Otis House

William Sumner Appleton

Born into and reared in the traditions of Beacon Hill, Harvard University, and Boston’s elite institutions, William Sumner Appleton (1874-1947) made preservation his life’s work, culminating with his founding of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) in 1910. In 1915 Appleton led a campaign to buy the Harrison Gray Otis House, making it the organization’s headquarters, but in doing so precluding a Jewish corporation’s plan to buy the building and remodel it as a home for aged women. Considering both his strengths and flaws in the context of his time, Appleton had a lasting influence on historic preservation, paving the way for the development of new interests, perspectives, and practices.