Tour of the Historic Royall House in Medford
Saturday, October 1st, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
The first program in our 2016-2017 season will be a guided tour of the historic Royall House in Medford. In 1732 Isaac Royall, Sr. purchased 504 acres of land in what was then Charlestown (now Medford). This land was visible from several points along the Mystic River and straddled a major thoroughfare linking Boston with towns to the north. In 1737 the Royalls moved to their new home from their sugar plantation in Antigua in the West Indies. They brought with them 27 African slaves whose labor was essential to maintaining the estate. An elm-lined drive led to the imposing neoclassical mansion at the heart of the property. While most eighteenth-century New Englanders relied upon their land for food, the Royall estate featured ornamental plantings and well-tended lawns in addition to orchards and pastures for sheep and cattle. A central feature of the site is the only known extant separate slave quarters in the northern United States. In 1750 a traveler described “a fine country seat belonging to Mr. Isaac Royall, being one of the grandest in North America.” This carefully constructed landscape was designed both to impress and to illustrate the imposition of man’s will upon nature. The opulent display demonstrated the family’s rise in fortune and status from indentured servants to wealthy landowners in two generations.
After Isaac Royall Jr. fled to England at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the Massachusetts General Court confiscated his estate. The mansion was used during the early months of the Revolution by Generals Lee, Stark, and Sullivan, and was visited by George Washington who, according to legend, interrogated two British soldiers in the Marble Chamber. After the Revolution, Washington’s secretary, Colonel Cary, lived in the house for two years and in 1790 William Woodbridge kept a boarding and day school in the house. In 1804 the estate was returned to Isaac Royall Jr.’s heir, his granddaughter Elizabeth (Royall) Hutton, who sold the estate to Robert Fletcher for £16,000 in 1806.
By the end of the 19th century the house had passed through several hands and had fallen into disrepair. In 1898, the Sarah Bradlee Fulton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution conceived the idea to preserve the Royall House “for the sake of its history and aesthetic value.” On Patriots Day in 1898, they opened up the house to the public for a Loan Exhibition of colonial furnishings and valuable relics. In 1907 this group of women recruited a wider group of “patriotic men and women” and formed the Royall House Association. The group’s initial mission was to raise the necessary funds ($10,000) to purchase the house, the slave quarters and three-quarters of an acre of surrounding land to be maintained as a museum, which they ultimately were able to do in April 1908. A number of interior and exterior restorations of the buildings and site have been conducted over the years, and in 1962, the Royall House was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today the Royall House Association (RHA) owns and operates the Royall House and Slave Quarters as a museum and educational resource, with seasonal tours, a public program series and more. More information about the Royall House is available at www.royallhouse.org.
Please join us on Saturday morning, October 1st, at 11:00 am for a guided tour of this historic treasure less than 5 miles from Belmont Center. The tour is free but space is limited, so please call the Belmont Historical Society at (617) 993-2878 to leave your name and the number of people who will be coming. We will meet at the site (15 George Street, Medford, Massachusetts). Click here for a map and directions.
Saturday, November 5th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
A historic look at Belmont Center
Sunday, December 4th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Holiday gathering at Habitat