William Hickling and Susannah (Amory) Prescott’s house survives, and is owned by The Colonial Dames of America in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and can be visited.
55 Beacon Street ~ Boston, MA 02108
2016 Open Dates:
Saturdays in April;
Wednesdays and Saturdays in May, June, July, August and September;
Saturdays in October
Tours run from 12-4 p.m.
Admission is $8 Adults, $6 Seniors and children under age 12 free. We are a member of the Blue Star Museums Initiative: admission for active military personnel and their families is also free.
Group Tours available by appointment. Rates available upon request
The house is opposite the Boston Common, under which there is a parking garage. It is within easy walking distance of the Arlington and Park Street subway stops.
WILLIAM HICKLING PRESCOTT HOUSE
The Federal period townhouses at 54-55 Beacon Street, which overlook the Boston Common, were built for the Boston merchant, James Smith Colburn, in 1808. The land was once owned by John Singleton Copley, America’s most accomplished colonial portrait painter.
These 5 1/2 story brick town houses were designed by the esteemed American architect Asher Benjamin and are highlighted by two bow-fronts. Gracious geometric forms such as these accentuate the rhythm of the exterior design as well as create beautiful oval interior spaces. The building’s Federal style features include a ground floor colonnade with delicate fluted Doric columns, elliptical fanlighted entrances with flanking side lights, colossal pilasters, elaborate iron balconies, and an ornamental balustrade over the cornice.
Prescott made major renovations to the house. He built a rear addition, which included his extensive library on the second floor, and a third floor study, now faithfully restored, where he wrote his History of the Conquest of Peru and Philip II.
After Prescott died in 1859, his widow continued to live in the house until her death in 1872, when it was purchased by her nephew, Franklin Gordon Dexter. The Dexter family replaced the original spiral staircase with the present colonial revival staircase.
In 1944 the house was purchased by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
The extensive collections of furniture and decorative arts have been generously donated by Colonial Dames. Chinese export porcelain and English ceramics are permanently on view.
The remarkable costume collection, dating from the 18th through the 20th centuries, includes dresses, fans, shoes, parasols and children’s clothing, selections of which are on continuous display. The collection is available to researchers by appointment.