Manufactory House

Tremont Street at Hamilton Place, Downtown Boston

Located on the site of what is today Suffolk Law School, Manufactory House was a two-story brick building that served as a refuge for Boston’s most destitute residents—the sick, poor, and homeless. The Province of Massachusetts Bay had built it in 1754 to provide a place to weave textiles and employment for Bostonians.

In the aftermath of the French and Indian War and the Seven Years’ War (a much larger conflict involving the major European powers), the British sought to impose taxes on imports to the American colonies to help fill Britain’s coffers. Protests, boycotts, and often violent harassment of tax collectors and colonial officials led the British to send troops to occupy Boston, an epicenter of the anti-Royalist actions, to restore order. Arriving at Long Wharf at the beginning of October 1768, the unwelcome troops needed quarters in light of the coming winter and the governor determined that Manufactory House would be an appropriate location.

Depiction of Manufactory House from the 1930s. Source: Boston Landmarks Commission, City of Boston.

On October 19, the sheriff, lieutenant governor, and the chief justice arrived at Manufactory House to evict the tenants. (Although weaving still took place in the building’s basement, by this time Manufactory House was chiefly a housing site for Boston’s neediest.) The residents, having secured the building’s doors and windows, refused to vacate the premises. Eventually, a crowd hostile to the eviction formed outside, and British troops were called in. With a tense stand-off ensuing and the possibility of violence erupting, Governor Bernard ordered the withdrawal of the troops.

Although a relatively brief event, the stand-off at Manufactory House was highly significant as an act of resistance of Bostonians to armed British troops. Moreover, it illuminates the deep roots of anti-eviction and housing rights work of contemporary organizations such as City Life/Vida Urbana and the Boston Tenant Coalition.

Manufactory House became a British military hospital following the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. After independence, it briefly served (1791-1792) as the original home of the Massachusetts Historical Society and later housed the Massachusetts Bank. Razed around 1806, Manufactory House is memorialized with a small plaque on the Hamilton Street side of the Suffolk University Law School building.

Marker on the Hamilton Street side of Suffolk Law School.

Getting there:

Red or Green Line to Park Street Station. The site is diagonally across (looking leftward) from the steps of the Park Street Church on the corner of Tremont and Park Streets.

To learn more:

Richard Archer, As If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Nearby points of interest:

Orpheum Theater, 1 Hamilton Place. The Orpheum is the original home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and one of the oldest theaters in the United States. Built in 1852, it has long been one of Boston’s top concert venues.

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