Louisburg Square

Plan: S. P. Fuller, 1826; houses built 1834–1848National Register of Historic Places

Once referred to as "the Hub of the Hub," the private cobblestone street and small park of Louisburg Square epitomize Beacon Hill. Charles Bulfinch had designed a larger semicircular green with a crescent of houses curving around the uphill side. It was an advance on his 1793 Franklin Place design, which had first introduced the garden square, but was too ambitious for the Mount Vernon Proprietors. The much simpler Fuller plan was completed in 1826, but sales of the lots and construction of the row houses lagged behind Mount Vernon Street.

By 1844 most houses were finished when the owners met to arrange maintenance of their garden and street. Since the oval was a visual ornament, not a recreational space, they voted to enclose it with an iron fence. There was no gate until 1929. The initial simple arrangement of eighteen elm trees and lawn has seen several tree species, seventeen different shrubs, flower beds, and a fountain come and go.

The Louisburg Square Proprietors were the first home association in the country. The records of their meetings have been maintained through all the years. They taxed themselves to maintain their sidewalks, street, and park, sharing the firewood when the trees were trimmed. Christmas Eve caroling with bell ringers and candles in windows started here in the late nineteenth century.

While the park has changed considerably, the houses, at least on the outside, remain largely unchanged. On the west side of the square, the houses are mainly bowfronts with areaways providing light into the front basement rooms. In contrast, on the east side, finished later, only a few shallow swells interrupt the flat façades. For most of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Society of St. Margaret occupied the three houses at the northeast corner of the square. The sisters lived plainly and quietly, sometimes hanging laundry on the roof. Celebrity owners drastically altered the interiors of several houses, bringing the ultimate in luxury to the core of puritan Boston. Today, it is one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods in the country, with townhouses fetching over $10 million.

Local tip - the "s" in Louisburg is not silent - think St. Louis, not King Louis.

Image: ©Yonward