade after the Revolution,” said preservation architect Wendall C. Kalsow, “nobody would have known where the council’s meeting room was. By the 1780s, this was no longer a house of national historical significance.”Which helps to remind us that historic preservation is a relatively newfangled value. Our Revolutionary ancestors cared more about the usefulness of land and buildings than about what had happened in them many years before.
By then, he explained during an interview at the house, bedrooms had been constructed on the second floor, cutting up the space used for the meeting room.