Samuel Parkman House – Boston

Samuel Parkman House, Bowdoin Square, Boston, MA by Philip Harry 17-2Collections_Parkman-House_cso

Samuel Parkman built this house @ 5 Bowdoin Square in Boston MA this painting is by Philip Harry in 1847

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The Parkman House

Samuel Parkman house, Bowdoin Square, Boston, by Philip Harry, 1847. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Among the many treasures in the Society’s collection is an extraordinarily well-preserved circa 1847 oil painting by Philip Harry of a grand Boston home that no longer exists: the late eighteenth-century Samuel Parkman House on Bowdoin Square in the West End.

Founded in 1788, Bowdoin Square had, by the early nineteenth century, become one of the most prestigious residential areas of the city and home to many of Boston’s leading families, including the Parkmans. (Samuel Parkman, who built the house around 1789, was a successful merchant who made a fortune in real estate as Boston grew into one of the most important cities in the new republic.)

Sadly, as the nineteenth century progressed, Bowdoin Square became increasingly run-down – an area noted more for its boarding houses and snake oil salesmen than its majestic houses. With the exception of the Harrison Gray Otis House (Boston’s only extant free-standing eighteenth-century townhouse, now a world-class house museum owned by Historic New England), all of the great private houses, including the Samuel Parkman House, were demolished.


  • Samuel Parkman house (built c. 1816). “The large granite double house which stood for years at the western end of Bowdoin Square was built about 1816 by Hon. Samuel Parkman, a rich merchant. He was father of Dr.George Parkman who was murdered in 1849 by John White Webster … [and] grandfather of Francis Parkman, the historian.”[7]
  • Bowdoin Square (established 1788) in BostonMassachusetts was located in the West End. In the 18th and 19th centuries it featured residential houses, leafy trees, a church, hotel, theatre and other buildings. Among the notables who have lived in the square: physician Thomas Bulfinch; merchant Kirk Boott;[1][2] and mayor Theodore Lyman.[3] The urban renewal project in the West End in the 1950s removed Green Street and Chardon Street, which formerly ran into the square, and renamed some existing streets; it is now a traffic intersection at Cambridge Street, Bowdoin Street, and New Chardon Street.[4][5]Bowdoin Square is served by the MBTA Blue Line station Bowdoin.


Map & GPS coordinates to 5 Bowdoin Street, Boston, MA:,+Boston,+MA+02114/@42.3610388,-71.0631019,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89e3709ac30c71d9:0x1e634f5b9d145ee3?gl=us


samuel parkman house

Parkman House, Boston

The Parkman House at Bowdoin Square in Boston, in 1880. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

samuel parkman house 1880.jpg


Bowdoin Square in 2015:

bowdoin square 2015.jpg
The Bowdoin Square area was once a prominent residential neighborhood, and these two attached granite houses were built around 1816 by Samuel Parkman, a wealthy merchant who hired Charles Bulfinch to design them. Samuel Parkman’s daughter Sarah lived in the house to the left, along with her husband, Edward Blake, Jr., who died in 1817, shortly after they moved in. Sarah lived here until her death in 1847. Parkman himself lived in the house to the right until he died in 1824, and another daughter, Elizabeth, lived here with her husband, Robert Gould Shaw, until around 1840.

Both the Parkman and Shaw families were prominent in Boston’s 19th century upper class. Samuel Parkman’s grandson was Francis Parkman, a noted author and historian, and Robert Gould Shaw was one of the wealthiest men in the city. When he and his wife left this house in 1840, they moved to the other side of Beacon Hill, to a house overlooking Boston Common at the corner of Beacon and Joy Streets. By 1846, he had an estimated net worth of a million dollars, much of which he had inherited from his father-in-law. Shaw’s grandson and namesake, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, would go on to achieve fame as the commanding officer of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first all-black units to fight in the Civil War (made into the movie “Glory”).

The two houses stood here at Bowdoin Square until the early 1900s, when they were demolished and replaced with a commercial building. This building is no longer standing either, nor is anything else from the 1880 photo. The entire West End section of the city, aside from a few buildings, was demolished in the late 1950s as part of an urban renewal project, similar to what was done at nearby Scollay Square around the same time, Even the road networks were changed, and today Bowdoin Square bears essentially no resemblance to its earlier appearance.

samuel parkman

Samuel Parkman 


Samuel Parkman

Birthdate: August 22, 1751
Birthplace: Westborough, Worcester, Masschusetts
Death: Died June 11, 1824
Immediate Family: Son of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman and Hannah Parkman
Husband of Sarah Parkman and Sarah Parkman (Rogers)
Father of Samuel Bert Parkman; Hannah Tuckerman; Susannah Thomson; John Parkman; Sarah Parkman; Abigail Parkman;Susannah Parkman; Hannah Tuckerman; Elizabeth Willard Shaw;Rev. Francis Parkman; George Parkman, Famous Murder Victim;Samuel Henry Parkman; Daniel Parkman; Elizabeth Parkman andGeorge Parkman, M.D. « less
Brother of Elizabeth Parkman; William Parkman; Sarah Parkman;Susannah Parkman; Alexander Parkman; Breck Parkman; John Parkman; Anna Sophia Brigham; Hannah Parkman; Elias Parkmanand Robert Breck Parkman « less
Half brother of Mary Forbes; Sgt. Ebenezer Parkman; Thomas Parkman; Lydia Parkman and Lucy Forbes


Samuel Parkman

Samuel Parkman (August 22, 1751 – June 11, 1824) and Sarah Rogers had five children: Elizabeth (1785), Francis (1788), George (1790), Samuel (1791), and Daniel (1794). Samuel Parkman had also had six children by his previous marriage to Sarah Shaw.[2] Samuel Parkman, George’s father and family patriarch, had bought up low-lying lands and income properties in Boston’s West End.[3] He also founded and was part owner of the towns of Parkman, Ohio and Parkman, Maine.[4][5] His sons from his first marriage oversaw theOhio properties, while his second set of boys were responsible for the Maineparcel. Samuel’s daughters inherited wealth as well. The most notable was George’s sister Elizabeth Willard Parkman, whose spouse Robert Gould Shaw (1776 – 1853), grandfather of Robert Gould Shaw (October 10, 1837 – July 18, 1863, Union Army colonel during the American Civil War), grew his wife’s share of the fortune to become the senior partner in the most powerful commercial house in a city glutted with the proceeds of the China Trade.[6]

The eleven Parkman scions united in marriage with the Beacon Hill families of Blake, Cabot, Mason, Sturgis, Tilden, and Tuckerman. Of his eleven offspring, Samuel chose George as the one to administer the Parkman estate.[7]

Samuel Parkman, at this time only twenty-eight years old, was 
already a prosperous merchant in Boston. He had married, half a 
dozen years before, Sarah Shaw — the daughter Sallie to whom Mr. 
Parkman so often refers. At this time he had four children- 
Samuel born in 1774, Sarah in 1775, Hannah in 1777 and the baby 
Abigail six days old. Little Abigail lived until 1807, and we trust 
realized all her grandfather's wish for her. In 1780 the " fine fat 



informs y^ Sally had a Dauter born on ye 14th at 4 a. m. 
was baptized p. m. and Jailed Abigail. The praise and 

dauter " Sukey was born on June 4, who lived until 1824 and was 
the grandmother of Col. Robert G. Shaw, and one other child, 
John, was born in 1782. Two months later "dauter" Sally died, 
and in 1784 Samuel married again, Sarah Rogers, and had five chil- 
dren, among them Francis, who was the father of Francis Park- 
man, the historian, a corresponding member and generous donor, 
as also has been his sister, Miss Eliza S. Parkman, to our Historical 

Samuel Parkman's store was on Merchants' Row. His house 
stood on the corner of Green and Chardon streets. The Electric 
Railway Station now occupies his old site. He built two houses 
for his two daughters on a part of his large garden, which still 
stand facing Bowdoin Square between Green and Cambridge streets. 

Samuel Parkman, with Elias Hasket Derby, of Salem, Samuel 
and William Shaw, of Boston, and a few other merchants of the 
day, amassed a large fortune in exporting indigo, tar, turpentine, 
masts, etc., and bringing back from India and China vessels laden 
with the rich manufactures of those countries. 

In 1801 he presented to the Westborough Church the first bell 
which had ever rung to call the people to worship, and the day 
that they voted their thanks to him they decided to add a steeple 
to their plain meeting-house. This was afterwards taken down, and 
the " old Arcade," as we know it, may have resembled the church 
as it was in the minister's day more nearly than the building re- 
constructed from the recollections of our "oldest inhabitants." 
The bell, cast bj- Paul Revere, is now in the belfry of the Baptist 

Among the portraits hanging in Faneuil Hall are two presented 
by Samuel Parkman; one of Peter Faneuil, by Col. Henry Sar- 
gent, the other a full-length of Washington, standing by his white 
horse, by Stuart. 

Mr. Parkman also subscribed $4,000 in 1798 towards the building 


Glory to God & may y*^ Child be a rich Blessing ! Mr. Eb"" 
Maynard jun' from Conway to see me. 

21. I preached once more on Mat: 22. 39. 40. p m 
Repeated Sermon on 2 Cor. 3. 14. last clause. N. B. Mrs. 

of the war-frigate Boston, given as a free-will offering to the Gov- 
ernment by the merchants of Boston. Only one subscription was 
larger than his. 

Samuel Parkman died June 18, 1824, aged seventy-three. 

A niece of his second wife writes : " My remembrances of him 
are limited to the Sunday calls, which he often made at our house, 
after the morning service. 

" He was a very genial man, and so fond of children that he 
never forgot to bring us some sugar-plums, which were a much 
greater rarity then than in our modern days. 

"After making his call, he would step to the sideboard, put his 
package into a covered dish and go, without saying anything about 
his gift. You may judge of the excitement, after he had gone, in 
opening and sharing its contents." 

An old man still living in Westborough, at the age of ninety-five, 
describes him as a very straight, stoutly built man, fine looking, 
who made very little talk with any one. He tells the following 
story of him, after he became one of the wealthiest men in New 
England : 

He owned man)' hoiases, which he rented. One day- one of his 
tenants dropped into his store, made some small purchases and 
asked : 

" Who can I get to carry these things up? " 

" I'll carry them up," said Mr. Parkman, from another part of 
the store. So, when the time came for closing the door that night, 
Mr. Parkman took the packages and knocked at his tenant's 
house. The man came to the door, saw Mr. Parkman. and was over- 
whelmed with confusion. 

He delivered the bundles with the remark : " When I began the 
world, I did my own lugging." the

The above excerpt is from pages 103-105 of The Diary of Reverend Ebenezer Parkman. Link below:

revere house boston PD_Revere_House_Boston_Trade_Card_Mid-C19_Obverse

revere house bowdoin square boston PD_Revere_House_Boston_Trade_Card_Mid-C19_Reverse-cropped

With the loss of so much of the West End, the NEHGS painting of the Parkman House transforms from a lovely scene to a valuable record of lost Boston. And there’s more than just the documentation of a demolished house in this painting – to the right of the house is a corner of Bowdoin Square Baptist Church, a site occupied today by the circa 1930 New England Telephone & Telegraph Company building. In the bottom right corner are two African American porters (an extraordinarily rare depiction of African Americans in a nineteenth-century painted view of Boston) from the nearby Revere House, one of Boston’s most prestigious mid-nineteenth-century hotels. Named after the famous Paul Revere, this luxurious Bowdoin Square hotel hosted many of the luminaries of the day, including Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Ulysses S. Grant, and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of Great Britain). Top it all off, the celebrated Daniel Webster (who was a member of NEHGS!) used the hotel’s portico to address crowds at political rallies!

The story of the Parkman family is an inspiring and tragic one. Samuel’s son, Dr. George Parkman, became one of the leading lights of Boston. He endowed the Parkman Professorship of Anatomy and Physiology at Harvard (his alma mater) and donated a large piece of land in the West End to build Harvard Medical School – home today of the world-famous Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Parkman’s friend, John James Audubon, even named a bird – the Parkman Wren (Troglodytes Parkmanii) – after him.

It all came to an ugly end when George was murdered and dismembered in 1849 by Dr. John White Webster. The murder was one of the most sensational events of nineteenth-century Boston and rapidly became an international event via the fast-growing popular press. Ironically, Dr. Parkman was murdered at Harvard Medical School, built on the land he donated to the university. The city was rocked to the core and the Parkman family never recovered (they lived as recluses for the rest of their lives). Like so much art adorning the Society’s walls, this painting is both beautiful and historical, and it gives us a link to Boston’s rich and vibrant past.

The Parkman House





One Response to “Samuel Parkman House – Boston”

  1. Parkman Boston Brahmin | Parkman Genealogy Says:

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