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Beacon Hill

Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Beacon Hill

Learn more about your ancestor's neighborhood through the timeline, find more information in the Further Reading section, or use the links to experience life in that community today.

Timeline

  • 1627: Reverend William Blackstone/Blaxton ( -1675) becomes Beacon Hill's first resident of "Trimountain" - the area of Cotton, Sentry, and West (Mount Vernon) Hills. Reverend Blackstone/Blaxton was a missionary in the Weymouth area in 1623.
  • 1629-1630: John Winthrop and 1,000 Puritans land in Charlestown. Reverend Blackstone/Blaxton invites the group across the river to Boston. The Puritans rename the area "Boston" after a town in East Anglia, England from which some of them hail.
  • 1634: The Beacon Hill area acquires its name after a beacon is erected on Sentry Hill by order of the General Court. The beacon stands until 1784. Boston Common, the oldest park in the nation, is established as a grazing field and militia training ground.
  • 1640: Beacon Street is laid out.
  • 1647: Cambridge Street is laid out.
  • 1650-1700: No significant events in this time period. Area developed slowly.
  • 1722: 60 houses are in the area. Ropewalks built in what is now the Bowdoin Square and Cambridge Street area; dangerous due to fires.
  • 1737: The house of Boston patriot, John Hancock (1737-1793) is constructed. It is later torn down in 1863.
  • 1775: During the Revolution, the Trimountain area is fortified with British redoubts.
  • 1787: Charles Bulfinch designs the Massachusetts State House.
  • 1794: Charles Street is laid out.
  • 1798: The Bulfinch designed State House is completed.
  • 1799: The Mount Vernon Proprietors (Jonathan Mason, Harrison Gray Otis, William Scollay, and Charles Bulfinch) purchase 18 acres of land from John Singleton Copley along with 12 additional acres from other sources. The south side of Mount Vernon is graded and is used as fill for Charles Street. Mount Vernon Street is laid out. Originally, it is called Olive Street.
  • 1803: Pinckney Street is laid out. The area originally is the location of long narrow buildings called "ropewalks" where rope was made.
  • 1804: The Bulfinch designed Amory-Ticknor House is built. George Ticknor (1791-1871) is a Harvard professor, Boston Public Library benefactor, and the first publisher of Atlantic Monthly. Boston's first mayor, John Phillips, also builds his home on Beacon and Walnut this year. His son, Wendell Phillips, the abolitionist is born there.
  • 1806: The oldest surviving black church in America, The African American Meeting House.
  • 1807: The Charles Street Meeting House is built by Asher Benjamin. It serves as a Baptist church and has the distinction of being the first integrated church in the United States. The Boston Athenaeum is founded as a private reading room and art museum.
  • 1807-1832: Beacon Hill is reduced from 138 to 80 feet.
  • 1819: Alexander Parris begins designing houses in the Greek Revival style. One of his first projects is the David Sears House.
  • 1820s: While African-Americans began settling on the North slope of Beacon Hill Pinckney, Cambridge, Joy, and Charles Streets) in the late Eighteenth Century, the community is firmly established at this time.
  • 1824: The Phillips School is constructed and in the 1850s becomes one of Boston's first integrated schools.
  • 1826: Louisburg Square is laid out. The square later receives Italian made statues of Aristides and Columbus, the gift of merchant Joseph Iasigi.
  • 1831: The Mission Church of St. John the Evangelist is built on Bowdoin Street. The building is designed by Solomon Willard who also designs the Bunker Hill Monument.
  • 1832: William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) founds the Antislavery Society at the African American Meeting House.
  • 1834: The Louisburg Square Proprietors form America's first homeowners' association. The Abiel Smith School is founded near the African Meeting House to teach African-American children.
  • 1835: Pemberton Hill, southwest of Beacon Hill is reduced. The fill is dumped north of Causeway Street where North Station is constructed.
  • 1849: John Webster is found guilty for the brutal murder of his friend and Harvard colleague, Dr. George F. Parkman who lives at 33 Beacon Street.
  • 1860: George Meacham redesigns the Public Garden.
  • 1874: The State House dome is given a gold leaf finish over the copper exterior that Paul Revere and Sons laid in 1802.
  • 1877: Swan boats begin operating in the Public Garden.
  • 1885: The Suffolk County Courthouse is constructed.
  • 1890s: Many row houses along the North Slope are razed to make room for tenements for the increasing numbers of immigrants.
  • 1897: A monument of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the Black 54th Civil War Regiment by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is dedicated in Boston Common.
  • 1898: The Bulfinch Column is erected on the site of the original 60 foot beacon tower (in Ashburton Park).
  • 1904: The African Meeting House becomes a Jewish synagogue.
  • 1909: Charles River Square is constructed.
  • 1911: The Thayer House is built following a design by Ogden Codman. Today it is the Hampshire House, and its façade was used in the Cheers television show.
  • 1919: The Revere House, a fashionable hotel in Bowdoin Square, is destroyed.
  • 1924: Margaret Shurcliff begins the Beacon Hill tradition of bell ringing on Christmas Eve.
  • 1942: The State House dome is painted gray to make it less of a target for enemy bombers during World War Two.
  • 1950s: With the destruction of the West End, many East European immigrants move out of the North Slope/West End area.
  • 1955: The South Slope becomes a historic district.
  • 1962-1964: Albert de Salvo 'The Boston Strangler' terrorizes Beacon Hill.
  • 1963: The North Slope becomes part of the historic district.

Further Reading

  • Bartlett, C.. Beacon Hill. Images of America. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1996.

  • Chamberlain, Allen. Beacon Hill: It's Ancient Pastures and Early Mansions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925.

  • Moore, Barbara W. and Gail Weesner. Beacon Hill: A Living Portrait. Boston: Century Hill Press, 1992.

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