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Historical figures you didn't know lived on Beacon Hill

beaconhillPhoto: Les Wood

T

he exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood might today attract the rich and reserved, but it’s also been the home of historical figures you never knew lived there. After her literary success, Louisa May Alcott lived at 10 Louisbourg Square with her parents and sisters; she also died in this house on March 6, 1888, two days after the death of her father, Bronson. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” lived at 32 Mount Vernon St. with her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, founder of the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Together they organized the Committee of Vigilance to protect fugitive slaves, and entertained such notables as Ulysses S. Grant. And Edwin Booth, brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, lived at 29A Chestnut St.

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So determined was he to preserve his grandmother’s 1859 Beacon Hill mansion, Charles Hammond Gibson Jr. roped off many of the rooms and made guests sit on the stairwell instead of on the furniture. The Gibson House at 137 Beacon St. was one of the most modern in the country at the time, with gas lighting, indoor plumbing and central heating. It was left by Gibson in 1954 as a museum and home of the New England chapter of the Victorian Society.

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