Friday, May 30, 2008

Longfellow House - Cambridge, Mass.

Longfellow House
105 Brattle St.
Cambridge, Mass. 02138

The Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House was built in 1759 by John Vassall, a wealthy planter and a Loyalist. Like many of his neighbors on Brattle St. he left Cambridge for Boston in 1774 as the politics of the day forced him to choose sides. His home was then confiscated by Provincial/Revolutionary authorities.

General George Washington began using the Vassall house as his headquarters after arriving in Cambridge and assuming command of the Continental Army in 1775. He resided here from July, 1775 to April of 1776 and it was from here that he planned and led the siege of Boston. When the British Navy finally sailed out of Boston (along with approximately 1100 Loyalists) the war then moved on to New York and General Washington went south.

After the war Andrew Craigie, who was the Apothecary General of the Continental Army, purchased the Vassall home and lived here from 1791. Craigie was a wealthy real estate speculator and made a lot of improvements to the property. It was Craigie who added on the wings to the home and added an addition onto the back. Craigie lost his fortune and after that the house fell on bad times, eventually being broken up into rooms for rent.

In 1837 the home was purchased as a wedding gift and it's most famous literary occupant moved in - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow, originally of Portland, Maine, was a Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard College. Living in such an historic home certainly inspired Longfellow and it is reflected in his works. One of his most famous poems is "Paul Revere's Ride", which tells the tale of the events that occurred locally April 18-19 in 1775. Longfellow lived here until his death
in 1882.

The Longfellow House can be found just outside of Harvard Square and is owned and managed by the National Park Service. From June 4 to September house tours are offered @ 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and on the hour from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The grounds are open to the public from dawn to dusk. (The property at one time extended as far as the Charles River).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering the Fallen

"The Fallen"
Robert Lawrence Binyon (1869 - 1943)

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rev. War Memorial on Cambridge Common

Cambridge Common
Harvard Square
Cambridge, Mass.

There is a minor mystery associated with these three British cannon that have been sitting on the Cambridge Common for over one hundred thirty years: where exactly did they come from and what role did they play in the American Revolution?

The easy answer is the one provided on the small cement marker next to the cannon. It simply states that the three cannon had been emplaced in Fort William and were left behind when the British forces left Boston in March of 1776. But this marker is fairly new and as I have stated before in this Blog, I have learned over the years that you can't always believe what you read.

I know from my visits to the Cambridge Common many years ago that this site used to be much simpler, with fewer monuments and the cannon used to be arrayed a little differently. I seem to remember reading a marker that stated the cannon were part of the artillery train brought to Cambridge by Col. Henry Knox in his haul from Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Also, one of the cannon is French in origin, which having been captured in Cnanda during the French and Indian War, could have been transported to one of those two places.

Now I know you can't always rely on your memory, so I investigated further. I've checked a number of sources - both off and on-line - and the sources, so far, all seem to tell the same narrative. In 1875 the Massachusetts State legislature gave these three cannon to the City of Cambridge to place on the Cambridge Common and to hold in perpetuity (as long as they were properly maintained) from stocks held at the State Armory. (John Fiskes account refers to them as "three huge war dogs").

The sources also agree with my memory that these cannon were originally brought down to Cambridge from Crown Point by Col. Henry Knox to help bring to an end the siege of Boston. That puts a different spin on things and certainly makes the cannon all the more important historically. I'm going to investigate further, but for now I'm going to side with historian John Fiske (among others).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Grand Opening of the Edmund Fowle House

Edmund Fowle House
28 Marshall St.
Watertown, Mass.

The Historical Society of Watertown celebrated the Grand Opening of the Edmund Fowle house on Saturday (May 17). The Society has recently completed an extensive and very expensive restoration of the property, which had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer considered safe for occupancy. A number of local dignitaries along with members of various Colonial Militia units, including the Sudbury Militia, were in attendance to help with the opening ceremonies.

The Fowle house, built in 1772, in addition to its age and its beautiful architecture is also significant for its history. Committees from the Provincial Congress met here in 1775 and 1776. It was also an important meeting place after General Washington accepted command of the Continental Army and began conducting the siege of Boston. On July 19, 1776 a international treaty - the Watertown Treaty - was signed here between the Governors of the State of Massachusetts Bay and delegates from the St. Johns and the Micmac tribes from Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Historical Society, the Massachusetts legislature (which contributed $700,000), the many individuals and groups who donated time and effort and ultimately the Massachusetts taxpayer, are to be commended for restoring this important piece of history.

The Edmund Fowle house is owned and operated by the Historical Society of Watertown. Visiting hours for the house and its museum is 1-4 p.m. on every third Sunday during the summer months. Admission is $5.00 for adults, Senior Citizens and children under 12 are admitted for $3.00.