Open House

How to get inside a house on Beacon Hill

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othing of historical significance happened at the Nichols House, though Daniel Webster lived next door for three years. What makes it special is that it’s one of only two houses on Beacon Hill that’s open to the public (the other is the William Hickling Prescott House), providing a unique glimpse behind the brick walls of this historic neighborhood. It also proves one incontrovertible truth about the pricey homes along these fabled streets: They’re not as cozy as they look from the outside. Designed by Charles Bulfinch, the typical Federal-style Nichols townhouse was built in 1804 as one of four connected row houses, and each of the narrow levels is windowless on two sides with space for barely two rooms. Furnished with Flemish tapestries and oriental rugs, the house was left as a museum by Rose Standish Nichols, the last of her family to live there, who died childless in 1961, and whose dour countenance looks down from above the fireplace.

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The North Slope of Beacon Hill was originally predominantly black, while wealthy whites lived in the North End and on Beacon Hill’s South Slope, facing Boston Common.

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