Many American schoolchildren first learned the legend of Paul Revere from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Revere was a silversmith made famous by warning American revolutionaries of British troops on the march during the Revolutionary War.
In a neighborhood filled with Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End, visitors will almost stumble upon the Paul Revere House, which was built in 1680. For an admission fee of $3.50, visitors can see the only remaining 17th century architecture located in downtown Boston. The original owner of the house, Robert Howard, was a Puritan merchant and Paul Revere did not buy the home until 1770. The house itself is restored to express two time periods in different rooms during Howard’s, as well as Revere’s, ownerships.
The entry to the house is a little unusual as visitors enter through the kitchen. The walls of this room are darkly paneled with a large fireplace. The average colonial woman spent long, hard days in the kitchen and diets were high in fat and low in vitamins. Most colonials ate mainly meats and pastries.
The second room of the house is the hall which is the most versatile. Halls could be used for many purposes including as a parlor, dining room, bedroom or office. Be sure to ask the docents on each floor for some information as these volunteers are knowledgeable about colonial history. I visited the home in December and was surprised to learn that the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas, as this was considered a holiday of excess. The Colony of Massachusetts even declared Christmas illegal in 1659!
Upstairs, visitors will find the bedchamber which could be used as a parlor, where guests were brought for drinks. Bringing guests to your bedroom seemed strange to me but this was common in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The final room upstairs is a second bedroom where Paul Revere’s mother stayed.
Unfortunately, no photos (even without a flash) are allowed in the house but photos are allowed outside in the home’s courtyard.
Overall, this house was considered spacious during its time, but by today’s standards, this house is small. It was hard to imagine that Paul Revere had 16 children (five who died in infancy) and anywhere from five to nine people were living in this home at any one time. There couldn’t have been much extra space.
This house almost didn’t survive and was in bad shape by the early 1900s. When the Reveres moved to another location, the home became a boarding house during the 1800s and at different stages the ground floor was used for shops. Luckily, Revere’s great-grandson purchased the house in 1902 and the house was restored in the early 1900s. While most of the posts and beams are still original, other features like the windows in the front are replicas of the style in the 1680s.
Paul Revere was a diversified tradesman as in addition to being a silversmith, he also worked as an engraver, owned a hardware store and even worked as a dentist.
On leaving the house, be sure to stop by the exhibit of a Paul Revere bell. There are 23 Revere bells still known to exist today. I had to laugh that Paul Revere was apparently very particular about how the bells were hung. The bells even came with a warranty for twelve months with exclusions like accidents and improper usage.
For visitors to Boston, be sure to stop by the Paul Revere House to experience a taste of American history. I could almost remember Longfellow’s poem telling of the midnight ride of Paul Revere as I headed into the North End.
The Paul Revere Association
19 North Square
Boston, Massachusetts 02113