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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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Observing Presidents’ Day at Washington’s Headquarters

For nearly the whole time Gen. George Washington was in Massachusetts overseeing the siege of Boston, he lived and worked at the Cambridge mansion owned by John Vassall. A supporter of the royal government, Vassall had moved into Boston in September 1774 to be under the protection of the British army, and didn’t have any say in how the Massachusetts Provincial Congress chose to use his house.

That mansion is now a National Park Service site, named after its most famous nineteenth-century owner and inhabitant, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The federal budget doesn’t allow the site to open for drop-in tours until May, but next week there are special events:

  • On 18-21 February, Wednesday through Saturday, there will be guided house tours focusing on Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the family’s connections to other Presidents. Those tours will start at 11:30 A.M. and 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 P.M. There’s a fee of $3 per person over age sixteen, and each tour can accommodate about a dozen people.
  • On Saturday, 21 February, at 2:00 P.M., Robert Cameron Mitchell, emeritus professor from Clark University, will give a talk on “Faded Memory: Longfellow House as Washington’s Most Important Headquarters.” Come hear what makes the Vassall house more significant than Valley Forge, Morristown, or Newburgh. This talk is free and open to the public.
To reserve space at any of these events, call Longfellow National Historic Site at 617-876-4491.

There will also be tours of Longfellow House on Friday, 27 February, in honor of the poet’s birthday. At 10:00 A.M. on Saturday, 28 February, retiring Park Service ranger Paul Blandford will speak on “Longfellow—From the Heart” at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

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