Concert Hall (Boston, Massachusetts)

Concert Hall (Boston, Massachusetts)
Artist's rendering of Concert-Hall as it appeared in the mid-19th century

The Concert Hall (1752–1869) was a performance and meeting space in Boston, Massachusetts, located at Hanover Street and Queen Street. Meetings, dinners, concerts, and other cultural events took place in the hall.


Brief history


According to some, Stephen Deblois built the hall in 1752.[1] The Concert Hall building occupied a lot on Hanover Street that had changed owners several times through the years, beginning from the earliest days of Boston in the mid-17th century. "The site was first known as Houchin's Corner, from a tanner of that name who occupied it."[2] Owners included: Gilbert and Lewis Deblois (1749); Stephen Deblois (1764); William Turner (1769); John and Jonathan Amory (1789-ca.1798).

At some point after 1787, architect Charles Bulfinch re-modelled the Concert Hall building ("new interior and enlarged," according to his notes).[3] Around 1798, it was a "a brick house, three stories, thirty windows, value $3000."[4] "The building ... underwent various alterations until torn down in 1869, to make way for the widening of Hanover Street."[5]


Concert Hall served multiple functions, mainly as a venue for groups of people to gather to hear concerts, and to attend meetings and formal dinners. The Freemasons met here from the 1750s until at least 1818.[6] In January, 1755, the Boston News-Letter advertised "a concert of musick" at the hall, tickets four shillings.[7] The hall may have had "a small organ by the London builder John Snetzler from 1763 to 1774."[8]

John Rowe, a merchant who built Boston's Rowe's Wharf, attended events at the Concert Hall and kept notes in his diary:

March 16, 1769: "Spent the evening at the Fife Major's concert at Concert Hall; there was a large and genteel company and the best musick I have heard performed there."
March 23, 1770: "Went in the evening to the Concert Hall to hear Mr. Joan read the Beggars Opera and sing the songs; he read but indifferently, but sung in taste; there were upwards one hundred people there."
Jan. 3, 1771: "Spent the evening at Concert Hall, where there was a concert performed by Hartly Morgan and others; after the concert a dance. The Commodore [i.e., James Gambier?] and all the captains of the navy here was there, and Colo. Dalrymple, and fifty or sixty gentlemen and the same number of ladies present."
Jan. 18, 1771: At the dinner on the Queen's birthday at Concert Hall ... there was "very good dancing and good musick, but very bad wine and punch."
Oct. 15, 1771: "I spent the former part of the evening at the Concert Hall, it being Mr. [David] Propert's concert; a good company, upwards of 200."[9]

Josiah Flagg (b.1737) performed concerts at the hall. "On June 7, 1770, Flagg gave... a "Grand concert" that, though the full program was not listed in the newspapers, was to include "a duet to be sung by a Gentleman who lately read and sung in Concert-Hall, and Mr. Flagg. ...The program for Flagg's...concert on May 17, 1771, was printed in The Massachusetts Spy the day before the event. This notable program... at Concert Hall, included four vocal pieces, three overtures, two concertos, three 'symphonies,' and a violin solo. The bulk of the program was composed of works by such lesser composers as Stanley, Schwindl, Abel, and Ricci, but also included music by Stamitz, Handel, and J.C. Bach."[10] In addition to performing, Flagg also organized some events at the hall. In February, 1771, Flagg presented works by Bach and Handel, performed by violinist W.S. Morgan, and the 64th Regiment Military Band.[1]

Other concerts included one by David Propert, organist at Trinity Church, who gave a concert on October 15, 1771.[11] In 1774, Mr. Selby "... played a harpsichord concerto in concerts sponsored by W. S. Morgan."[12]

The Concert Hall was also used for dancing classes. Charles Pelham (b.1722) advertised dancing lessons in 1762: "Charles Pelham hereby informs all the Gentlemen and Ladies in Town and Country that he proposes again to open a Dancing School on Monday the third day of May next, at Concert Hall, where he will give constant Attendance as usual, every Monday, Thursday and Saturday in the Afternoon, provided he may meet with suitable encouragement." [13] Later, "Thomas Turner had a dancing and fencing academy there in 1776."[4]

Several balls took place at the hall in the 1770s. For instance, "the fourth Subscription Ball will be held at Concert Hall on Thursday, the 29th instant [of January], 1776." Also: "on Monday, the 11th of March, will be given at Concert Hall, a Subscription Masked Ball. By the fifth of March, a number of different masks will be prepared & sold by almost all the milliners and mantua makers in Town."[14] "Governor John Hancock gave, in 1778, a grand ball in Concert Hall to the officers of D'Estaing's fleet, at which three hundred persons were present."[2]

From ca.1789 through 1846, the Society of the Cincinnati of Massachusetts held annual meetings at the hall.[15]

The ordination of Chandler Robbins (1810–1882) as a minister of the Second Church was celebrated at the Concert Hall in December 1833. One attendee wrote in his diary: "The dinner was sumptuous; but it was the first ordination I ever attended where there was no wine, nor even cider, nor indeed anything to drink but water; excepting that in the midst of dinner coffee was served round to such as desired it."[16]

A number of non-musical entertainments took place in the 19th century. Ventriloquist Jonathan Harrington performed in March 1831.[17] In March, 1834, the "500-lb. 8-year-old" Rose Rich appears at the hall. In September, 1835, "161-year-old" Joyce Heth appears; she was "George Washington's former nurse."[1]


As for staff, "James Vila took charge of Concert Hall in 1789,"[4] and continued as "keeper" for many years, until at least 1803.[6][18] Tilley Whitcomb was associated with the hall around 1805. For many years Peter Bent Brigham (1807–1877) oversaw the hall, probably beginning around 1837.[19][20] Around 1840, Henry Hannington (ca.1803-1857) worked as "proprietor of the celebrated Dioramas as exhibited at Concert Hall"[21]

Timeline of selected events

  • 1771
    • Organ concerto by Mr. Selby [i.e. William Selby, or possibly John Selby][27]
    • Concert of selections from Handel's Acis and Galatea, presented by Josiah Flagg[28]
  • 1774
    • Harpsichord concerto performed by Mr. Selby [possibly John Selby]; sponsored by W. S. Morgan[29]
    • Concert of selections from Artaxerxes performed by W.S. Morgan.[28]
  • 1788
    • Musical Society[30]
    • Concert by Mr. Deverill and Master Brewer, vocalists[31]
  • 1791
    • Concert by Mr. and Mrs. Solomon, vocalists ("much to be commended, and certainly much to be amended")[32]
  • 1792
  • 1794
    • Mr. Baker performs "dramatic olios"[34]
  • 1795
    • Concert of works by Haydn, Hook, and others, performed by Bartlett, Berkenhead, Clifford, Collins, Jones, Stone[35]
  • 1804
    • Mr. Rannie, sword-swallower, ventriloquist. "Mr. R. has a very surprising fish, which will perform deceptions that cannot fail to astonish every beholder. This fish will pick up any card in the pack that may only be thought of. Twenty ladies or gentlemen may draw cards from the pack, the fish will immediately draw each lady and gentlemen's card without making the smallest mistake."[36]
  • 1805
    • Concert by Gottlieb Graupner[37]
    • Concert of "vocal and instrumental music, interspersed with various recitations" performed by "Mr. & Mrs. Fox; Messrs. Bates, Mallet and Shaw, assisted by the Band of Music under Mr. Everdell"[38]
  • 1806
    • Boston Light Infantry dinner[39]
  • 1811
    • Ball on anniversary of Washington's birthday[40]
    • "Mr. Turner's annual exhibition and ball"[41]
    • Winslow Blues dinner[42]
    • "Mr. Schaffer's annual ball and exhibition of his scholars' acquirements"[43]
    • Washington Monument Association meeting[44]
  • 1812
    • Constitutional Club meeting[45]
  • 1815
    • "Splendid dinner" for "General Miller, in testimony of his gallant and distinguished services on the frontiers of Upper Canada"[47]
    • Concert of works by Arne, Haydn, King, Pleyel, Rosetti, Shield, Wainwright, Paul Wranitzky performed by Mr. Turner, Mrs. Graupner, T. Granger, Mr. Bray, Miss C. Graupner, Mr. McFarland[48]
    • Masonic funeral of John Warren[49]
  • 1816
    • Concert of works by Berton, Martini, Plantade performed by Messrs. Gilles & Etienne[50]
    • "Exhibition of the scholars of Mr. Carter"[51]
    • "Mr. Turner's exhibition of dancing"[52]
  • 1817
    • Company of Independent Cadets anniversary dinner[53]
  • 1818
    • Cincinnati dinner, "entertainment served up by Mr. Forster in a stile of great elegance"[54]
    • Levees by "Miss Hartley, the Albanese lady"[55]
    • Maritime Theatre[56]
    • "The Soul of the Soldiery celebrated their anniversary ... among their guests ... were the vice president of the United States, the governor of the Commonwealth, and other gentlemen"[57]
  • 1819
    • Sword-swallower Ramo Samee ("native of Seringapatam")[58]
    • Performance by Mr. Brunel[59]
    • "Picturesque representation by Mr. Ardenond"[60]
    • Friends of American Manufactures meeting[61]
    • Oration on Masonry by "a lady"[62]
  • 1821
    • Debating Society meeting[64]
    • Convention of Congregational Ministers dinner[65]
  • 1822
    • Lecture by Mr. Artiguenave[66]
  • 1823
    • Exhibition of painting "Wreck of the Albion"[67]
    • Friends of Domestic Woolen Manufactures meeting[68]
  • 1824
    • Washington Society dinner[69]
    • Massachusetts Charitable Society meeting, Thomas Melvill, president[70]
  • 1825



  1. ^ a b c Jim Vrabel. When in Boston: a time line & almanac. Bostonian Society; UPNE, 2004.
  2. ^ a b Drake. 1876.
  3. ^ The life and letters of Charles Bulfinch, architect: with other family papers. Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1896.
  4. ^ a b c Drake. 1917.
  5. ^ Drake. 1876.
  6. ^ a b Early days of Masonry in Massachusetts. Freemasons' Monthly Magazine, v.19, no.5. March 1, 1860.
  7. ^ News Letter, cited in: Drake. 1876.
  8. ^ Barbara Owen. The Other Mr. Selby. American Music, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 477-482.
  9. ^ Edward Pierce. Diary of John Rowe. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, Vol. 10, 1895; p.11+.
  10. ^ David W. Music. Josiah Flagg. American Music, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1989), pp. 140-158.
  11. ^ The Massachusetts Gazette, 1771, cited in: David W. Music. Josiah Flagg. American Music, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1989), pp. 140-158.
  12. ^ Boston Weekly News Letter, Mar. 17; May 12; Sept. 1, 1774. Cited in: Barbara Owen. The Other Mr. Selby. American Music, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 477-482.
  13. ^ Boston News Letter, April 23d, 1762, quoted in: William Whitmore. Painters and Engravers of New England. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 9, (1866 - 1867), pp. 196-226.
  14. ^ News-Letter, quoted in: R. Frothingham. Siege of Boston. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 14 (1876), p.272.
  15. ^ Memorials of the Society of the Cincinnati of Massachusetts. Printed for the Society, 1873.
  16. ^ Dr. Pierce, quoted in: Charles C. Smith. Memoir of the Rev. Chandler Robbins. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 20, 1883; p.403+
  17. ^ Edward Hartwell Savage. A Chronological History of the Boston Watch and Police. 1865.
  18. ^ Boston Directory. 1796 and 1803.
  19. ^ The Boston directory. Published by George Adams, 1862.
  20. ^ New England historical and genealogical register v. 48. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1894.
  21. ^ William Smith, composer. The fairy grotto and fantoccini waltz. 1840. Sheet music dedicated to Hannington.
  22. ^ "A new song composed by a Son of Liberty and sung by Mr. Flagg at Concert-Hall, Boston, February 13, 1770. (To the tune of the British Grenadier). ... Guard your rights, Americans! nor stoop to lawless sway, / Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose -- my brave America." cf. Edes & Gill's North-American almanack, and Massachusetts register, for the year 1770. ... Calculated for the meridian of Boston
  23. ^ David McKay. Opera in Colonial Boston. American Music, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp. 133-142.
  24. ^ Boston Evening-Post, Feb. 19, 1770. Cited in: David McKay. 1985.
  25. ^ Boston Weekly Newspaper, Mar. 29, 1770. Quoted in: McKay. 1985.
  26. ^ Boston Evening-Post, June 18, 1770. Cited in: McKay. 1985.
  27. ^ Boston Weekly News Letter, Oct. 3, 1771. Cited in: Barbara Owen. 1990.
  28. ^ a b McKay. 1985
  29. ^ Boston Weekly News Letter, 1774. Cited in: Barbara Owen. 1990.
  30. ^ Massachusetts Centinel, 11-12-1788
  31. ^ Massachusetts Centinel, 11-12-1788
  32. ^ Herald of Freedom, 05-13-1791
  33. ^ William Warland Clapp. A Record of the Boston Stage. 1853.
  34. ^ Clapp. 1853.
  35. ^ Columbian Centinel, 01-31-1795
  36. ^ The Democrat (Boston), 08-11-1804
  37. ^ Boston Gazette, 11-14-1805
  38. ^ New-England Palladium, 06-21-1805
  39. ^ Columbian Centinel, 10-22-1806
  40. ^ Columbian Centinel, 02-23-1811
  41. ^ Boston Gazette, 10-14-1811
  42. ^ Boston Gazette, 10-14-1811
  43. ^ Columbian Centinel, 11-06-1811
  44. ^ New-England Palladium, 12-24-1811
  45. ^ Boston Patriot, 06-20-1812
  46. ^ Columbian Centinel, 08-28-1813
  47. ^ Weekly Messenger, 03-10-1815
  48. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 03-13-1815
  49. ^ Columbian Centinel, 06-14-1815
  50. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 09-17-1816
  51. ^ Boston Gazette, 10-17-1816
  52. ^ New-England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser, 11-19-1816
  53. ^ New England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser, 11-04-1817
  54. ^ Boston Commercial Gazette, 07-06-1818
  55. ^ Columbian Centinel, 08-12-1818
  56. ^ New England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser, 08-28-1818
  57. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 10-28-1818
  58. ^ Boston Patriot & Daily Mercantile Advertiser, 09-09-1819
  59. ^ Boston Commercial Gazette, 05-10-1819
  60. ^ Boston Intelligencer & Evening Gazette, 06-05-1819
  61. ^ New-England Palladium, 10-19-1819
  62. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 12-09-1819
  63. ^ Boston Patriot & Daily Mercantile Advertiser, 03-14-1820
  64. ^ Columbian Centinel, 02-03-1821
  65. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 05-30-1821
  66. ^ Boston Daily Advertiser, 01-02-1822
  67. ^ Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 10-04-1823
  68. ^ Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 10-18-1823
  69. ^ Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot, 07-10-1824
  70. ^ Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot, 09-08-1824
  71. ^ Boston Commercial Gazette, 01-20-1825
  72. ^ Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 03-26-1825

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