Inside the Architecture: Opposition House


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Today, Opposition House is on 2-4 Hancock Place, but at one point in time it was near Quincy Square and east of Hancock Street.  It was built with the attempts to prohibit the expansion of Harvard Street.

Judge Francis Dana had the house built in 1807 in the spot where Harvard Street would cut through. The Dana family were prominent figures in the Boston/Cambridge community since the Revolutionary War. Francis Dana was a lawyer who held many political positions including Continental Congress and Chief Justice of Massachusetts.  

Francis Dana’s personal home was a mansion in size and built in 1785 on what is now known as Dana Hill. His motivation for building Opposition House and stopping the road build was because he did not want Harvard Street to build a passageway between the colleges and the residential areas.  

Dana’s plan did not work. In August 1808, Harvard Street was built and the house was moved.  Francis Dana died in 1811.  

Between 1830 and 1840, the heirs of Dana sold more of the judge’s properties, which became the abutting land around Harvard Street.  

Opposition House was added to the National Historic Register in 1982. There is a documentary by Susan Chasen about the Opposition House for anyone who is curious to learn more about the house that was built to stop a road. To mark its significance, the Opposition House (despite its new location) has a blue oval marker.  

The Cambridge Historical Commission marked about 100 locations in Cambridge with blue oval markers in 1976. These historic markers identify a piece of architecture for its relationship with an important person or event. So, next time you pass a blue oval while walking down the street, take a moment to read who the house once belonged to and what he or she did for the Cambridge community.