Otis House

The Landscape


Little is known about the original landscaping of the site. In the eighteenth century, the Federal Direct Tax valuation indicated that the one-third acre parcel rose in a gradual slope from Cambridge Street with seventy feet of frontage. Two references to landscape plantings are contained in Harrison Gray Otis’s letters to his wife, Sally, regarding the sale of the property in 1801. They suggest that the site was laid out with ornamental trees and garden plantings.


Otis House woodcut detail, c. 1834 showing terrace.











Since 1834, as shown in the woodcut detail, a terrace was built out to allow space for shops, which though in place at the time of this rendering, were not depicted due to artistic license taken by the engraver. The terrace was expanded later in the nineteenth century and included storefronts that stood until 1925, ultimately razed to accommodate the widening of Cambridge Street.

The current plantings on the front terrace reflect the philosophy of the 1970s Otis House restoration; a nod to the simple elegance and formal geometry of the Federal style.