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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Friday, February 15, 2008

Touring Washington’s Headquarters on Washington’s Birthday

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:

Longfellow descendants gave the property to the National Park Service, and it’s now a National Historic Site.

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.


Anonymous said...

My compliments on an excellent site. Now I've found something else to do instead of work.

J. L. Bell said...

That’s what it’s here for!

RCM said...

I might point out that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his descendants were very aware of the fact that they lived in what had once been "Washington's Headquarters" and revered and commemorated this association as any visitor to the house will attest. Moreover, when they gave the house to the nation, filled as it was with Longfellow possessions and memories, they nevertheless included as one of the three reasons for its preservation (in addition to its Georgian architecture and Longfellow ownership) that it "served as George Washington's headquarters during the siege of Boston in 1775-1776". Today this is something of a lost memory; in the nineteenth century this was common knowledge.