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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Monday, March 08, 2021

“The End of Tory Row” Online, 11 March

On the evening of Thursday, 11 March, I’ll offer an online presentation for the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site about “The End of Tory Row.”

For the past several years, I’ve spoken about that mansion’s Revolutionary history each March around Evacuation Day.

Usually those talks have focused on Gen. George Washington, who used the house as his headquarters from July 1775 to April 1776, and challenges he faced. Last year, for example, I shared information about Native American visitors to Cambridge during Washington’s time and his efforts at diplomacy on the continent.

That was the last public event I attended for many months. The audience was small and the chairs distanced, according to the protocols of the time. Soon most local institutions shut down completely for visitors. Historical talks moved online, which has brought both technical difficulties and benefits in wider access.

This year’s talk will look at how what’s now Brattle Street in Cambridge became a neighborhood of wealthy households, all related to John Vassall, the man who in 1759 commissioned and moved into that mansion. And how in September 1774 that enclave dissolved under political and militia pressure. I’ll also discuss how that neighborhood’s lifestyle depended both economically and in daily life on the exploitation of slavery.

I’ve discussed the Vassall family and the events of September 1774 before, but this year I’m trying to make more of the online format by incorporating more visuals and perhaps even moving footage. There will be a live question-and-answer session after the presentation.

This online event is free to all through support from the Friends of Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters, the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, and the National Park Service. To register in order to receive the viewing link, please start at this page. The event will start at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday.

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