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National Historical Landmark SHIRLEY-EUSTIS HOUSE

Location: 31-37 Shirley Street, Roxbury.

Ownership and Administration (1961). Shirley-Eustis House Association, c/o Director, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 141 Cambridge Stree, Boston.

Significance. This house was built for William Shirley, eminent colonial figure of the generation preceding the Revolution. Shirley was the Royal Governor of Massachusetts Bay, 1741 to 1756, and his imposing home, built about 1747, became a colonial showplace. Governor Shirley personally organized the expedition that captured the French fortress of Louisburg in 1745. After the deatch of British General Braddock in 1755, he was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. He returned to his country seat of Roxbury in 1769 and died there on March 24, 1771.

The house, often called Shirley Place, was confiscated during the Revolution and used by the patriots as a barracks and hospital during the siege of Boston. Thereafter the property passed through several hands until it was purchased in 1819 by Dr. William Eustis. He bad been a surgeon in the Revolutionary War and was twice elected Governor of Massachusetts. He made a number of alterations in the building, adding a broad staircase in the salon.

Shirley-Eustis House
The proposed restoration of the Shirley-Eustis House, Roxbury, as pictured in this drawing, would give this distinguished dwelling the setting merited by its historic and architectural significance. (Courtesy, Boston National Historic Sites Commission.)

Present Appearance (1961). Manifestly Georgian in design, the Shirley Eustis House is a 3-1/2-story structure framed in solid oak, with hipped roof and a cupola. The facades are adorned by giant pilasters, the first in New England except for the Hutchinson House in Boston. A large salon, two stories high, divides the house and was used for State banquets and receptions. The high stone basement contained kitchens and offices. The house was sold in 1867 and moved 30 feet in order to lay out Shirley Street. Before rescue by the Shirley-Eustis House Association in 1911, it had been cut up into tenements and its original rural setting wholly destroyed by streets and unsightly buildings crowding upon it. In recent years the house has been kept in a state of temporary repair pending definite plains for restoration. The interior is not furnished, and the entire building is in urgent need of repairs. Although the Shirley-Eustis House Association has been unable to do more than provide the most necessary preservation, it has made the house available for architectural investigation. Much has been learned about the changes in the structure from the period of Governor Shirley to that of Governor Eustis, and most of the changes after 1867 have been removed. The house is protected by a resident caretaker who occupies quarters in the basement story. [31]

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005