Boston and the American Revolution are forever intertwined with stories like the Boston Massacre and death of Crispus Attucks, the ride of Paul Revere, and the Siege of Boston. The Dillaway-Thomas house is one of the surviving anchors that links Boston directly to the Revolution. The house was built in 1750 as a parsonage for the First Church in Roxbury. Reverend Amos Adams lived in the house with his family until 1775 when they offered the house, with its exceptional vantage point, to General John Thomas to act as headquarters during the Revolutionary War. General Thomas brought 2,000 troops to the Siege of Boston, effectively blocking the only land route off the peninsula and forcing the British out of the city by sea. The house then acted as a women’s day school and home for international students for many years under the ownership of Martha and Charles Dillaway. In 1927 the house was almost demolished, but local residents resisted under the leadership of the Roxbury Historical Society, preserving it and turning it into a museum in the 1930s. It remains home to the Roxbury Historical Society today.
The Dillaway-Thomas house first underwent major renovations in 1984 after two large fires in the 1970s, and later became the headquarters of Roxbury State Park in 1992. Today, staff on site teach visitors about its particular role and the broader history of Roxbury. From 2017-2019, after brainstorming sessions, hands-on workshops, stakeholder meetings, and community outreach guided plans, restoration work revitalized the property. On the main house, rotting wood was repaired and the siding, exterior paint, and masonry were restored. The annex was also updated with new windows and doors. Systems were updated to meet modern life safety codes. The visitor experience was prioritized in the restoration, and the interior was restored to its former glory with a historically accurate color pallet, the landscaping was redone to be more welcoming, and new interactive exhibits were created to show the history of the home and of Roxbury.
“The Dillaway-Thomas House is an excellent example of how the rich and full history of Boston extends to all neighborhoods, not just downtown. The state’s investment here should serve as inspiration to historic cities across the country—there are stories to be told in every neighborhood,” says Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “While we know the rich tales of Boston’s Revolutionary history on the Freedom Tail, our Colonial history is bigger and our story goes far beyond the colonial era. We need to celebrate and bring attention to historic places throughout the city which are a central part of our shared heritage.”
Campbell Construction Group LLC
Clarendon Hill Consulting LLC
Dr. Karilyn Crockett
Roxbury Historical Society