You didn’t have to show courage in battle to be a revolutionary hero. But if you were, it probably took more than a century for historians and builders to restore your house and turn it into a museum.
Benjamin Edes and his partner, John Gill, did more to stir up revolutionary fervor in the American colonies than any other publisher. On the night of Dec. 16, 1771, Sons of Liberty secretly assembled at Edes’ home in Boston. They disguised themselves as Indians and walked down to the wharves. There a crowd gathered while they chopped open the tea chests on three ships and dumped all the tea into the harbor.
Today, you can visit Benjamin Edes’ old print shop, next to the Old North Church on the Freedom Trail.
Every New England state has a home or an office belonging to a hero of the American Revolution. Here are six of them, one for each state. All but one existed in obscurity for more than a century, their association with a revolutionary hero forgotten. The colonial revival stimulated interest in the old buildings, and historians transformed them into museums.
If you know of a landmark associated with a revolutionary hero, please share it in the comments section.
Nathan Hale Homestead
Every schoolchild knows the story of Nathan Hale, the young schoolmaster turned spy for George Washington. The famous Indian fighter Robert Rogers captured him on Long Island, and the British hanged him without a trial. The State of Connecticut considers him a revolutionary hero for his defiant last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to live for my country.”
When the Hale family hadn’t heard from Nathan in a while, his brother went to Old Saybrook, Conn., to track him down. He learned Nathan was killed and was given a trunk of his belongings.
The Hale family eventually sold the house and it passed through several hands. Then a Connecticut lawyer named George Dudley Seymour got caught up in the Nathan Hale story. He found out the house, sadly in need of repair, was for sale. Seymour bought it, restored it and filled it with Connecticut antiques, including Nathan’s trunk.
Nathan Hale never lived in the Nathan Hale Homestead, but he did live in a house on the same location. His family tore it down during the war to build the bigger house, which survived.
The Hale Homestead grounds are open year round from dawn to dusk, and the house itself is open for tours from May to October.
2299 South St., Coventry, Conn.
Peleg Wadsworth, grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, served in the Continental Army as a brigadier general. His greatest moment in the war came during the disastrous Penobscot Expedition. As British warships drove American forces up the Penobscot River, Wadsworth saved his men by leading a retreat by land back to Boston.
The British later captured Wadsworth from his headquarters in Thomaston, Maine, and confined him at Fort George in Castine, Maine. He escaped by cutting a hole in the ceiling and crawling along the joists.
Wadsworth went home to Plymouth, Mass., but he returned to Maine and bought property in what is now Portland. He built the first brick house in the city, now known as the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. His son and wife lived in the house, where they raised their children.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s sister owned the house until her death in 1901, when she bequeathed it to the Maine Historical Society. The historical society runs it as a house museum – Maine’s first, as a matter of fact. It’s open May through October.
489 Congress St., Portland, Maine
Printing Office of Edes & Gill
Benjamin Edes, along with his partner John Gill, didn’t fight in the war, but he was nonetheless a revolutionary hero. Edes, more than any other publisher, stoked public indignation over Parliament’s abuse of the American colonies.
Edes and Gill worked out of a print shop in Boston’s North End, near Paul Revere’s house and next to the Old North Church. The Old North Church now owns the building where Edes and Gill ran their printing press.
Edes escaped Boston during the siege and moved to Watertown, Mass., where he continued to publish the Boston Gazette until 1798. The British arrested his 17-year-old son Peter for 3-1/2 months, mostly because they hated his father.
The North End went from a fashionable neighborhood to a slum, then back to fashionable.The Printing Office of Edes & Gill opened as a museum in 2011. Interpreters show how colonial printers worked their trade on the museum’s historic equipment. They also explain how Boston’s patriot press incited the American colonies to rebellion.
21 Unity St., Boston, Mass.
Gen. John Stark House
Gen. John Stark gave New Hampshire its motto, which you’ve no doubt seen on its license plates: Live Free or Die.
The old Indian fighter marched his New Hampshire militia to Boston as soon as he heard about the Battles of Lexington and Concord. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, he led his men to a spot where he anticipated the British would attack. He may or may not have said, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Someone did; it just isn’t clear who.
He was an unsung revolutionary hero of the Battle of Saratoga, where he and his men prevented the British from retreating north. His heroics at the Battle of Bennington are more widely remembered. Even today, many New Hampshirites can quote him: “There they are boys! We beat them today or Molly Stark sleeps a widow tonight!”
Stark famously went home to his farm in Derryfield (now Manchester) after the war and died at age 93. The Stark family sold his boyhood home in 1821, and then the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company bought it in 1835 to use as worker housing. In 1937, the company gave the building to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who restored it. They moved it to the original Stark farm in 1968 and turned it into a house museum.
2000 Elm St., Manchester, N.H.
Nathaniel Greene Homestead
Nathanael Greene had asthma, walked with a pronounced limp and belonged to the pacifist Quaker religion.
None of that stopped him from becoming a revolutionary hero doing some of the toughest jobs of the war for independence.
When Americans despaired of ever evicting the British, Nathanael Greene lured Gen. Cornwallis away from his supply lines and into battles that inflicted heavy casualties. Greene took control of most of the South away from British forces and returned to his home in Rhode Island.
Nathanael Greene built the house in 1770, and his family lived there through the war. Greene moved his family to Newport at the war’s end in 1783, but then relocated to Georgia and died soon thereafter.
He had sold the Coventry house to his brother Jacob, and it remained in the Greene family until 1899. The family, though, rented it as a tenement house and neglected to keep it up.
In 1919, the Nathanael Greene Homestead Association formed to restore the former home of Rhode Island’s best known revolutionary hero. Today it’s a house museum, and part of the Anthony Village Historic District. Open for tours from April through October.
20 Taft St., Coventry, R.I.
Ethan Allen Homestead Museum
Ethan Allen could claim stature as a revolutionary hero for capturing Fort Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold in 1775. But he spent most of the war imprisoned by the British and then, after his release, ferreting out Loyalists in Vermont.
He spent the years after his imprisonment pursuing politics, writing books and speculating in land. He and his family moved to a new house overlooking the Winooski River in Burlington in 1787, but he only lived there until his death in 1789. His survivors sold the house, which passed through several hands. Local people always knew the house had belonged to Ethan Allen, but no one did much about it until a Burlington resident named William J. Van Patten bought it in 1902.
Van Patten donated 12 acres of the property to the Sons of the American Revolution on condition they maintain it as a park and build a tower to Vermont’s revolutionary hero. They did, and Van Patten lived in the house and ran the rest of the property as a dairy farm.
In the late 1980s, a surviving remnant of the farm was turned into The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum. It now functions as a house museum with living history events and lectures on Vermont’s history. Open May through October.
1 Ethan Allen Homestead, Burlington, Vt.
Images: By Sphilbrick – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11802250; Clough House By MLHalsey – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23197901; Gen. John Stark House By User:Magicpiano – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19357747; Nathanael Greene Homestead By Camanda at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18112163; Ethan Allen Homestead By Mfwills; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 02:11, 24 October 2013 (UTC) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29160603