Here to return to
THE lots on the present Park Street, taken originally from the Common, and previously covered by public buildings, were sold under certain conditions, namely: that all buildings erected thereon should be uniform in style of construction; that the material employed should be brick or stone; and that the roofs should be of slate or tiles, or of such other components as might best resist fire. Accordingly, in March, 1801, the agents for the Town, previously mentioned, sold at public auction to Thomas Amory, Esq., merchant, of Boston, the corner lot, measuring one hundred and fifty feet on Beacon Street, and sixty-six feet on Park Street. On this lot, where the Almshouse had formerly stood, Mr. Amory built in 1804 the large brick mansion of the Georgian style, which is still standing (although much altered for business purposes) at the head of Park Street. According to the Boston Directory of the year last mentioned, he was at that time the only resident on that thoroughfare; and the new house was called “Amory’s Folly” on account of its unusual size and pretentiousness. Thomas Amory (1762-1823) was a partner in business with his brother John, and at one time had amassed a considerable fortune. Financial losses, however, obliged him to dispose of his new mansion, which was later enlarged, and divided into four dwellings, whereof two had entrances on Beacon Street. The other two fronted on Park Street.
The corner dwelling was occupied as early as 1806 by Mrs. Catherine Carter, who there maintained a fashionable boarding-house, which became a popular resort for visitors from abroad. We quote from a letter of this period: “Mrs. Carter rejects twenty or thirty strangers a day; yet still keeps the moderate number of sixty in her family. After the warmth of the day is over, we form animated groups. We had quite a romantic one last evening, sitting on the grass by moon-light, with the accompaniment of a guitar and singing.” Mrs. Carter afterward removed to Howard Street, where she kept a large, four-storied boarding-house, which was frequented by many people of quality.
At a Selectmen’s meeting, August 15, 1804, Mr. Thomas Amory was granted permission to build a range of wine and coal vaults, connected with his house, by forming brick arches under Beacon Street. These vaults, which are quite extensive, still exist. In January, 1807, Mr. Amory sold this dwelling, with the land, “and all the title to the wine and coal vaults,” to the Honorable Samuel Dexter (third of the name), an eminent jurist, statesman, and prominent Federalist, who served as Secretary of War and Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President John Adams. Before settling in Boston, Mr. Dexter owned and occupied a fine estate in Charlestown, where he maintained an attractive garden, with a greenhouse, fruit and ornamental trees. He was described by the Honorable Fisher Ames as “an Ajax at the Bar; and a gentleman of varied and liberal acquirements, and very distinguished as a lawyer.” In the practice of his profession before the Supreme Court at Washington, he always attracted an audience consisting of the “beauty, taste, and learning of the City.” Lucius Manlius Sargent, in his “Reminiscences of Samuel Dexter,” 1857, wrote that this Commonwealth had never produced a man of more extraordinary intellectual powers. And yet, even then, a generation was springing up, who, upon mention of his name, might be pardoned for enquiring, “Who was Samuel Dexter?” Such is fame. Judge Joseph Story, of the Supreme Court, in an address delivered May 15, 1816, spoke of Mr. Dexter as a steadfast friend of the Constitution of the United States, and a patriot in the purest sense of the term. Mr. Dexter’s wife was Katherine, daughter of William and Temperance (Grant) Gordon, of Charlestown.
In October, 1831, Mrs. Katherine Dexter, widow, sold the dwelling-house, which was her portion of the Amory estate, to Richard Cobb, Esq., who occupied it for several years.
Matthias Plant Sawyer, of Portland, Maine, became the owner of the Dexter house in August, 1836, paying Mr. Cobb thirty thousand dollars therefor. He lived there for about nine years, and meanwhile was engaged in business, acquiring a handsome fortune. Mr. Sawyer never married; but had an adopted daughter, Lydia N. Osgood, of Newburyport, who became the wife of Curtis B. Raymond. They were married in New York, March 29, 1849. By his will, dated April 5, 1853, he bequeathed to this adopted daughter the use or rent of his mansion-house on the corner of Beacon and Park Streets, during her natural life, with the right to dispose of the same at her discretion; together with all the silverware, books, pictures, musical instruments, wines, and furniture. The portion of the edifice fronting on Beacon Street is still known as the Raymond Building.
The foregoing items have been derived chiefly from the Probate Records. As Dr. Holmes wrote in the “Poet at the Breakfast-Table,” “the Registry of Deeds and the Probate Office show us the same old folios, where we can read our grandfather’s title to his estate (if we had a grandfather, and he happened to own anything) and see how many pots and kettles there were in his kitchen, by the inventory of his estate.”
Curtis Burritt Raymond (1816-92) was a native of Sherburne, Chenango County, New York. He was educated at the Polytechnic Institute at Chittenango, in Madison County, and at Columbia College. After a period of European travel, he became a resident of. Boston about the year 1844, and a member of the firm of Rice, Hall & Raymond, dry goods, at 54 Milk Street. In the Directory of 1839 his name appears as President of Brady’s Bend Iron Company, 30 City Exchange. Mr. Raymond was prominent in military circles, and attained the rank of Major. He was well versed in the science of tactics, and revised Spencer’s Manual for the First Corps of Cadets. This Manual, as revised by him, was afterward adopted for use in the Russian Army.
Major Raymond also drilled several regiments of volunteers at the camp in Lynnfield early in the Civil War. An intimate friend described him as having “a wonderful memory, a superior mind and talents of a high order.” He was also an enthusiastic explorer, and lover of the White Mountains. In 1863 he first blazed the way along the trail which leaves the carriage-road at the second mile-post, on the Glen side of Mount Washington, and leads upward to the so-called Snow Arch. This trail was improved by him in 1891, and is known as the Raymond Path.
In 1884 or thereabout Lydia N. Raymond leased her homestead to John G. Mitchell, and soon afterward the entire building was devoted to mercantile uses.
The dwelling adjacent to and below the Dexter house, fronting on Park Street, and forming a part of the original Amory mansion, was owned successively by Dr. John Jeffries, William Payne, the Honorable Christopher Gore, Andrew Ritchie, Harrison Gray Otis, and George Ticknor. Dr. Jeffries bought this house from Mr. Thomas Amory in April, 1806, for forty thousand dollars, and retained possession of it for one year only.
He was of a family which has been represented in Boston for some two hundred and fifty years; a Harvard graduate of 1763; M.D., Aberdeen University, 1769; and a prominent Loyalist practitioner in Boston. Dr. Jeffries assisted in caring for the British wounded after the Battle of Bunker Hill; and he it was who identified the body of General Joseph Warren. He accompanied the King’s troops to Halifax in March, 1776, and was made Surgeon-General of his Majesty’s forces in North America. During the later years of the Revolution he made his home in London, and in 1785 he acquired distinction by accompanying the French aeronaut, François Blanchard, in a balloon, on the pioneer aerial flight across the English Channel. In order to prevent a descent into the sea, they were obliged to throw overboard considerable ballast, including a large portion of their clothing and supplies. In 1790 he returned to Boston, where he acquired a large practice. We have the testimony of Dr. O. W. Holmes that among the old ladies of the town Dr. Jeffries was known as “Jeffers,” which was doubtless a term of endearment. It was said that during the fifty-six years of his professional career, he seldom enjoyed an uninterrupted meal in his own house. He was an inveterate foe to quackery in any form, and “never from any motive allowed to pass, without remonstrance, fulsome praise of the fashionable charlatan of the day.”
Dr. Jeffries was succeeded in the ownership of the estate by William Payne, Esq., merchant, of Boston. As a young man he was engaged in the insurance business, in partnership with his father, Edward Payne. Their office was on Long Wharf. Later he formed a partnership with Thomas C. Amory “in the commission line.” After this he wrote: “I bought and sold public securities, and like a simpleton gave up the insurance business, and bought large tracts of land in the State of Georgia.”
The Honorable Christopher Gore was the next proprietor of this portion of the Amory mansion, which he occupied while serving as Governor in 1808-09. He was one of a group of distinguished contemporary lawyers, which included Theophilus Parsons, Samuel Dexter, James Sullivan, Fisher Ames, and Harrison Gray Otis. His failure of reëlection, after one year’s service, was attributed to the political excitement and bitter party contentions of the day, and not to any lack of popular appreciation. “Few men,” it was said of him, “were more powerful in argument or more eloquent in debate.” Governor Gore was afterward a member of the United States Senate. His estate at Waltham was one of the most pretentious in New England, and its fine old mansion is still to be seen there. He was accustomed to drive about in an orange-colored coach, with liveried coachman, footman, and outriders; a spectacle which must have been sensational in its effect upon the minds of the plain country people thereabout.
While serving in the National Congress, he formed a close and enduring friendship with the Honorable Jeremiah Mason, one of the most prominent statesmen and lawyers in the country. Mr. Mason once referred to Mr. Gore as having few superiors in Washington or anywhere else.
Andrew Ritchie (Harvard, 1802), who bought the Jeffries house in 1816, was a practising lawyer, of Boston, and a well-known authority on fine editions of the classics. He delivered the oration at the municipal exercises on Independence Day, 1808. The Honorable Harrison Gray Otis (1782-1862) was the next owner. “All three of his names,” wrote his biographer, “stood for respectability and long-established position in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.... He came of pure English stock, strengthened by five generations in America, and refined by three generations of public service.” Mr. Otis was one of the leaders of the Federalist Party, and a distinguished public speaker. He served in both Houses of Congress, and as Mayor of Boston for two years. “Old Faneuil Hall,” said one of his admirers, “will ever be memorable as the forum, whence with a voice of silvery sweetness, the flashes of wit and stirring eloquence of the Boston Cicero captivated the people.”
The mother of Mr. Otis was the only daughter of Harrison Gray, Loyalist, and Treasurer of the Province. The large dwelling at number 45 Beacon Street, which Mr. Otis first occupied in 1807, was afterward bought by Edward Austin, Esq., who resided there for fifty years.
In July, 1830, the easterly portion of the Amory house came into the possession of George Ticknor (1791-1871), the well-known author of the “History of Spanish Literature,” who made his home there for forty-one years. “The situation, the proportions and the taste of this residence,” in the words of his biographer, “sufficed for all the needs of domestic and social hours. His new house stood at the most attractive point of the margin of the Common, at the top of the slope, looking down the avenue of elms of the finest of its malls.”1
His valuable books were kept in a large, attractive room, with three balconied windows, on the second floor.
Mr. Ticknor was a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1807, and was admitted to the Bar in 1813. He served as Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Harvard for sixteen years, and was one of the founders of the Boston Public Library. He was also Chairman of its Board of Trustees in 1864-66.
By his will Mr. Ticknor bequeathed to his wife the Park Street estate, together with “all the furniture, stores, plate, housekeeping articles, pictures, engravings, marbles, busts and works of art and taste.”
Mrs. Ticknor continued to occupy the house, where she is said to have “ruled as a social queen,” until the year 1884. Over the mantel in the library hung a portrait of Sir Walter Scott. When the Ticknors were returning to Boston from Scotland in 1824, Sir Walter offered to give Mr. Ticknor some remembrance of his visit; and the latter suggested a portrait of his host. In deference to Mr. Ticknor’s nationality, an American artist, C. R. Leslie, was selected to paint the portrait, which was considered an excellent likeness. Sir Walter desired that the artist should include one of his dogs in the picture; but after one or two experiments Mr. Leslie decided against it.
In the Park Street mansion for half a century many eminent citizens were hospitably welcomed. Prescott, the historian, was often there; and among other frequent visitors were Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, and Rufus Choate.
“It was in the Spring of 1832,” wrote Mr. Hillard in his “Memoir” of the Honorable Jeremiah Mason. “We met at the house of our common friend, Mr. Ticknor; a house for so many years known in Boston for its elegant hospitality, and the cultivated and agreeable society which gathered there. Every member of the Bar, and every law student in New England, knew at least two things about Mr. Mason; that he was a very tall man, and a very great lawyer. Had I seen him without knowing who he was, I should have taken him for a prosperous farmer. As I glanced from his face to that of Sir Walter Scott, in a fine portrait by Leslie, which hung over the fire-place, I thought I saw some resemblance between the two.”
An esteemed correspondent, writing from New Bedford, enclosed a copy of an extract from a Boston newspaper of the year 1876, as follows: “George Ticknor was not remarkable for originality. He never said brilliant things, nor surprised anybody by the boldness of his criticism. He made no happy strokes, and dropped no memorable bons mots, to circulate in the speech of his friends. But his large reading, his exact and cheerful scholarship, his finely cultivated taste, elegant manners, and pronounced conservatism made him conspicuous and respected. He was a good listener and a shrewd observer; and if his own flint emitted no sparks under the steel, his tinder caught and’ kept those struck from more gifted minds.”
The Society to Encourage Studies at Home was founded by Miss Anna Eliot Ticknor, daughter of George Ticknor, in the year 1873, and continued to exist until 1897. Meetings of the Society were held in the attractive library of the mansion. From there Miss Ticknor “laid out and directed courses of study over the country. By a well organized system of distribution, she sent books, engravings, photographs, maps and all that makes the outfit of thorough instruction, to the doors of families living far from libraries, museums or colleges. She opened new sources of progress and pleasure to mothers and their children within their own homes; and without hindering in any way domestic duties or claims.” The Department of History of the Society was organized by Miss Katharine P. Loring. The object of the teachers was to assist the students in finding the meaning of history, “and to understand a people by taking dates, events and even the lives and doings of important men as indications, and not as final knowledge.” The title was suggested by that of an English Society of similar name.
Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807), the noted painter of miniatures, began his work in Boston in 1796, when but nineteen years of age. He visited Europe in 1801 with Washington Allston, but soon returned, and made his home in the Amory mansion, not long after it was built. He probably boarded with Mrs. Catherine Carter, who entertained many well-known people at her hostelry in the same mansion. As a portrait-painter Malbone was said to have ranked with the foremost artists of any age. His masterpiece was called “The Hours,” wherein the present, past, and future were represented by female heads.
The Honorable Fisher Ames was one of the early occupants of the Amory house, which was also the birthplace of Thomas Coffin Amory, Junior (1812-89). Mr. Ames was a graduate of Harvard College, Class of 1774. He practised law for a time in his native town of Dedham, and then entered upon a political career. Throughout the eight years of President Washington’s administration he was an influential Federalist member of the National Congress. In 1804 he was elected President of Harvard, but ill health obliged him to decline the honor.
The Amory house was the home of General Lafayette during his visit to Boston in August, 1824. At that time the portion of the building facing Beacon Street was occupied by a Club, which was an organization of Boston merchants. Replying to an address of welcome by Mayor Quincy, Lafayette said: “What must be my feelings, Sir, at the blessed moment when, after so long an absence, I find myself surrounded by the good citizens of Boston; when I can witness the prosperity, the immense improvements, that have been the just reward of a noble struggle, virtuous morals and truly Republican Institutions! I beg you all, beloved citizens of Boston, to accept the respectful and warm thanks of a heart which has, for nearly half a century, been devoted to your illustrious City.” Lafayette also declared that the crowd which thronged the streets appeared to him “like a picked population out of the whole human race.”2
While Marshal Joffre was driving past this house, with his military escort, in May, 1917, he was observed to raise his hat; a graceful act, it was believed, in memory of his illustrious compatriot.
On the day of his arrival in Boston, Lafayette, attended by the members of his suite and the civil authorities, passed along the Tremont Street Mall to the foot of Park Street. He was greeted en route by some twenty-five hundred school children, who were gayly attired in honor of the occasion. A battalion of light infantry formed in line on Park Street, and was reviewed by the General. The children sang the “Marseillaise.” Among them was Wendell Phillips, the famous orator, reformer, and abolitionist, who was then eleven years old, and a pupil at the Public Latin School. Mr. Phillips related how he stood in line with his schoolmates on that occasion. They had ribbons, bearing portraits of Lafayette, pinned on their jackets. And “when that enthusiast for Liberty, then a grand old man, revisited the land, to which in the hot blood of youth, he had given his sword, he little dreamed that his journey was to be a triumphal procession, such as the world had never seen.” Even the horses were exhorted to do their best on this historic occasion. “Behave pretty now, Charley,” said the driver of the General’s coach to one of his pair; “behave pretty; you are going to carry the greatest man in the world.”3
Soon after his arrival General Lafayette appeared upon the balcony above the entrance of the Amory mansion, to receive the greetings of the populace. He was escorted on either side by Governor William Eustis and by the former Governor John Brooks, each wearing Continental uniforms. The first-named had served as a surgeon in the American army during the Revolution, and attended the wounded after the Battle of Bunker Hill, wherein Mr. Brooks was a participant. These two veteran officers had become reconciled after an estrangement, in order that they might share together the honor of welcoming the distinguished visitor. On the evening of August 30, 1824, Lafayette held a reception in his apartments at the Amory house; and this function was attended by many prominent ladies of Boston.
In some “Reminiscences of Lafayette’s Visit to Boston,” in 1824, General William H. Sumner narrates that a portion of the Amory mansion was fitted up for the occasion, and that an iron door was opened in the wall of the partition between Mrs. Carter’s lodgings and the apartments of Mrs. John Jeffries, thus connecting the splendid drawing-rooms of the two houses. “When Lafayette entered the house, which was thrown open for the free reception of citizens, the latter rushed in to take him by the hand. But the multitude who thronged to see him were surprised at not being able to do so; because the moment he entered the house, he enquired for the bath-room, where he refreshed himself for so long a time, that many retired without accomplishing their wishes.”
On the 2d of September, when the General returned from New Hampshire, a banquet was given by the City Council in his honor at the Amory-Ticknor house. Lafayette, we are told, enjoyed his visit to Boston highly. He was cheered to the echo whenever he went abroad; and the corner of Park Street was seldom deserted.4
On the occasion of the laying of the corner-stone of Bunker Hill Monument, June 17, 1825, a procession was formed at the head of Park Street under the direction of Major-General Theodore Lyman, Junior. The military escort consisted of sixteen companies of infantry and a cavalry squadron. Then came about forty veterans, survivors of the Battle. They were followed by some two hundred Revolutionary officers and soldiers. Next in the line were a large body of Freemasons, adorned with their regalia and jewels. These preceded General Lafayette, who rode in a “coach and four.” In that order the procession moved down Park Street, and along Tremont Street to Charlestown.5
Lafayette’s appearance at that time was thus described: “A tall man, of a ruddy, or rather sunburnt complexion; with strong features and a very gracious smile. His eyes were bright and expressive. He wore a wig, and was dressed very plainly in a brown frock coat and nankeen pantaloons. He walked lame from an old wound in one of his legs; and bowed with that graceful and benevolent air, which ever distinguishes a gentleman.”6 In a contemporary account of the anniversary celebration, mention is made of a veteran soldier, who occupied a front seat of one of the carriages in the procession. Wearing his old battle-stained uniform, in which bullet-holes were plainly visible, he held in his extended right hand a Continental bullet-pouch, which he waved gently, to attract the attention of the spectators, by whom he was greeted with wild enthusiasm.
1 George S. Hillard, Life, Letters and Journals of George Ticknor.
2 The Life
of Josiah Quincy.
Caroline Crawford, Old New England Inns. 4 Samuel
A. Drake, Historic Landmarks of Boston. 5 Caleb H.
Snow, A History of Boston. 6 George
H. Moore, LL.D.
3 Mary Caroline Crawford, Old New England Inns.
4 Samuel A. Drake, Historic Landmarks of Boston.
5 Caleb H. Snow, A History of Boston.
6 George H. Moore, LL.D.