One of the grandest homes in Boston before the American Revolution was the estate of Thomas Hancock (1703-1764), a publisher who later became a merchant who imported and exported for the British Empire, which made him one of the richest men in the city. Thomas and his wife Lydia had no children of their own, but in 1744, Thomas’s brother John died, and his seven-year-old son, also named John Hancock, moved to Boston to live with his uncle in the Hancock Manor on Beacon Street. John Hancock eventually took over his uncle’s business and inherited the Hancock estate. Hancock eventually became one of the most well-known Patriots and fought for independence from Britain, famously signing the Declaration of Independence with his huge signature. Widely popular, John Hancock became the first governor of Massachusetts, and won every term he ran. Massachusetts did not have a governor’s mansion, but Hancock’s palatial estate served the purpose well, receiving distinguished guests from Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington.
Hancock died in 1793, and the grounds of his estate were begun to be sold off, most notably the eastern portion of his land which soon after was developed into the current Massachusetts State House. Hancock’s widow, Dorothy, had remarried in 1796, and she lived here in this house until 1816. The house remained in the family, though, with John Hancock’s nephew, also named John, owning the house until his death in 1859. On June 16, 1863, at one o’clock, the Hancock Manor was sold at public auction for a mere $230. The terms of the sale were cash down and the purchaser, Willard Dalrymple, had ten days to have everything removed. The building was torn down despite public outcry and souvenirs of it were actively sought as it fell. The Hancock Manor’s demolition sparked an early movement for historic preservation of Revolutionary landmarks including the Old South Church, which nearly suffered the same fate. The site was redeveloped with rowhouses which were later demolished for the front grounds of the State House’s west wing expansion, in 1917.
Amazingly, the front door of the house was donated to the Bostonian Society, and recently restored. Additionally, a replica of the house was built in 1925 based on plans of the Hancock Manor prior to its demolition. The replica house is owned by the Ticonderoga Historical Society.