The Pierce House, located at 24 Oakton Avenue in Dorchester, MA, is one of oldest surviving homes from the colonial era. The house was originally built around 1683 by the Minot family and purchased by Thomas Pierce in 1696. Over the years, several alterations and additions were made to the home, but the central structure has remained intact. Ten generations of the Pierce family resided on the property before it was sold to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) in 1968.
Robert Pierce and his wife, Ann Grenway,
traveled to the New World from England in the 1630s. After they were married, they inherited a
six-acre portion of land in what is now known as Dorchester from Ann’s father. Robert and Ann’s son, Thomas, married and had
eight children of his own. Thomas Pierce
added to the land over his lifetime. In
1696, he purchased 20 acres from neighbor James Minot. The land purchase included the home, now
known as the Pierce House, which was constructed in 1683. The house was considered very large and
fashionable for its time. It consisted
of two and one-half stories with two rooms on each floor and attic. The home
was adorned with a gabled roof and small diamond-paned windows.
The later generations that lived in the
house added to it so that they could create enough space for their large and
often multigenerational families.
Additions were added to both sides of the house to add additional bedrooms
and workspace. In the rear of the house,
a lean-to was constructed to create more cooking space, at a time when families
were using rooms for specific purposes (as opposed to one large room that
served as a kitchen, parlor and possibly a bedroom too).
Perhaps the most notable resident of the
house was Colonel Samuel Pierce, who lived in the home throughout his entire
life. He inherited the property from his father, Samuel Sr., in 1768. Samuel Jr. served in the King’s militia prior
to the start of the American Revolution.
Quickly, he made his sympathies with the Patriot cause clear, left the
English service, and joined a colonial military group. He participated in the important fortification
of Dorchester Heights and helped oust the British soldiers from the area. Over the next ten years, Colonel Pierce recorded
the significant events unfolding around him. His letters are important
historical documents tracing America’s battle for independence.
In 1967, the last Pierce resident passed
away and the property was passed on to his son, Curt and his daughter, Anne Grenway
Pierce Shaughnessey. Anne had been living with her ailing father at
the time of her death. The siblings determined
that at this point, it was prudent to follow the terms of her paternal grandmother’s
(Antoinette Pierce) will and sell the property to a buyer that would preserve
its rich history. The Society for the
Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) purchased
the property in 1968. Now, they open
the building to schools for tours and educational programs. Several times a year (dates can be found on
Historic New England’s website) it is open to the public for tours.
It was once noted, interestingly, that
Ann Grenway Pierce was the first woman to reside on the property, and Anne
Grenway Pierce Shaughnessey was the last.