Massachusetts Historical Society Building
|Location||1154 Boylston Street|
|Architect||Edmund M. Wheelwright|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference No.||66000770 |
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||December 21, 1965|
The Massachusetts Historical Society is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history. It is located at 1154 Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the oldest historical society in the United States, having been established in 1791.
The society's building was constructed in 1899 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. In 2016, the Boston Landmarks Commission designated it a Boston Landmark.
The society was founded on January 24, 1791, by Reverend Jeremy Belknap to collect, preserve, and document items of American history. He and the nine other founding members donated family papers, books, and artifacts to the society to form its initial collection. Its first manuscript was published in 1792, becoming the first historical society publication in the United States. The society incorporated in 1794; signatories included William Baylies, Jeremy Belknap, Alden Bradford, Peleg Coffin, Manasseh Cutler, John Davis, Daniel Davis, Aaron Dexter, John Eliot, Nathaniel Freeman, James Freeman, Thaddeus Mason Harris, Isaac Lothrop, George Richards Minot, John Mellen Jr., Thomas Pemberton, William Dandridge Peck, John Prince, Ezekiel Price, James Sullivan, David Sewall, Peter Thacher, William Tudor, Samuel Turell, Dudley Atkins Tyng, James Winthrop, Thomas Wallcut, Redford Webster, and William Wetmore. Indeed, the society claims to have been the only historical collection in the United States until establishment of the New-York Historical Society (1804) and the American Antiquarian Society (1812), after which time the society's collecting activities began to focus primarily on Boston and New England. In 1849, Frances Manwaring Caulkins became the first woman elected to the society's membership.
"The society, for several years after its organization, met in the attic of Faneuil Hall; afterwards rooms were occupied in Hamilton Place, and then in Franklin Street. In 1833 ... quarters on Tremont Street were occupied" in the building of the Provident bank through the 1890s. The society's current building in the Back Bay was built in 1899; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 in recognition of the society's distinctive contribution to historic preservation.
Today the society continues to collect, preserve, and communicate historical information about Massachusetts and the United States. It is now organized in five departments: Library, Publications, Education and Public Programs, Research Programs, the Adams Family Papers, and Administration. Major collections include:
The society continues to produce scholarly books, but now augments these publications with digital editions available through its website and other online resources. The Massachusetts Historical Review has been published annually since 1999.
The fellows of the Massachusetts Historical Society are elected and serve as the society's legal governing body. Notable fellows include:
Larry Ruttman, Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society