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Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House

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1759; 1791. 105 Brattle St.
  • Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House

One of the finest mid-Georgian houses in Cambridge and later the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this house is a National Historic Landmark for several reasons. John Vassall built the house in 1759 as the centerpiece of a large property that extended to and across the Charles River. A double hipped roof with balustrade at the break covers a five-bay clap-boarded facade ennobled by monumental Ionic pilasters at the corners and framing a shallow central pedimented pavilion. On the interior, much of the handsome woodwork and unusual back-to-back staircases survive from the original building campaign. Tory John Vassall fled before the Revolution, and his house served the colonists' cause as hospital and then residence for General George Washington during the siege of Boston (1775–1776). In 1791, Andrew Craigie, a Cambridge land speculator, acquired the house, adding a rear wing and the distinctive piazzas along the sides of the house. His widow lived in the house, renting rooms to Harvard students, such as Longfellow. In 1843, Longfellow married Frances Appleton, a Boston heiress, whose father purchased the house for them. Longfellow's poems that sentimentalized the American colonial past were natural products of the life he lived here. After his death in 1882, the family retained the house until 1913, and then created a trust to insure its preservation. The National Park Service acquired the property in 1972.

Across Brattle Street from the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House extends the Longfellow Memorial Park (NRD/LHD), designed in 1887 by Charles Eliot for the Longfellow Memorial Association. The section closest to Brattle Street forms a narrow common flanked by later buildings. At the far end of this greensward, the land drops to a lower and more informal garden. At the juncture of these two sections stands a memorial (1914) to Longfellow, the work of sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon. In 1887, Longfellow's daughters built Colonial Revival houses for themselves on adjacent lots. Andrews and Jaques designed the Edith Longfellow Dana House (113 Brattle, NRD/LHD), a symmetrical shingled residence with suggestions of seventeenth-century forms, seen in the overhangs of the twin front gables. Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet's nephew, designed the Annie Longfellow Thorp House (115 Brattle, NRD/LHD), combining Georgian and Federal elements partly derived from the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Keith N. Morgan
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Citation

Keith N. Morgan, "Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/MA-01-BS7.

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, 349-350.

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