At 30 Union Street, not too far from the site of the Charlestown Female Academy, stands a unique Federal-style house. It’s often referred to as the Devens' House, since one of its most celebrated occupants was Charles Devens, whose storied political career culminated with serving as Attorney General of the United States under Rutherford B. Hayes.
The house, built around 1814, was most likely designed by Connecticut-born architect Asher Benjamin. According to Boston Landmarks Commission, 30 Union Street is then the only early nineteenth century house in Charlestown that can be attributed to an architect (as opposed to a carpenter or mason).
The house is a ‘brickender,’—wooden with ‘narrow brick end wall gables.’ The house’s greatest strength, as stated by the commission, lies in its ‘pleasing proportions.' No other Federal style house in Charlestown is proportioned in the same way. The house’s main facade, its long side, faces the street rather than the narrow end wall gables. (For a comparison see ).
The house was apparently built for Apollos Field, a painter. To pay his debts, Field sold the house at auction and, after passing hands several times, the house was ultimately bought by Mary Devens Balfour for $2,300.00. Mary Balfour was Charles Devens' aunt. He was born at 30 Union Street on April 4, 1820.
The Balfours owned the house until the early 1900’s. By 1911, it was owned by John Crowley.
Today it stands as a survivor of early town development in the Union and Washington Street section of Charlestown. It’s a jewel.
- Where is it? 30 Union Street
- When was it built? 1814-1815
- Who built it? The architect was Asher Benjamin, the first American-born and American-trained architect. Benjamin's other designs include the Charles Street Meeting House, the West Church on Cambridge Street and the stunning Deerfield Academy.
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant? The first occupant and first owner was Apollos Field.
- Why was it built? As a family home
- How was it built? Of wood and brick. The main house is three stories high with a center hall plan. There is a two-story ell shape attachment at the rear of the house.
- What are the future plans for the structure? The house is privately owned and occupied.
Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including Boston Landmarks Commission Inventory Form for 30 Union Street, The Country Builder’s Assistant by Asher Benjamin at Google Books and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Devens.