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, March 20, 2009

Tory Row When the Houses Still Belonged to Tories

My talk last night at Gen. Washington’s 1775-76 headquarters kept coming back to this map of that part of Cambridge in 1776. Some folks wanted yet another look, so here it is.

This is a detail of the wonderful map that Henry Pelham engraved in England after leaving Boston with the British military in 1776. You can explore the whole thing through the Library of Congress’s website of maps from the American Revolution and Its Era. North on this map is at about two o’clock, in case you’re having trouble orienting it with today’s streets and Charles River.

All five mansions that Pelham labeled in the top half of this detail are still standing:

  • The house of “Lt. Govr. Oliver” is Elmwood, official residence of Harvard’s president.
  • The homes of “Mr. Fairweather” and “Judge Sewall” are in private hands, the latter with a redesigned exterior.
  • The house of “Judge Lee” is headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society.
  • The house of “Col. Vassel” is Longfellow National Historic Site, where I was speaking.
And I bet folks can spot a few other buildings in this part of Cambridge in 1776 that are still standing today. How accurately Pelham was able to depict their footprints while he was stuck behind the British lines is another question.

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