Royall House and Slave Quarters

Medford
MA

Isaac Royall House in Medford, MA

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QUICK FACTS
  • John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, founded the estate and called it Ten Hills Farm.
  • The original property contained nearly 600 acres.
  • The current house was completed in 1739 by Isaac Royall, Sr, who died the same year.
  • Isaac Royall Jr., a Loyalist, inherited the mansion and lived in it for 36 years.
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The Royall House is considered one of the finest 18th-century buildings in New England.

In 1732 Isaac Royall, Sr., a wealthy merchant, retired to the American colonies and purchased Ten Hills Farm, a property of almost 600 acres in Medford. It had originally belonged to Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, who had constructed a farmhouse there in 1637. Royall immediately commissioned the rebuilding of the residence, which expanded upon the original brick structure. The house was completed in 1739, the same year that he died.

The house was passed on to Royall’s son, Isaac Royall, Jr., who resided there in a lavish manner from 1739 until 1775. Despite his apparent sympathy toward the patriots’ cause, Royall fled to England at the outbreak of hostilities. He never returned.

During the war that followed, General John Stark headquartered there before the British evacuation in 1776. Washington, General Charles Lee, and General John Sullivan also visited the mansion during different times. Richard Cary, Washington’s aid-de-camp in 1776, resided in the mansion from 1782 - 84.

The estate was finally returned to the heirs of Isaac Royall in 1806. They subsequently sold it; a portion of the money was used in the founding of Harvard Law School.

Slave Quarters

The Slave Quarters, to the rear of the house, is the only such structure in the northern U.S. It is a small building, constructed in 1732 by Isaac Royall, Sr., as a house for the 27 black men and women he brought from Antigua.

Associated People

I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. This, with its echo of the Declaration (self-evident) was Jefferson at his most terse. Except for the phrase in usufruct — a legalism meaning the right to use property for a certain time — Jefferson’s words could be chiseled in stone, or shouted on the hustings.

Richard Brookhiser
James Madison (2011)