Happy Friday readers.
Today’s edition of Friday Fantasies is dedicated to the celebration of laborers since Labor Day is just a few short days away. I though I’d make today’s post about the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Massachusetts. I know slavery isn’t often though of as a northern thing ( thus why the Royall slave quarters are thought of as the only ones in the Northern U.S.) and that slavery wasn’t really what they had in mind when they started Labor Day, so forgive the stretch. Don’t get me wrong, slavery is a social injustice that left a deep wound in the heart of American history, and I believe that the best way to avoid reliving the past is to learn about it, good or bad. Accordingly, the Royall house and Slave quarters really are quite a gem, as they tell the story of a frequently forgotten chapter in the story of slavery.
The site was first owned by Colonial Governor John Winthrop, who built a house here in 1637. That home was replaced with a 2-1/2 story brick house, which remains today as part of the main block of the house. Isaac Royall, a weathy merchant from Antigua (heavily involved in the rum and slave trades) purchased the house in 1732. Renovation of the original home was started in 1732 and lasted for roughly 5 years, during which time Royall built the slave quarters and brought 27 African slaves from Antigua. Ten Hills Farm, as the house and property came to be known, soon passed to Issac Royall, Jr., who continued remodeling the house into the impressive Georgian mansion we see now. The Royalls, a Loyalist family, eventually fled the house for the safety of England during the American Revolution. General John Stark set-up his headquarters in the vacant house shortly before the evacuation of Boston. General Washington is rumored to have paid a visit to the home, where he may have interrogated British soliders taken prisoner who were held on the property. The house passed through many hands following the Revolution, but that’s not what makes it unique. It is unique, of course, for the only intact slave quarters still in existence in New England, as well as its elegantly refined Georgian details. Since this isn’t a blog about social injustice and the past sins (however numerous they are) of our American forebears, I won’t go into great detail about slavery in the north, but I will leave you with a great link to a blog called US Slave that talks in detail about slavery and how it ties to the Issac Royal House. Please check it out because it’s very interesting!
Below is a picture of the Royall House from C.S. Manegold’s site. C.S. Manegold wrote a book about the Ten Hills Farm and forgotten slavery in the North. As you can see, the facade of the main house is wood made to look like stone with very classical details. The level of detail and craftsmanship that went into this facade were a testament to the Royall family’s status in society. The facade pictured below is actually the rear, or garden, facade. The buildings to the right are the “out kitchen” or slave quarters.
The front facade, which is less ornateyet still classically detail, is pictured below. Note the spandrels between the windows and the ranking of the windows, typical in the Georgian and Federal periods. This picture came from Artwanted.com, and I believe the prints are available for sale if you search for Warren Ballard.
Well that’s all for today. I’d highly recommend reading up on slavery in the North and the role that the Royall House plays in making sure it isn’t forgotten!