THIS land, originally part of the one hundred sixty acre Oliver grant became the property of John White in 1650. Then owned successively by Benjamin, Edward, and Benjamin White, it went at the latter’s death in 1790 to his two sons Thomas and Oliver.1 West of Oliver Whyte’s triangle a large lot was sold before 1822 to John Tappan, who built the present stone house and moved in on July 11, 1822.2 It is said to have been the one hundredth house built in Brookline, but we cannot vouch for that statement.3 Tappan did not occupy the place for long, being succeeded by William Ropes who also lived there for only a few years. It was purchased by Samuel Philbrick in 1830, and it is with this family that it is particularly identified.
Samuel Philbrick was very much interested in the antislavery movement, many of the friends whom he entertained at his home being well known Boston abolitionists. It is said that the house was a station on the “underground railway”. He was very active in the First Parish Church, and one Sunday brought a little negro girl to sit in his pew. After church he was waited upon by a committee with the request that the child be placed in the pew regularly reserved for negroes, which was above the front gallery. This Mr. Philbrick declined to do, maintaining his right to have her worship with his own family if he so desired. Eventually feeling grew so strong that he withdrew from the church never to return. William and Ellen Crafts, fugitive slaves from Georgia, were concealed for three days in the hired man’s room of this house, finally being driven into Boston by Theodore Parker and John Parkman and set on their way to Canada.4
This house shows an interesting combination of Adam and Classic Revival features, which is what one would expect from its date of building. The reeded dados and doors with sunk panels are earlier in type than the long recessed windows, marble mantels, and treatment of the front door.
1 Land Ownership in Brookline, Maps I-VI.
2 Manuscript Notes of Dr. Pierce. Brookline Public Library.
3 Historical Sketches of Brookline, Woods, Page 207.
4 History of Brookline, By John Gould Curtis, 257-261.
Source: Little, Nina Fletcher. Some Old Brookline Houses: built in this Massachusetts town before 1825 and still standing in 1948. Brookline: Brookline Historical Society, ©1949. pp. 129-130. (Brookline Public Library: [Brookline Room] 974.45 B83L)