The Only House Near Charlestown's Poorest Graveyard
Local writer Helen O'Neil brings us the history of 240 Bunker Hill Street.
The brick gambrel house at 240 Bunker Hill Street was built around 1800. At one time the house was owned by Phillips Academy.
It seems that John Phillips, the only surviving son of Judge Samuel Phillips, the founder of Phillips Academy, lived in Charlestown. After graduating from Harvard College in 1795, Phillips moved to Charlestown, ostensibly to study law. He gave up law to go into business and married Lydia Gorham, daughter of Nathaniel Gorham, one of the signers of the United States Constitution.
John and Lydia Phillips stayed in Charlestown for several years, then returned to the Phillips Mansion in Andover. It is not clear how or why Phillips Academy became a one-time owner of 240 Bunker Hill Street but it’s conceivable that the building may at one time have been a school.
According to the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1821 Phillips Academy sold the property to Gardner Whitin for $1900. Whitin sold it to Mary Stone who sold it to Thomas Hooper who sold it, ten years later, to Samuel Felton, for $3000.00. Felton was a surveyor responsible for planning the ‘opening’ of parts of Bunker Hill Street, which had been pasture land.
When the Bunker Hill Burial Ground was designated (see A Place for Charlestown's Poorest to Rest), 238-240 Bunker Hill Street was the only structure standing in this area. It seems to have stood alone until the 1840’s.
In my generation the bottom floor was a store and there were apartments above. Jake was the store owner. He wore a white apron and a big smile. His store was larger than the other corner grocers and stocked more. There was a glassed-in meat and cheese case and Jake let the neighbors buy on credit when they had to. Our neighborhood was made up of many large families and we appreciated having such a compassionate grocer.
- Where is it? 238-240 Bunker Hill Street
- When was it built? between 1800-1810
- Who built it? Not known. Perhaps Phillips Academy.
- How was it built? Brick, with a gambrel roof. The house rises 2 stories on the Bunker Hill side and three stories on the rear wall.
- What are the future plans for the structure? It is currently privately owned and occupied.
Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including Boston Landmarks Commission and the following web-sites: http://www.wickedlocalbostonhomes.com/content/two-family-charlestown-home-was-built-circa-1800 and http://www.ourstory.info/library/5-AFSIS/Fuess/school3.html.