Opening a Window to the Past by Researching Your Historic Home

By Diana Coldren

If your walls could talk! What a story they would tell! Do you ever wonder who designed, built and lovingly maintained your historic home? Imagine all the celebrations, history, and traditions your historic home has witnessed over the centuries!

Researching the architect, builder, and past residents will open a window to the past that is rich with interesting and valuable information. There are many easily accessible resources online, including the Massachusetts Historical Commission website. Simply access the site at, and type in your address and you can view an inventory form which describes the architectural style, historical narrative and past resident’s biographical information.

If your home does not have an inventory form, you may research the historic details from multiple sources including deeds, city directories, maps, historic photographs and newspapers.

Recently I researched the history of 53 Chestnut St. in Beacon Hill and uncovered the rich tapestry of events and residents that were connected to that home. The home at 53 Chestnut was constructed in 1828 by Housewrights Hiram and Benjamin Bosworth on land that was originally owned by Boston’s first English settler, William Blaxton. It is a prime example of the quality Federal Style homes built on Beacon Hill in the early 19th century.  The gracious Palladian window is a unique architectural element that reflects the intricately carved fanlight above the entry.

Sculptor Florence “Flori” Freeman lived at 53 Chestnut with her parents and siblings in the 1850s. Flori was friends with Anne Whitney and trained by Richard Greenough. She created several pieces that exist nearby

Today, including a marble bust of Archangel Sandalphon. It was gifted to Longfellow, and is on exhibit

today in the Longfellow House Museum in Cambridge.

Freeman also created a beautifully detailed, marble chimney piece depicting children and a yule log that won honorable mention at the Philadelphia Centennial Fair in 1876. The mantle is still in place today in a residence on Mt. Vernon Street.

Additional residents included a Harvard law professor and a well-known playwright and manager of The Boston Globe Theatre. Each resident has lovingly maintained the key historical defining characteristics that are difficult

to replicate. Available for sale for the first time in over 30 years, 53 Chestnut beckons you to add your chapter to its story.

Please see the sources below and enjoy the treasure hunt that will reveal the genealogy of your home:

Massachusetts Historical Commission

Suffolk County Deeds:

Family Search:

Map junction: lat=42.3531000&lng=-

71.0663000&map1=link.mapwarpermap32092&map2=link.mapwarpermap18587&zoom= 14.0000000&mode=overlay&b=0&p=0

Digital commonwealth:


Boston City Archives:

Historic New England:

Revolutionary Spaces:

Chamberlain , Allen, “Beacon Hill: Its Ancient Pastures and Early Mansions.” Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1925; available online https://

Diana Coldren, a real estate agent with Compass, is currently pursuing a Master of Design Studies in Historic Preservation with a concentration in Real Estate Development at the Boston Architectural College.

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