Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Vassall Home

Faneuil-Phillips House

   This home was located on the east side of Pemberton Hill, the same hill on which the Vassall-Greene Home was located. It was built in 1709 by Andrew Faneuil, a rich Boston merchant, who, like Paul Revere's father was a French Huguenot by birth. At his death, this seven acre estate passed to his nephew, Peter Faneuil, who, in 1742, gave Faneuil Hall to the town of Boston, After his death in 1743, the house had several owners. At the time of the Revolution, it was owned by one of the Vassall family. After the Vassall family fled, the house was confiscated and sold. It was torn down at the same time the Vassall-Greene mansion was torn down and Pemberton Hill leveled by a real estate speculator.

   One can discern by the opulence of their homes, just how wealthy and prominent the Vassall family were in New England. As a matter of interest, John Vassall, the man from whom the New England Vassall line is descended, was also a French Hugenot who moved to England in the mid-sixteenth century at the time of the religious wars in France. The family was friendly with the Puritans and one of the Vassalls came to New England on the Arabella. The family's fortune was founded on massive slave plantations in Jamaica and the West Indies, as well as extensive involvement in the slave trade.

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.