Home Massachusetts Paul Revere House – Step Back to a Pivotal Night in American History

Paul Revere House – Step Back to a Pivotal Night in American History

Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…

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Paul Revere’s ride is such a staple of American history that it almost seems unbelievable that it actually happened. But you can imagine that night standing in the Paul Revere House.

 

Revere was an express rider for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. On April 18, 1775, he took the most famous ride of his career.

Sons of Liberty John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying in Lexington. They were unaware of the plans to send a force of soldiers to arrest them and seize weapons that the colonial militias had stockpiled.

Joseph Warren dispatched Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott and William Dawes to raise the alarm among the residents west of Boston, especially Hancock and Adams, that the British planned a confrontation.

The Midnight Ride

Revere documented his movements that night. He first told the sexton to hang two lanterns in the steeple at the Old North Church, the pre-arranged signal that the British planned to go west by first crossing the Charles River. If he was caught, the lanterns would let someone else know the planned route of the attack so they could spread the word.

Revere next stopped at his home to collect his boots and overcoat before friends rowed him across the Charles River to Charlestown. It was a daring move, as the British had forbidden night crossings of the river. Once in Charlestown, Revere borrowed a horse and sped to Lexington and Concord to warn of the pending attack.

Revere would not have shouted ‘The British are coming,’ as portrayed in some depictions of the ride. The mission was a secret. Quiet would have been a key to his success. But he did stop at numerous houses on the way to Lexington, and patriot soldiers sprang to life.

Within hours, as many as 40 other riders had taken to horseback to spread the word that the British planned an attack on Lexington and Concord. Revere, meanwhile, completed his ride and warned Hancock and Adams in time for them to avoid capture at the outset of what became known as the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The House Today

To stand in Revere’s shoes on that fateful night, visitors can still go to his house at that time. The Paul Revere House remains standing today, though it had a few brushes with destruction over the years.

A parsonage that was home to the Mather family stood on the site of the Paul Revere House until it was destroyed by the great fire of 1676. A new house was built to replace it in 1680 for Robert Howard, a wealthy merchant who located there most likely to be near the waterfront wharves.

It was built in the Tudor style with two levels and a basement with unusually high ceilings. Small by today’s standards,  it was actually one of the larger houses in the area at the time of its constructions, with large rooms, compared to other homes of that age. Today it is the oldest house still standing in downtown Boston.

Bedroom at Paul Revere House (Photo: Library or Congress)

Bedroom at Paul Revere House (Photo: Library or Congress)

Paul Revere Moves In

Paul Revere bought the house in 1770 and owned it for 30 years. He initially lived there with his first wife Sarah, five of their children and his mother. At 90 years old, the house was no longer a luxury property, and Revere made additions and improvements, over the time he owned it, including adding a kitchen.

For a time, the family rented other properties and rented out the old house, as well. Revere finally sold it in 1800, spending his time in a larger house in Boston and a house in Canton, as well.

The footprint of the house that is in existence today is most likely the original footprint, or very close to it.

Revere, himself, was a renaissance man who worked as a silversmith and coppersmith. He was one of the most knowledgeable metalworkers in the colonies at the height of his profession. But he carried out his trade at other sites, not the house.

Living Room Fire Place at Paul Revere House (Photo: Library or Congress)

Changes and Alterations in the Paul Revere House

In the hundred years after Revere sold the house, a lot changed. The land around the North End was filled and it was no longer near the water. As waves of Irish, Jewish and Italian residents moved into the North End, the house adapted.

It became a boarding house, saloon, bank, vegetable stand and cigar rolling operation over its long life. In 1901, a fire in the basement threatened the house, and it was in danger of being torn down in 1907 when it was rescued.

John Phillips Reynolds Jr., Revere’s great-grandson, bought it. He established an association of Revere descendants and others to restore the building. Restoration took place in 1907 and 1908 and opened to the public.

In the restoration, the house was put back to close to what it would have looked like in 1775. Visitors can still close their eyes and imagine the night when Revere dashed home for his coat before taking off on his famous ride.

Five Things You’ll Remember About The Revere House

Revere’s Walking Stick

The property houses a number of artifacts that were possessions of Revere himself. Included among them are eyeglasses, several pieces of furniture and a handsome, brass-headed walking stick.

The Hinged Bed

The back bedroom on the second floor of the house was home to the Revere children. In all, Revere had 16 children with his two wives. The back bedroom was undoubtedly a crowded room, though fortunately not all 16 ever tried to occupy the house simultaneously. To make the most of available floor space, the house contains a bed that is something like a murphy bed. The mattress section of the bed is hinged so it can be pulled upright to make more floor space.

Kitchen at Paul Revere House (Photo: Library or Congress)

The Kitchen Fireplace

The kitchen fireplace gives a good look into how houses in that era operated. Dried apples hang across the top of the fireplace, and an inset reflector oven sits on the floor. The ‘tin kitchen’ ovens were new in the late 1700s. They were an inset that could be closed on four sides with only the side facing the fire open. The reflective oven would speed the cooking of roasts, breads or other items needing baking.

The Revere Bell

At the rear of the property is a church bell, cast by Paul Revere in 1804 and sold to the East Parish Church in Bridgewater. It is one of only 27 such bells that Revere personally would have a hand in casting at the family foundry. Eventually, the operation would turn out more than 1,000 bells.

The Mortar

Also on display outside the house is a mortar cast by Revere that would have been used for testing gunpowder.

If You Visit . . .

The Revere House takes relatively little time to tour. A half hour to an hour will be enough to see all the basics of the house. It’s located at 19 North Square, Boston. It is open year-round with hours on its website.

As the house is on  the Boston Freedom Trail, visitors may choose to continue walking the trail to the many other historic sites on the trail. However, you will also be in the heart of Boston’s North End, home to a host of popular restaurants and bakeries. A visit just before lunch would time things perfectly to set up a memorable meal to follow up your visit.

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