Tours are running through September and go off on the 1/4 hour: 12:15, 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15.
The William Hickling Prescott House, at 55 Beacon Street, and the adjoining home at 54 Beacon Street, were built in 1808 for the Boston merchant, James Smith Colburn. These Federal period twin houses overlook Boston Common on land once owned by John Singleton Copley, America’s most accomplished portrait painter.
These town houses were designed by the esteemed American architect Asher Benjamin, and are highlighted by two bow-fronts. Gracious geometric forms such as these accentuate the rhythm of the exterior design as well as create beautiful oval interior spaces. Their Federal style features include a ground floor colonnade with delicate fluted Doric columns, elliptical fan-lighted entrances with flanking side lights, elaborate iron balconies and an ornamental balustrade over the cornice.
The American historian, William Hickling Prescott, lived at number 55 Beacon Street from 1845-1859. Prescott was one of the first English-speaking historians to write about the Spanish Empire. His books included histories of the Spanish monarchs and the conquests of Mexico and Peru. Some have been translated into several languages and remain in print today.
Prescott made major renovations to the house. He built a rear addition which included his extensive library on the second floor and a third-floor study, now faithfully restored, where he wrote his History of the Conquest of Peru andPhilip II.
After Prescott died in 1859, his widow continued to live in the house until her death in 1869, when it was purchased by her nephew, Franklin Gordon Dexter. The Dexter family replaced the original spiral staircase with the present colonial revival staircase.
In 1944 the house was purchased The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
The extensive collections of furniture and decorative arts have been generously donated by members of the Colonial Dames. The costume collection, dating from the 18th though the 20th centuries, includes dresses, fans, shoes, parasols and children’s clothing, selections of which are on continuous display. The collection is available to researchers by appointment.
Please come visit our gracious townhouse and experience life at is was on the Boston Common in the 1800's. We were listed as #8 on Boston Curbed list of most iconic federal buildings in 2017.
The house is open for tours Saturday afternoons in July and August from 12 noon- 4 pm. Tours are running through September and go off on the 1/4 hour- 12:15, 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15.
Admission is $8 Adults, $6 Seniors and children under age 12 free. We are a member of the Blue Star Museums Initiative: admission for active military personnel and their families is also free.