"Listen my children and you shall hear..."
On the evening of April 18, 1775 Boston artisan and Patriot Paul Revere set out from his home in North Square to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of their potential arrest by a detachment of British Soldiers. There were dozens of riders that night spreading the general alarm, but following the publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" in 1860 Paul Revere became an American legend. Because this was the home of the famous "Midnight Rider" and silversmith, early preservationists raised money to purchase and preserve the home as a historic site. Though the Revere family only lived in the house for about twenty years, they lived there during the Revolution - the most transformative and uncertain era of their generation.
A Colonial Home in a Bustling Seaport
Robert Howard, a wealthy Boston Merchant, purchased the house in 1681. Though it would change hands many times, it has always remained in the same place on North Square. Located in Boston's densest and oldest neighborhood - the North End - the house was situated in a hub of innovation of sorts for its day. The neighborhood was home and workplace for many skilled artisans, tradesman, and merchants. By the mid-1700s the home was a modest dwelling compared to the large mansions of Boston's elite. Nonetheless, it was a perfect home for an aspiring middling family.
The Most Famous Residents - The Revere Family
Revere himself was the son of a French immigrant father and a mother descended from the earliest settlers of New England. Revere apprenticed to his father where he learned the highly skilled trade of gold and silver smithing. When Revere purchased the house on North Square, he was already a war veteran, a master silversmith, a husband, and a father of five children. Revere's wife Sarah managed the household and cared for the children while Paul handled the family business. Revere's workshop was located a short distance away on the North End waterfront.
Sarah Revere died in 1773 from complications of giving birth to her eighth child. Paul Revere remarried a few months later to a woman named Rachel Walker. Rachel was critical in continuing to manage the household that would only continue to grow. She and Paul would have another eight children together while she continued to raise and nurture her stepchildren. Sadly, because of such high mortality rates in the colonial period, only six of Sarah's children and five of Rachel's children survived into maturity. Of those eleven, only five children survived their father.
After the Reveres
The Reveres occupied the house for a short time in its history. By 1780 the family had moved and began renting out the North Square property. They returned to their North Square home in 1790, before Revere sold the house in 1800. In the nineteenth century the home became a sailor's boarding house for many years. By the turn of the twentieth century, the old house had become a tenement with shops on the lower level. When the building faced demolition a great grandson of Paul Revere, John P. Reynolds Jr, stepped in to save the house and purchased it. By 1908 funds had been raised to restore the home and it opened to the public as a historic house museum in April, 1908.
The Paul Revere house stands as the oldest residential building, still standing, in downtown Boston.
To learn more about the Reveres, the house, and the "Midnight Ride," visit the Paul Revere House website.
Last updated: October 6, 2020