2. About the House/Pre-Revolutionary War

Exterior Photo of Longfellow House c. 1925

The house was built in 1759 for John Vassall and his family. When John inherited the piece of land, there was a different house already here. He tore down that structure and built the house currently standing. The Vassalls were a well to do family, and their property and new house in Cambridge along the Charles River were proof of that. John and his family inherited that wealth through the sugar industry in Jamaica which relied heavily on the labor of enslaved people. John had little issue with using enslaved people to help his business ventures be profitable. He also enslaved at least seven people at his house, including several members of a family. One of the enslaved members of the family was a woman named Cuba, and her children, while Cuba’s husband Tony lived across the street at the home of Penelope and Henry Vassall. Tony joined his family at 105 Brattle Street after Penelope, and Henry fled along with John and his family to the loyalist safe-haven of Boston at the start of the Revolution. 

The house, which reflected the Vassall’s wealth, was built in the popular style called Georgian Architecture. Georgian Era buildings are known for their closely followed symmetry. Everything in Georgian style from the placement of the door and windows to the layout of the house is symmetrical or placed methodically, and the Vassall’s house was no exception. Notice how square and symmetrical the house is from the outside.

The Vassalls left their home in Cambridge in 1774 to move into Boston. John and the Vassall Family were loyalists; as the name implies, they were loyal to King George the Third and his government based in London. The Vassalls were apathetic to the growing political upheaval voiced by the majority of their fellow New England colonists. Like many New England loyalists, the Vassalls moved to Boston where they could be protected by the King’s soldiers and live among people with similar political stances as themselves. The Vassalls left New England during the evacuation of Boston in March of 1776 and briefly went to Nova Scotia before settling in London. There they remained, leaving their house, slaves, and lives in North America behind.


Black and white photo of front door at 105 Brattle Street.
Front Door of Longfellow House c. 1922