Hideaway House

A little-known house museum with secrets of its own

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lmost completely unknown, the 1808 William Hickling Prescott House is one of only two houses on Beacon Hill (the other is the Nichols House) that are open to the public—and the secrets continue inside. Prescott, who lived in the house from 1845 until 1859, was left nearly blind by a freak accident at Harvard, where he was struck in one eye by a crust of bread, yet he became a renowned historian of Spanish royalty and South American and Mexican history and an integral member of Boston society. A portrait he owned of Cortez hangs in the house, and a secret stairway he built can be seen hidden behind a library bookcase. The house is owned by the Massachusetts chapter of the Society of Colonial Dames, a society of women whose ancestors lived in North America in 1776 or earlier.

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The five-and-a-half-story William Hickling Prescott House was the work of the architect Asher Benjamin, who designed the Old West Church and the Charles Street Meeting House and helped design Quincy Market.

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