By Katherine Bergholtz
The William Hickling Prescott House Museum at 55 Beacon St. is part of a remarkable collection of more than 60 historical properties known as “Great American Treasures” which are featured this month in a new website of the same name. The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America created the Great American Treasures website presenting Society properties. These treasures are spread from one corner of America to the other, and both together and individually they tell the story of How AMERICA became AMERICA. These properties offer an intimate, authentic glimpse into how Americans lived, loved, worked, cooked, decorated, and socialized as they created a brand-new country.
The Prescott House at 55 Beacon Street and the adjoining home at 54 Beacon were built in 1808 for the merchant James Smith Colburn and later became the home of the 19th-century historian William Hickling Prescott. These Federal period twin townhouses designed by Asher Benjamin overlook the Boston Common. Walking by, it is hard to miss Prescott House with its bow-front windows, Doric columns, elaborate iron balconies and ornamental balustrade above its facade. The preserved interior, period furniture and decorative arts present a glimpse into life in the 1800s. The iconic stairway, parlor and landing are featured in “Little Women,” the recently released film adaption by Greta Gerwig of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.
By going to GreatAmericanTreasures.org, you can learn about every single one of these historical sites. You can also find the properties that suit your interests, your location, your travel plans and the needs of your traveling companions. Great American Treasures have also been curated into five collections, making it easier for you to discover the ones you most want to see. The collections are: The Colonial Continent, Homes for a New Nation, Greek Revival Everywhere, West Across the Continent and History on the Spot.
While historical sites generally focus on the famous, Great American Treasures features a full range of American heroes, scoundrels, pioneers, patriots and the everyday folk who made indelible contributions to the world we know. And, you can see them in their natural surroundings, not framed on a wall or standing atop a pedestal. All 60+ properties—which are each linked to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America —are operated independently of each other. But by joining together as Great American Treasures, they hope to make historical tourism more appealing, accessible and dynamic for the history buffs and those with a burgeoning interest in the authentic story of America.
Visit the William Hickling Prescott House and the NSCDA-MA properties Quincy Homestead and Martin House Farm, as well as its other National Treasures on this new exciting website. Take a field trip to GreatAmericanTreasures.org and step back in time with us to appreciate the formation of our country and the families that contributed to the founding of our country.
Prescott House is on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark. Normally open for tours in the summer visit our nscdama.org or the NSCDA-MA’s Facebook page for schedule updates due to COVID-19.
To learn more about Great American Treasures, visit www.GreatAmericanTreasures.org.