Imitation, The Highest Form of Flattery?
When the American Revolution erupted in 1775, the lavish estates along Tory Row (or the houses of the seven families that lived along Brattle Street and were incredibly wealthy, politically conservative, and loyal to the British crown) were seized by the Continental Army. Some were used to house the officers, others as hospitals, and one was the home and headquarters of General George Washington. This is all a part of the standard history of the American Revolution, what is interesting is that, while Cambridge residents were quick to condemn the lifestyle of excess that these Tory estates represented, Brattle Street returned to being the most fashionable address in the city and these homes, that represented the excess of the Tories, became the most sought after houses soon after the end of the American Revolution. In the nineteenth century a number of Georgian houses, similar to the Tory estates, were built along Brattle Street and in the first half of the twentieth century, Georgian Revival houses became the most popular style in Old Cambridge. Brattle Street is now more Georgian than it was in the Georgian era. In fact two of the Tory houses, the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House (owned by Judge Joseph Lee during the Revolution) and Elmwood (built for Lt. Governor Oliver) have been replicated in Cambridge. John Vassall’s house (which was also George Washington’s headquarters and the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) has been replicated at least once, in South Dakota. George Washington’s residence on Brattle Street is certainly a part of its status, but it is remarkable how pervasive the style of the Tories became. If they say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” then what do you say about the imitator of my enemy?