Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Vassall-Greene Mansion

The Gardiner Greene Mansion


   In my post on Dr Church's Boston home, I mentioned that the home of Samuel Sewall, the only judge who apologized for his role in the Salem witch trials was also located in the area. It turns out that the source upon which I based that statement was not totally accurate. On Sewall's death in 1729, his home and its estate was occupied by his daughter. Based upon some excavation conducted in 1733, it appears that the estate, located on Pemberton Hill, then one of the hills of Boston, was previously a burial ground as workmen dug up numerous bones, and denizens recalled that the hill had previously been referred to as Golgotha. About 1758, the Sewall heirs divided the property and sold it to William Vassall, another of the Vassall brothers who built the houses on "Tory Row" in Cambridge. William Vassall tore down the three dwellings that were on the land and built the house shown above. William Vassall, like all of the extended Vassall family in New England were loyalists, and, after he fled Boston,  the estate passed through several hands until in 1803 it came into the possession of Gardiner Greene. Greene occupied the mansion and  improved and expanded the gardens, making them into the finest in Boston. A contemporary wrote that "The house had no remarkable architectural pretensions of any kind, but the natural beauties of the site, improved by taste and art, made it altogether the most splendid private residence in the city." After Greene's death in 1832, the estate was sold to a speculator who tore down the dwellings and leveled the hill hauling away over 100,000 yards of gravel.

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