John Tapley's Yellow House on Common Street

Built in 1806, the building was used for a time as a funeral home.


The yellow house at 14 Common Street was built in 1806. The house’s first owner was John Tapley, a blacksmith and master iron worker at the Navy Yard.

The Tapley family operated Tapley Wharf, near the entrance to the Navy Yard, for the repair and building of vessels, and as a landing spot for small cargo ships carrying wood, bricks and hay from Maine. Tapley was contracted to repair USS Constitution when the ship was damaged during the war of 1812-1815.

Tapley and his wife Lydia, a daughter of Samuel Tufts, had nine children and lived in the yellow house until the 1820s. They then, according to Boston Landmarks Commission, moved to a small farm on Milk Row Road, ‘outside the Neck.’

Reuben Hunt owned the house until 1835, and sold number 12 to William Arnold, shoemaker for $3,500. By 1849, Caleb Arnold owned the house and Arnold family heirs lived there until the 1920s. For a time after, the house was McArdle’s Funeral Home.

  • Where is it? 14 Common St.
  • When was it built? 1806
  • Who built it? John Tapley. He paid Benjamin Teel, a baker, $70 for the lot.
  • What was it built for and who was the first occupant? The Tapley House was one of several built in the early building period following the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Tapley family members were the first to live in the house.
  • How was it built? It is an elegant three-story Federal Style wood-frame home, with a brick wall on the Putnam Street side. The house has a rear ell (built around 1868) and two two-story side ells.
  • What are the future plans for the structure? The house is currently privately owned and occupied.

For more information about the history of this quaint neighborhood see The Salem Turnpike Inn.

Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including Boston Landmarks Commission; "Old Charlestown" by Timothy T. Sawyer; "Genealogical and Personal Memoirs" by William Richard Cutter; http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/otis-house.

Nancy Hannan November 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM
nice history lesson. thanks Helen!
Helen O'Neil December 04, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Thanks Nancy. Glad you enjoy the history of Charlestown. I received an e-mail from a reader about the Salem Inn saying that "original beams still hold up the roof."


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