“Listen, my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere” -Paul Revere’s Ride, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There is no shortage of history in New England. This much has become evident to me during the five months since I moved to Massachusetts. Today I took a tour of a home that was built in 1759, that quartered General George Washington as he began to organize what would become the Colonial Army, and that was also the house of one of America’s preeminent poets. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon I was able to explore yet another piece of this nation’s past, the benefit of living in a place where nearly four hundred years of history wait to be discovered by anyone with time and curiosity.
This weekend, with two dear friends visiting from Philadelphia, I was able to play tour guide around Boston (one of my favorite things to do for family and friends!). My friends had specifically asked for a tour of Harvard University, and anything else interesting in the area. After a trip back to New Jersey last weekend for a family event, my original plan was to take it easy today. Beyond showing my friends around Cambridge and Boston, I had very little planned for this weekend and no intention of writing a post. Out of habit, however, I threw my camera gear in my trunk, reasoning that you never known when a good photographic opportunity will present itself. Then, while driving to Harvard to meet my friends, I saw the perfect place to take them as part of their tour: the Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
Built in 1759 by John Vassal, a Loyalist who did not support independence from Britain, the house was vacated by the Vassal family shortly before the American Revolution. The empty house was occupied by General George Washington from 1775-1776 as his headquarters in Boston. After the war, the again-vacant house was purchased by Andrew Craigie, the first Apothecary general of the US Army (he was the first person to be responsible for producing, storing, and distributing medicine for the American military- think of him as our first national pharmacist). The Craigie family would take in boarders to help supplement their income, and one renter was a young Harvard professor named Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. After the Craigie family sold the home to wealthy Boston businessman Nathan Appleton, the house would again enter Professor Longfellow’s life. It was given to him as a wedding gift from Mr. Appleton when the professor married Nathan Appleton’s daughter Frances. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of the preeminent poets in American literature. He wrote numerous novels and poems (and the title of this post is named after one of my favorite Longfellow poems). Almost all of us are familiar from childhood with Paul Revere’s Ride, Longfellow’s 1860 poem which recounts the story of Revere’s nighttime journey to warn the towns of Lexington and Concord of the impending British attack in 1775. The Longfellow family resided in the house until 1913. In 1962 it became part of the National Park Service and was opened as a public museum (via Wikipedia).
I had a wonderful time with my friends on a gorgeous summer day. The Longfellow House – Washington Headquarters is open every year from late May through the end of October. During those months, you can visit from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. Tours of the house run every hour on the hour. In addition, the park rangers offer 20-minute Express tours of the first floor of the home if you are pressed for time. If you are looking for a longer visit, the rangers will not only take you on a tour of the house, but important historical sites in Cambridge as well. Best of all, the Longfellow House is totally free! Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!