Hancock-Clarke House

Lexington
MA

Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington

QUICK FACTS
  • On the night of 18 April 1775, first Paul Revere and then William Dawes — traveling separate routes from Boston to avoid capture — reached the house to report news of advancing British troops.
  • After making their escape, Hancock and Adams fled north and moved from place to place, staying away from Boston, until they went to Philadelphia to attend the Continental Congress, which convened 10 May.
  • The structure consists of two frame sections, erected by Rev. Hancock, first in 1698 and then in 1734.
  • The house was originally across the street; in 1896 the Lexington Historical Society saved it from demolition by acquiring and moving it.
  • The Hancock-Clarke House now serves as headquarters for the Lexington Historical Society.
LINKS
LOCATION

View Larger Map

Completed in 1737 by John Hancock's grandfather, Reverend John Hancock, the house is now a museum.

The only extant residence associated with John Hancock, this was his boyhood home. In 1744, after the death of his father, the 7-year-old boy came to live at this house with his grandfather until 1750 (after which he joined his uncle, Thomas Hancock, a wealthy Boston merchant, who adopted him.)

Succeeding Hancock as minister in 1752, the Reverend Jonas Clarke and his wife, who was a cousin to John Hancock, reared twelve children in the parsonage. As a supporter of the Patriot cause, Clarke encouraged revolutionaries to use his home as a meeting place and refuge.

On the night of 18 April 1775, patriot leaders Hancock and Samuel Adams were visiting there. Around midnight, after everyone had gone to bed, Paul Revere and later William Dawes, warning the countryside of the approach of British troops, galloped up and in formed the household. They also delivered the warning from Dr. Joseph Warren that Hancock and Adams would likely be arrested. After some deliberation, Revere and Dawes proceeded to Concord; Hancock and Adams fled north towards Woburn.

Restored to its 18th-century appearance, and very well maintained, the house is open to the public for guided tours.

[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)