This is sort of a cross between an “Earth” post and a “Historic Photo” post, but with a little more than usually appears in either. The above photograph, taken in 1858, shows what’s known as the Amory-Ticknor House, located at 9 State Street in Boston, half a block from the golden-domed State House. The original house was built in 1804 by a wealthy merchant named Thomas Amory, and it was every bit a mansion located in the very heart of Boston in the Early Republic era. But then after only a few years Amory ran into financial trouble and had to sell the house in 1807. Various bigwigs of Boston and otherwise American society lived and stayed here, with occasional remodelings, renovations and subdivisions. Christopher Gore, whose country pad I featured on this blog last summer, stayed here. When the Marquis de Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution, came back to the U.S. on his triumphant nostalgia tour in 1824-25, this is where he lived when he was in Boston. It was a pretty happening address back then.
This house connects with my own academic research for more than just the fact that it happened to be prominent in Boston during the period I’m studying (the “Cold Decade” of 1810-20). One of the sources for my dissertation is a diary written by Mehitable Sullivan Cutler Amory, who happened to be the wife of Thomas, the builder of this house. Mrs. Amory lived here for at least part of the first few decades of the 19th century, and her recollections form part of the tapestry of environmental history of this decade that I’m trying to reconstruct. I’ve spent many of the last several days rooting about in Mrs. Amory’s head, so I feel like I know her even though she died nearly 150 years ago.
The parlor of the Amory-Ticknor House, about 1885. Nice digs, eh?
As it turns out, I walked right by this site when I was in Boston last summer, ironically barely half an hour after leaving the library (the Massachusetts Historical Society) where I was reading Mrs. Amory’s diary. There’s a pub located right around the corner–I don’t recall the name of it–where I had a beer on more than one Thursday or Friday afternoon after finishing up at the library. Below is a Google Earth Street View picture of the site. The building still exists, but is almost unrecognizable for having been rebuilt so many times. There’s a restaurant on part of the site; here is their website. No comment on another part of the building being occupied by a Fox News affiliate.
Amazing the history you can just pass by without ever knowing it, isn’t it?