55 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts


Prescott House

History Lesson!

Yankee Magazine's Best of New England Editor's Choice Winner -- 2011

The William Hickling Prescott House, at 55 Beacon Street, pictured above on the left side, and the adjoining home at 54 Beacon Street, were built in 1808 for the Boston merchant, James Smith Colburn.  These Federal period twin houses overlook Boston Common.  The land was once owned by John Singleton Copley, America's most accomplished colonial portrait painter.


These 5 1/2 story brick town houses were designed by the esteemed American architect Asher Benjamin and are highlighted by two bow-fronts.  Gracious geometric forms such as these accentuate the rhythm of the exterior design as well as create beautiful oval interior spaces. The building's Federal style features include a ground floor colonnade with delicate fluted Doric columns, elliptical fanlighted entrances with flanking side lights, colossal pilasters, elaborate iron balconies, and an ornamental balustrade over the cornice.

The American historian, William Hickling Prescott, lived at number 55 Beacon Street from 1845-1859.  Prescott was one of the first English-speaking historians to write about the Spanish Empire.  His books included histories of the Spanish monarchs and the conquests of Mexico and Peru.  Some have been translated into several languages and remain in print today.

William Prescott
William Hickling Prescott
Reproduced from the Dictionary
of American Portraits, published by Dover Publications, Inc., in 1967

Prescott made major renovations to the house.

He built a rear addition, which included his extensive library on the second floor, and a third floor study, now faithfully restored, where he wrote his History of the Conquest of Peru andPhilip II.

  Study Prescott's Study
After Prescott died in 1859, his widow continued to live in the house until her death in 1869, when it was purchased by her nephew, Franklin Gordon Dexter. The Dexter family replaced the original spiral staircase with the present colonial revival staircase.

In 1944 the house was purchased by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

  Best Bed Chamber
Best Bed Chamber

The extensive collections of furniture and decorative arts have been generously donated by Colonial Dames.  Chinese export porcelain and English ceramics are permanently on view.

The remarkable costume collection, dating from the 18th through the 20th centuries, includes dresses, fans, shoes, parasols and children's clothing, selections of which are on continuous display. The collection is available to researchers by appointment.


White cotton dress with tucks
and lace insertions, 1900-1910


William Hickling Prescott House  ~  55 Beacon Street  ~  Boston, MA 02108  ~ Telephone: 617-742-3190


Beacon Hill Garden Club Tour Gourmet Box Luncheon


Prescott House will be open for tours June through September on Wed, Thurs. and Sat. from 12-4pm. Tours are given at 12:15, 1:30 and 2:45 p.m. 

The house will be closed on Wed. July 3rd and Thurs., July 4th, but will be open on Saturday, July 5th.

Our dates change in September: we will be open on Thurs. and Sat. only, same hours and tour times.

Admission is $7. We are a member of the Blue Star Museums Initiative: admission for active military personnel and their families is free.

Group Tours: By appointment
Rates available upon request

Directions:  The house is opposite the Boston Common, under which there is a parking garage. It is within
easy walking distance of the Arlington and Park Street subway stops.