What is likely the most visited house in the historic city of Boston is also the oldest remaining home in Downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House. Located in the historic North End, this First Period home occupied the former site of the Second Church of Boston’s parsonage, home to Increase Mather and Cotton Mather, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1676. The first definite owner of the home was Robert Howard, a wealthy slave merchant. Deed research shows that the property was conveyed to Mr. Howard in 1681, reading “a piece of land with the dwelling house standing thereon”, which places the definitive date of construction at 1681, though it is as early as 1676 by some accounts.
The neighborhood now known as the North End saw many working-class families settle there in the 18th century and beyond. Many Bostonian elites built homes in other neighborhoods began the shift of large estates away from the neighborhood. The “Paul Revere House” was occupied by many laborers and their families over the next few decades.
Paul Revere (1735-1818) owned this house from 1770 to 1800, although he and his family may have lived elsewhere for periods in the 1780s and 1790s. Paul Revere is best-known for his famous his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia in April 1775 to the approach of the British before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Before this midnight ride, Revere himself was the son of a French immigrant father and a mother descended from the earliest settlers of New England. Revere apprenticed to his father where he learned the highly skilled trade of gold and silver smithing. He became a local legend in 1861 after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”.
Revere eventually sold the house in 1800. In the nineteenth century, the home became a sailor’s boarding house for many years. By the turn of the twentieth century, the old house had become a tenement with shops on the lower level. When the building faced demolition, a great grandson of Paul Revere, John P. Reynolds Jr, stepped in to save the house and purchased it. By 1908, funds had been raised to restore the home and it opened to the public as a historic house museum in April, 1908.
Today, the Paul Revere House remains as one of the best examples of First Period construction, with its diamond pane windows (as glass was very expensive back then), the overhanging second story, and the large central chimney. The museum hosts thousands of tourists and visitors a day whether viewing the interior or walking by in North Square.