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Smith Court

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1799–1851. 3 Smith Ct.
  • Smith Court (Keith Morgan)

In the opening decades of the nineteenth century, the African American community of Boston began to concentrate in this area of Beacon Hill. Here white housewrights built wooden residences that became the earliest black-owned houses in Boston. On Smith Court, the demolition of a ropewalk in 1799 allowed for new buildings rented or sold to shoemakers, clothing dealers, chimney sweeps, and bootblacks. In 1839, James Scott, an active opponent of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, purchased 3 Smith Court (NHL), a three-story clapboard house built in 1800. In 1851 he rented part of the structure to William C. Nell, an integration activist and the country's first published black historian. At the end of the street, eight-foot-wide Holmes Alley provided neighborhood residents a back passage to nearby jobs. Not surprisingly, Smith Court became the center of the community and the site of its two most important structures, the African Meeting House (BH34) and Abiel Smith School (BH35).

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan



  • 1799


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Smith Court", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 114-115.

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