The Hancock-Clarke House is a two-story colonial-era dwelling located at 36 Hancock Street in Lexington, Massachusetts (about 14 miles west of Boston). This 1737 house was the boyhood home of Revolutionary leader John Hancock, and was where he and Samuel Adams hid from British authorities at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. It is only about one-quarter mile away from the Lexington Green were the historic first battle occurred.
The first home on the site was
built in 1698 by the Reverend John Hancock, shortly after his arrival in
Lexington from Newton, MA (another town just west of Boston which, at the time,
was a part of Cambridge). The original house
was quite small. The size was likely because
Hancock had little money to build a home, as he had a very modest
upbringing. Over time, there is
evidence that the family’s financial status improved. For example, rankings at Harvard College were
determined not by merit, but by socioeconomic status. Hancock graduated 13 of 14 in his class; his
youngest son, Ebenezer, graduated 15 of 42.
In 1737, his son Thomas, a wealthy Boston merchant, constructed an
addition to the family’s home.
Reverend John Hancock was the
grandfather of the patriot of the same name, who was the first person to ink
his signature to the country’s Declaration of Independence. When the younger John was just a boy (1744),
his father died. He moved into the large
home with his grandfather and stayed for six years until he was adopted by his successful
uncle, Thomas Hancock.
In 1752, the Reverend Jonas
Clarke succeeded Hancock as the area’s pastor and moved his family into the
parsonage. During his time in the home,
twelve children were born. Clarke was an
ardent supporter of the revolutionary cause.
His fiery sermons were a source of inspiration to the colonial patriots. He even allowed the militia to hold their
meetings in the home.
On the night of April 18, 1775,
John Hancock was visiting his grandfather and Reverend Clarke at the
house. William Dawes rode to Lexington
from Boston to warn Hancock and Adams that, not only were the British coming
their way, but the two patriots were to be arrested for their revolutionary
actions. Nearby, the militia were
preparing for their brief battle on Lexington Green. It was the dawn of the American Revolution.
The parsonage was facing
demolition in 1896 until the Lexington Historical Society stepped up and
purchased the house, with one condition.
In order to preserve the home, it had to be moved across the street from
its original site. Several decades
later, in the 1960s, the society had the opportunity to purchase the original
land. It completed the purchase and
moved the Hancock-Clarke House back to its former parcel. In 1971, the house was added to the National Register
of Historic Places. It underwent a large-scale structural restoration in
The house was transformed into a
museum by the historical society. It
still contains several pieces of furniture, décor, and portraits owned by the
Hancock and Clarke families who once lived there. The museum’s exhibit area also contains
several very interesting items related to the events of the early morning hours
of April 19, 1775, including William Diamond’s drum and Major Pitcairn’s
The Hancock-Clarke house is open
to the public for tours from April through October. It is only open on the weekends through May
30 and then opens daily for the rest of the season. Tours are offered several times a day.
In 1798, Paul Revere wrote a letter to Jeremy Belknap:
“I alarmed almost every house, til I got to
Lexington. I found Messrs. Hancock and Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s”