The Lewis Hayden House served as a central focus of the abolitionist movement in Boston and the nation. Born in slavery in 1811, Lewis Hayden and his second wife, Ellen, escaped to the north and came to Boston in 1848. He maintained a used-clothing store on nearby Cambridge Street that was one of the city's most successful black-owned businesses. She ran a boardinghouse here that also welcomed runaway slaves and key abolitionist advocates, such as John Brown. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Lewis Hayden worked with white and black abolitionists to organize the Boston Vigilance Committee, to hide fugitive slaves through the Underground Railroad, and to resist federal marshals and slave catchers working in Boston. He helped recruit soldiers for the black Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment, including his son William, who was killed at the battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. Following the Civil War, Hayden continued to fight for black rights in Boston until his death in 1889.
Unlike its later neighbors, multicolored brick tenements of the turn of the twentieth century, the Lewis Hayden House maintains an earlier image of Beacon Hill in its red brick three-bay facade. En route to the next entry, notice the facade-wide pressed-metal oriels of tenements on Grove Street, above and below Phillips Street.