Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Vassall-Cragie-Longfellow House


 In 1759, Major John Vassall, brother of Henry Vassall, inherited land and monies from his father and built a home on the north side of Brattle Street in Cambridge. It was one of the seven houses, built by Loyalist families in Cambridge, that became known as "Tory Row." All were as fine a home as to be found in New England and served as summer homes for Loyalist families. John Vassall abandoned the house in 1774 when he, his wife, and their children had to flee to Boston because of their Loyalist sympathies. Colonel John Glover and his Marblehead Regiment (one of the most famous of Continental Army regiments who helped save Washington's Army after the battle of Long Island and who were responsible for getting Washington across the Delaware for his famous Christmas attack on Trenton) occupied the building as temporary barracks in June 1775 and General Washington made it his headquarters during the siege of Boston until the evacuation of Boston in April 1776. The house went through a couple of owners until it was purchased by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's father-in-law as a wedding present for him and his wife. Longfellow turned the house into a shrine to Washington. It is now a national historic site under the care of the National Park Service.

 Below are links to the NPS Longfellow web site and  a Bob Vila video that has a tour of the house with him and a National Park Ranger.

House as it appeared in 1775

House in 1879



Monday, September 20, 2010

Update 2

 I received another email from Anita responding to a couple of questions I had for her:

     Our former ranger does not recall now, but tends to think it was just initials, followed by "Jr." He does not have a photo, especially since he was dressed in 18th century garb at the time he saw the house. The person who showed him the room was quite elderly at the time, several years ago,and may no longer be alive.

Follow-up - Benjamin Church Jr and the Vassall House

   Recently I had a phone conversation with Anita Israel, who is an archivist specialist at the Longfellow National Historic Site, originally built by Henry Vassall's brother and located across the street from the Henry Vassall House. She mentioned to me that a retired Park Ranger, who had worked at the Longfellow House, had approached the owners of the Vassal House and had been allowed inside to check out Benjamin Church's initals for himself. She agreed to contact the Ranger and I just received an email from Anita in which she states that the Ranger advised her as follows:

    It is not scratched into a window. It is scratched into an inside door on the 2nd floor and it has a piece of glass or plastic covering it. I saw it several years ago.
  So, the Ladies of old Cambridge are right!

  Thanks Anita!!!!!

   I will follow up on the intials and will have a follow-up post on the Longfellow Historic Site.