The Social Significance of Boston's Colonial Country Houses

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An illustrated lecture by Alexander von Hoffman, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design.

Dr. von Hoffman will explore how the members of Boston’s eighteenth-century elite expanded their social lives into the town’s suburban and rural environs. Fashionably designed country houses are among the most notable and long-lasting artifacts left by these leading Bostonians. The stately homes that still ring Boston include not only the Isaac Royall House in Medford but also the Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House in Cambridge, the Loring-Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, and the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury. The presentation will feature a close look at the architecture of these building and the social context in which they were built, offering lively and accessible insights into this important, but often overlooked, aspect of Boston's history.

Alexander von Hoffman is a Senior Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and Lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is the author of House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods (Oxford University Press, 2003) and a history of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Local Attachments: The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). Dr. Von Hoffman has published scholarly articles on urban history and essays on housing and cities for the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe, and delivered public lectures in cities across the United States. He received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1986.