Longfellow House

105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Built in 1759, for John Vassall (1738-1797) and his wife, Elizabeth Oliver (1744-1807). Mrs Vassall was the sister of Thomas Oliver, the last Royal Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, and being Loyalists, on the outbreak of Revolution they left Cambridge and their property (this house and its accompanying 150-acres) was confiscated. In July, 1775, George Washington requisitioned the house as his headquarters and lived here throughout the Siege of Boston until April, 1776. In 1791, it was purchased by the former Apothecary-General to the Continental Army, Andrew Craigie, and soon became known as "Craigie Mansion". He and his wife gained a reputation as people who, "entertained without regard to expense... kept dozens of servants and well stocked stables and wine cellars". Among the many notable guests who dined and danced here was Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent & Strathearn. After Craigie died, their extravagant lifestyle caught up with his increasingly eccentric widow, Betsy, who after selling much of their art and furniture to cover debts ended her days here taking in boarders....

This house is best associated with...

John Vassall

John Vassall Jr., of Cambridge, Massachusetts

1738-1797

Elizabeth (Oliver) Vassall

Mrs Elizabeth (Oliver) Vassall

1741-1807

George Washington

Commander-in-Chief & 1st President of the United States (1789-1797)

1732-1799

Andrew Craigie

Andrew Craigie, of Cambridge; Apothecary-General to the Continental Army

1754-1819

Elizabeth (Shaw) Craigie

Mrs "Betsy" (Shaw) Craigie

1772-1841

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poet & Professor at Bowdoin College and Harvard University

1807-1882

Frances Elizabeth Appleton

Mrs "Fanny" (Appleton) Longfellow

1817-1861

Alice Mary Longfellow

Alice Longfellow

1850-1928

In 1837, one of the boarders taken in by Betsy was Harvard's newly appointed Professor of Modern Languages, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She died in 1841 and two years later Nathaniel Appleton bought the house for $10,000 as a wedding present for his daughter, Fanny, who that same year was married to the very same Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Fanny died in 1861 and Longfellow remained here until his death too, in 1882. Their philanthropic daughter, Alice, was born here and after her father's death she lived here until her own in 1928. In 1913, she and her siblings created the Longfellow House Trust which maintained the home and allowed future Longfellows to live here if they so wished. In 1972, the trustees transferred ownership to the National Park Service allowing it to become a National Historic Site. The house is almost entirely unchanged from the time when it was home to the great poet and since 1972 it has been open to the public. 

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 20/11/2018 and last updated on 17/12/2020.
Image Courtesy of Tom Stohlman, CC, Flickr

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