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THE MOLINEAUX MANSION-HOUSE ESTATE
ON July 14, 1760, William Molineaux, a Boston merchant, bought of John Alford, of Charlestown, a piece of land having a frontage of one hundred feet on Beacon Street, and running back due north three hundred and sixty-seven feet. It was bounded on the west by a passageway leading to the Beacon, as shown on a plan recorded with the original deed; and on the northwest by the summit of the hill. The price paid was seven hundred and eleven pounds, two shillings, and three pence. This lot was a part of the large estate of Robert Turner, a shoemaker, and one of the early townsmen, who owned eight acres on Beacon Hill.1 On this commanding site the new owner built one of the most pretentious dwelling-houses in the town.
William Molineaux was a distinguished merchant of Boston. He was of French Huguenot ancestry; and during the years immediately before the Revolution he attained distinction as an ardent patriot. He was one of a group of prominent citizens, who were wont to gather in private houses, there to devise measures which proved to be the forerunners of a united opposition to the oppressive policy of the British Crown. He was therefore closely associated with Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, Joseph Warren, and other leading patriots. Mr. Molineaux was an influential member of the Sons of Liberty, an organization founded in 1776 or thereabout. He was also active in the work of the Committee of Correspondence from its origin in 1772; and was associated with Paul Revere and many others who formed the personnel of the Boston Tea Party. Notable among the enterprises which enlisted the aid of this public-spirited citizen was the establishment of Spinning Schools, which proved of value in developing this branch of industry in the community. The Town voted, April 4, 1769, that the sum of two hundred pounds “be given Mr. William Mullineux, to enable him to purchase Spinning Wheels, Cards, and to procure convenient places and Appartments for carrying on the Spinning Business, and a sufficient number of Spinning Mistresses, well skilled and experienced in the Art and Mistery of spinning Wool into good Yarn; he the said William Mullineux giving Bond to the Town for his finding a sufficient number of good Spinning Wheels and Cards . . . and of persons thoroughly skilled in the said business, to teach and instruct such as are, or shall be, desirous to learn it; & for supplying sufficient Quantities of Wool fit for the purpose aforesaid, while learning; all at the proper Cost and Charge of the said William Mullineux.”
The Molineaux homestead, which was situated on the western corner of Bowdoin and Beacon Streets, now a part of the State-House grounds, was acquired by Charles Ward Apthorp, of New York, who was administrator of the estate. The homestead was confiscated under an Act passed in 1781 by the General Court, “to provide for the payment of Debts due from Absentees.” On June 17, 1782, it was sold by the Commonwealth for eight hundred and fifty pounds sterling to Daniel Dennison Rogers, a merchant, of Boston, who there made his home for about forty years. By his will, dated August 1, 1823, the property was bequeathed to his wife, Elizabeth Rogers.
Mr. Molineaux’s store was described as being opposite to the east end of Faneuil Hall. He advertised in the “Boston Gazette,” October 31, 1757, that he then had on hand and for sale “a large assortment of Ironmongery, Sadlery, Braizery and Cutlery Wares. Also ten-penny nails at Seven Shillings per thousand; best London Pewter, at One Shilling and Five Pence per Pound; and other Goods in Proportion.” William Molineaux was Mr. Apthorp’s business agent, and in that capacity he rented the latter’s warehouses on Wheelwright’s, now Foster’s Wharf, to the British authorities, for their use as barracks.
Charles Ward Apthorp was the eldest son, and one of eighteen children of Charles Apthorp, Paymaster and Commissary of the British land and naval forces in North America. He was intimately connected with the administration of public affairs in the Province. The following Notice appeared in the “Boston Evening Post,” July 29, 1765: “All Persons having Accounts open in New England with Charles Ward Apthorp and Company, are desired, as soon as may be, to adjust and settle the same. And those that are indebted to the said Company are desired, as speedily as possible, to pay their respective Ballances.” The above-named Company “hope that none will lay them under a Necessity of taking any Method that may be disagreeable; which they must unavoidably do, if not soon satisfied.”
The Molineaux mansion was situated a little south of the former Beacon Hill Place, now included in the State-House grounds. It was a large double house, of a type then popular abroad. On either side were a stable and wood-house; and between them a long flight of stone steps led up to the main entrance. The estate was sold at auction in 1833, and the house soon after removed.2
On November 9, 1802, Daniel Dennison Rogers sold the northerly, portion of his land, “being about eighty feet of the depth of his garden,” to William Thurston, Esq., who built thereon, two years later, a large three-storied, swell-front house, which became a conspicuous landmark in 1811, or thereabout, when a large part of the hill had been removed, leaving the dwelling perched high in the air. A view of this house is shown in the “Memorial History of Boston,” IV, 64. It was taken down within a year or two thereafter.
Mr. Rogers was a native of Exeter, New Hampshire. Instead of attending college, he entered upon a business career at an early age. He came to Boston soon after the departure of the British troops in March, 1776. During many years he dispensed hospitality at his Beacon Street mansion in the lavish style of those days.
At or near the site of the Molineaux house, and nearly opposite to the Angell residence, there stood, at the time of the Civil War, and for thirty years thereafter, a one-storied building, occupied at one time by William H. Henderson, who there conducted a grocery business; and a sign over the door on the Bowdoin Street side served to remind the public of that fact. Mr. Henderson was succeeded by the firm of J. B. Clapp & Company. Later tenants were Messrs. Henry and Julius Koopman, dealers in antiques and bric-à-brac, who remained there until 1893. There is an excellent picture of the building, as it appeared in 1880, in the Collection of Views of Beacon Hill, at the Boston Athenaeum. A striking feature of the picture is a prominent sign, bearing the legend: “Clapp’s West End Shaker Bitters. The Liver Cleaner.”
The lot. whereon the building stood was taken by the Commonwealth, to form a part of the State-House grounds, under the provisions of an Act of the Legislature, June 29, 1894; and the old structure was soon after demolished.
1 N. I. Bowditch, Gleaner Articles, page 92.
2 Shurtleff’s History of Boston.