Boston by Foot’s Tour of the Month took us to Cambridge and the venerable neighborhood of mansions along Brattle Street known as Tory Row. The name is due to the number of wealthy Loyalists who either sold their houses before departing the rebellious colony or had their property seized. Of course, Cambridge moved on so there are plenty of 19th & 20th century houses as well, not too mention Revolutionary Era houses with later modifications. Architectural styles include Georgian, Stick Style, Shingle Style, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, French Second Empire and other styles of the Gilded Era (I refuse to use the term Victorian to describe anything in the United States). Architects include H.H. Richardson and Henry Van Brundt (the latter building his own house just off Brattle Street).
Better yet are the stories of the people who lived here. Farmers and statesmen. The poet Longfellow and his family occupied several mansions. An American traitor and a Hessian General were both held prisoner here. A lexicgrapher and an ornithologist. Presidents Washington, T. Roosevelt, and Taft all stayed in these houses. Elmwood was home to Vice President Elbridge Gerry, poet James Russel Lowell, and now the official residence of the President of Harvard University.
There were a lot of houses on the tour and a lot of stories so I’m sure I didn’t get everything correct. A couple of sights worth checking out for more in-depth visits are the Longfellow National Historic Site and the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society. If you missed the tour, don’t fret at this tour will be offered again next season as part of the 2009 Boston By Foot Tour of the Month offerings. A new way to get involved and getting reminders of tours is the Boston By Foot Meetup Group. If you’re interested in the history and architecture of our fair city, sign up today.