Nearly identical to the Nathaniel Pope Russell House at 34 Beacon Street in Beacon Hill, Boston, the Tuckerman-Parkman House at 33 Beacon Street, has a darker history. The home was first owned by Edward Tuckerman. Edward Francis Tuckerman (1775-1843) was an entrepreneur and father of Professor Edward Tuckerman, a noted botanist and lichenologist for whom Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington was named. Tuckerman, Sr. lived at 33 Beacon Street until his death in 1850. After Tuckerman’s death, George Parkman’s widow and son, George Francis Parkman moved in. George Parkman was a medical doctor, businessman, and philanthropist, who was a member of one of Boston’s richest families, but is arguably most well-known for his gruesome murder.
In 1849, Parkman mysteriously disappeared. The physician had last been seen walking towards the Harvard Medical College, and many suspected Parkman had been robbed and murdered with his body thrown into a river or pit, as he was known to lend money to colleagues and friends and later walking around town to collect those debts. Harvard Medical School janitor, Ephraim Littlefield had his own suspicions and sought to solve the case himself, and earn the hefty reward for finding Dr. Parkman. He spent two grueling nights tunneling near the basement laboratory of chemistry professor John White Webster looking for clues. He dug until he ran into a human pelvis, a dismembered thigh and a lower leg. Littlefield immediately called the police, who arrested Dr. Webster, and then worked to find the rest of the body, as it wasn’t in the privy. They searched Webster’s lab and opened a large chest — out came a headless, armless, hairy, partially burned torso, with a thigh stuffed inside. Mrs. Parkman, now a widow was asked to identify the body, which she did based on birthmarks on the lower back and genitals.
It is now known that Professor Webster owed Dr. Parkman a substantial sum of money. The professor lost patience with Parkman’s constant reminders that his payment was long overdue. Professor Webster killed Parkman in a rage, dismembered his tall, lanky frame and concealed the body parts in a wall of his Harvard Medical School laboratory. The trial was an event and is known to have been one of the first major cases where forensic anthropology was used to solve a case as Parkman’s dentist, Dr. Nathan Keep, who would go on to found the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 1867, was also called to testify. A jawbone with false teeth was found in the furnace of Webster’s lab. Keep recognized the dental work that he had done on Parkman two years prior. He even demonstrated for the court how the bone fit into a mold that he’d made of Parkman’s mouth during life.
While the murder occurred elsewhere, this home became the location of Parkman’s widow and son until their deaths. Parkman Jr., left a magnificent legacy to the City of Boston, including the house and 5.5 million dollars for the maintenance of the Boston Common. By 1930, number 33 Beacon Street housed the Boston Parks Department and the meetings of the Park Commissioners. By 1940, the house contained the Boston Cemetery Division as well as the Boston Parks Department, and is owned by the City to this day.