House Party

An 18th-century home with a decor you won’t expect

housepartyPhoto: David Carmack, Historic New England


istant from the city’s other landmarks, the 1796 Harrison Gray Otis House is often overlooked, but is perhaps the best-preserved historic home in Boston. Its surprisingly colorful decorations are startling compared to the washed-out interiors of most historic houses. In fact, microscopic paint and fiber analysis used to restore the house confirmed that homes built following the Revolutionary War were brightly decorated in keeping with the optimism of the new nation. Otis was a lawyer, congressman, and mayor of Boston who made his fortune developing nearby Beacon Hill, and a friend of the architect Charles Bulfinch, who designed this house and also was the architect of the U.S. Capitol. Another secret: Admission is free for Boston residents.



In the great tradition of Boston real-estate developers and politicians, Harrison Gray Otis used inside information to buy the property of the artist John Singleton Copley, knowing (as Copley did not) that he would make a huge profit, since the land had been chosen as the site of the State House.

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