Gray Otis & the Mt. Vernon Proprietors
nephew of revolutionary orator James Otis, Harrison Gray Otis served in
the US Congress. He was speaker of the Massachusetts House, and President
of the State Senate, ending his career of public service as the third
Mayor of Boston. Perhaps most importantly though, he served on the legislative
committee to select a site for the new State House.
Boston was determined
to remain the capitol, and appointed Otis to a town committee to purchase
land and donate it to the State. By taking part in site selection, and
purchasing the land, Otis had early knowledge of the new state house.
He quietly arranged the purchase 18.5 adjoining acres from the agent of
Jon Singleton Copley, who was living in England.
After a decade of
contention, the sale agreed to by Gardiner Greene on Copley's behalf was
upheld, and the way was cleared for developing Beacon Hill. Otis and the
Mt. Vernon Proprietors developed the area on Beacon Hill, which today
runs between Beacon Street, Walnut Street, and Mt. Vernon St. through
Louisburg Square to Pinckney St.
Bulfinch created designs for the Proprietors which set out to make
Beacon Hill spacious, with generous street-side setbacks, and large private
gardens for residents. However, competition and high property values led
the proprietors to set aside the Bulfinch plans for a more dense design
conceived by Mather Willington. The Willington plan was based on an east
/ west street system, which as a secondary effect provided only limited
access from Beacon Hill's racially heterogenous north face.