Francis B. Austin House
A history of one of Charlestown's wealthiest families, and the background on a local mansion.
For just the facts on this property, click here.
From the time of Richard Austin, who lived in Boston in the 1640s, the Austin family were owners of a great deal of Charlestown real-estate. They enjoyed estates at the Neck and on Main Street, in what used to be called Charlestown Square.
Tudor Wharf was once called Austin's Wharf, and another Austin Wharf was on the creek which once ran up from the river behind the old state prison. A large portion of the Bunker Hill Monument grounds belonged to the family. The Austins also owned a lot of land on the shore of the Mystic River.
According to "Old Charlestown," written in 1901 by Timothy Sawyer, a lot of the land between Cross, High, Elm, and Bartlett streets belonged to the Austins, in a time when "from High Street to the river, there were no buildings save a small barn half-way down Elm Street."
Besides being real estate barons, the Austins were lawyers, writers and public servants. Several were Harvard graduates and a few served in the Massachusetts Legislature.
William, Francis Austin’s father, was a writer and a representative to the 1820 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. The Literary Papers of William Austin, with a biographical sketch by his son, James Walker Austin, was published in 1890.
Nathaniel Austin, Francis’ uncle, was a member of the House of Representatives, a member of the Governor’s Council and brigadier general of the 3rd division of the Massachusetts militia. He also owned Outer Brewster Island and built the stone house at Main and Harvard with stone quarried on the island.
Unlike many of his ancestors Francis Austin, "a quiet gentleman, of strictest integrity" never pursued public office. He was a dry goods merchant and later owned F. B. Austin and Company, an iron and steel trading company in Boston. He inherited the Austin real estate gene, however, and spent a good part of his life building numerous structures in Charlestown. The mansion at 58 High was one of the most beautiful.
After Francis Austin moved his family into 58 High St., his father, William moved from his house on Main Street to live with them. William died there in 1841, at the age of 63.
Information for this article was compiled with information from ‘Old Charlestown’ by Timothy Sawyer; Wikimedia Commons, and various websites, including http://www.hammondre.com/71189276/, http://landmarkhunter.com/162209-francis-austin-house/ and http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/ma/Suffolk/state.html.