J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Von Hoffman on Colonial Country Homes, 20 Mar.

On Wednesday, 20 March, the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford plays host to a lecture on “The Social Significance of Boston’s Colonial Country Houses” by Alexander von Hoffman, lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

The event description says:
Dr. von Hoffman will explore how the members of Boston’s eighteenth-century elite expanded their social lives into the town’s suburban and rural environs. Fashionably designed country houses are among the most notable and long-lasting artifacts left by these leading Bostonians.

The stately homes that still ring Boston include not only the Isaac Royall House in Medford but also the Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House in Cambridge, the Loring-Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, and the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury.

The presentation will feature a close look at the architecture of these buildings and the social context in which they were built, offering lively and accessible insights into this important, but often overlooked, aspect of Boston's history.
One interesting analysis of the Revolutionary political turmoil points out that many of the leading Whigs—James Otis, William Molineux, Dr. Thomas Young, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church, John Adams, Joseph Greenleaf—had moved into the town after growing up elsewhere. In contrast, some leading supporters of the royal government—Thomas Hutchinson, Andrew and Peter Oliver—were emulating landed gentlemen in Britain by leaving the urban environment to build country estates.

That analysis leaves out Boston natives who remained in town, such as Samuel Adams, James Bowdoin, and Samuel and William Cooper, and Loyalists who didn’t grow up there or never left. But it does connect to what those monumental mansions signified.

Alexander von Hoffman is a Senior Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and author of House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods.

Dr. Von Hoffman’s talk begins at 7:30 P.M., with the door opening an hour earlier. This event is free to Royall House Association members, $5 for others. On-street parking is available, and there might be punch and cookies afterward.


EJWitek said...

Dr Benjamin Church Jr. actually grew up in Boston. His father, Deacon Church, moved his family into Boston from Newport sometime in 1739 when Benjamin Church, Jr was about five years old. Except for a couple of years when the Deacon and his family lived in the Azores shortly thereafter, Benjamin Jr was resident in Boston and, in fact, graduated from Boston Latin before enrolling in Harvard.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for that correction.