Joseph Coolidge House

Bowdoin Square, Boston, Massachusetts

Built in 1792, for Joseph Coolidge II (1747-1820) and his second wife, Katherine Boyer (1755-1829). The mansion overlooked Bowdoin Square, standing between Temple and Bowdoin Streets. It was designed by the distinguished brother of Joseph's daughter-in-law, Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), "America's first native-born architect" and this was his first of several privately commissioned mansions. It was also the first Neo-classically designed house in Boston and the facade was inspired by the home of the Royal Society of Arts in London which Bulfinch had greatly admired....

This house is best associated with...

Joseph Coolidge

Joseph Coolidge II, Merchant-Importer, of Boston, Massachusetts


Katharine Boyer

Mrs Katharine (Boyer) Coolidge


Bulfinch was also influenced by the superior Bingham Mansion in Philadelphia that he considered, "would be esteemed splendid even in the most luxurious parts of Europe". Nonetheless, the Coolidge house was far from modest and Bulfinch went out of his way to design an elaborate home until then unforeseen in Boston. The facade was described with, "Ionic pilasters supporting a cornice mounted by an urn-embellished roof balustrade". 

Inside, Bulfinch built one of the first geometric staircases ever seen in the United States, "which gave the illusion that the flight of steps was unattached to the foundation". He abandoned the traditional colonial taste for square rooms of similar shapes and sizes and most notably building a large, oval salon that overlooking the street that opened up onto the Dining Room. Bulfinch had no doubt worked hard to impress his sister's father-in-law and when the house was demolished in 1843, he lamented it had been a, "noble mansion".   

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 01/03/2020 and last updated on 01/03/2020.
Image Courtesy of the Joseph Coolidge Mansion the New York Public Library; Bowdoin Square, The West End Museum; Boston's West End (Arcadia Publishing, 1998), by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco; The Architects: Charles Bulfinch, by Marshall B. Davidson


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