“George Washington slept here.” It’s a pretty common refrain around New England, and there are several residences open to the public where Washington caught forty winks. The grandest of these is the Cambridge manse that is better known to the public as the residence of another colossus, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
At the height of the poet's fame, strangers knocking on his door were much less interested in meeting the wordsmith than in getting a tour of the house that served as General Washington’s hallowed headquarters during the 1775-1776 siege of Boston. "The house was the first major headquarters of the American Revolution and Washington's second-longest held headquarters," says Site Manager Jim Shea. "During this critical first year of the American Revolution the house became a center for diplomacy and strategy."
As the decades have gone by, however, Washington’s residency in the house has faded from the public consciousness. Now, the National Park Service is attempting to alter that by changing the Brattle Street mansion’s designation from the “Longfellow National Historic Site” to “Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.”
"The site's connection to George Washington had become obscured over time," says Superintendent Myra Harrison. "This redesignation will help restore our links with this important part of our past."
The redesignation was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 22, and to celebrate, the public is invited to an open house on Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22. National Park Service staff will lead free guided tours every half hour between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (There will also be free tours focusing on Washington’s time in the home on March 17, Evacuation Day, every hour between 1 and 4 p.m.)
The Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site is at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/long.
Photo of Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site by Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe