Otis House

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Otis House in Boston, Massachusetts

Otis House is the last surviving mansion in Bowdoin Square in Boston's West End neighborhood. Charles Bulfinch designed the house for Harrison Gray Otis, a lawyer who was instrumental in developing nearby Beacon Hill, served in Congress, and was a mayor of Boston.

Otis House is the first of three houses Bulfinch designed for Harrison Gray Otis and his wife Sally Foster Otis. The house’s design reflects the classical proportions and delicate detail of the Federal style.

Withdrawing Room of Otis House in Boston, Massachusetts

Visitors learn about the Otis family's life in the Federal era and the later history of the house, when it served as a clinic and a middle-class boardinghouse. The restoration of Otis House and its brilliantly colored wallpapers, carpeting, and high-style furnishings, is based on meticulous historical and scientific research.

Open

April  – November
Wed., 11:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Thurs. – Sun., 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tours every half hour.

Closed major holidays except July 4.

The Otis House is a Historic New England property.

 


Top photo: Otis House today - The Otis House is one of the few buildings to survive both the widening of Cambridge Street in 1925 and the urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s. Historic New England continues to preserve the house and its stories and to share these stories with the public.

Bottom photo: Withdrawing room - The withdrawing room was called such because after elaborate dinner parties, the Otises and their guests “withdrew” to this room. It is the most elegantly decorated room in the house, and seems to have been special to the Otises as it is the only room to have solid mahogany doors. Mahogany was difficult to acquire; other doors in the house were made of less costly wood that was either painted or grained to look like mahogany. The mirrors on the doors were also quite expensive and ostentatious. Two of the doors are false — they were added to maintain the symmetry — but were just as expensive as the functioning doors. There are many Chinese export pieces, including a backgammon set, sewing box, and a settee. The withdrawing room is also the only public room in the house that was designed to be used at night. Unlike the downstairs parlor and dining room, this room has a chandelier. The mirrors on the doors and walls helped to reflect the light and brighten the room during evening parties. The furniture in this room reflects the many different kinds of activities that went on here. After dinner, gentlemen often played games like backgammon or cards. Musical instruments were played by family members and their guests, or by hired musicians, and the furniture could be pushed back to make room for dancing. In the winter especially, the family probably spent most of their time in this room, as it was easier to heat one room and use it for many activities than to heat several rooms. Mrs. Otis might have used this room for small tea parties and for receiving visitors. Tables could be set up and used for family meals as needed.