Wondering about the history of the stately property on Pier 1?
The Commandants' House is one of the oldest structures in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Its elegance and grace, raised high over a 6,000 square foot lawn, invokes a long ago time, when the Navy Yard was marsh and pasture land and captains peered through telescopes to sight ships on the horizon.
Built for the first Commandant of the Navy Yard and his family, the 12-room house was completed in 1805 and served as the commandant's private home. Some of the most distinguished guests to the house included two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and Andrew Johnson, as well as domestic and foreign naval officers and numerous other dignitaries from around the world. The Commandant's House is now under the watchful eye of the National Park Service. It is no longer a residence and is available for weddings and other special events.
- Where is it?
Pier 1, Navy Yard.
- When was it built?
Between 1805 and 1809.
- Who built it?
A team of architects. The style has strong Bullfinch influence.
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant?
It was built as a home for the Commandant of the Navy Yard and his family. Captain Samuel Nicholson was the first occupant.
- Why was it built? To house the 67 Navy Yard Commandants and their families who lived there between 1809 and 1974.
- How was it built?
It was built with brick, in a design reflecting early 19th-century's Federal Period. Over the years the house has been modified to adapt to harsh New England winters. In 1825, the number of windows on the weather-bearing side were reduced and central steam heat was installed in 1835. One hundred years later, the brick exterior, which was originally painted white for protection against water damage, was restored to its natural color. A sun porch on the harbor side, built as part of a Works Progress Administration Project, was completed during the Depression.
- What are the future plans for the structure?
Since the Charlestown Navy Yard was decommissioned in 1974, the Commandant's House has been preserved by the National Park Service as part of Boston National Historical Park. Today the house is used as an entertaining and meeting space and is available for rental for special events, such as weddings and other celebrations.
For more information on the use of the Commandant's House for special events, weddings, corporate functions and receptions visit www.commandantshouse.com.
Information for this article was compiled from interviews with staff at the National Park Service as well as research at the Boston Public Library and online at www.nps.gov and www.commandantshouse.com.