Wandering though Massachusetts, there are probably more claims that “George Washington slept here” than there are dropped r’s and Red Sox hats combined. And while a good number of these claims are accurate and truthful, many of them turn out to be wishful thinking (or deceptively honest: there had to have been more than one “George Washington” traveling about in the 18th century). Nevertheless, George Washington really did sleep here. And by “here,” we mean in the North of Boston region.
In 1789, the newly-elected President seems to have been on a good will tour of New England. October found him in Lynn and Salem where he was guided by Andover native, Captain Peter Osgood. From Salem, Washington crossed the bridge into Beverly where he was the guest of George Cabot. Unfortunately, Cabot’s house no longer stands – however, his brother John’s house, located diagonally across the street, is still there and currently houses the Beverly Historical Society (it’s a beautiful house and warrants a tour!). There is still, though, a stone marker in Beverly commemorating Washington’s visit to Cabot’s cotton mill (which, like his house, is no longer there. We’re guessing Cabot wasn’t a lucky man…).
After Beverly came Ipswich where Washington purchased some lace for his wife. The lace was used to decorate a cape of Martha’s (the cape is currently kept at Mount Vernon but is too frail for display. Had it been owned by George Cabot, it would have fallen apart). George Washington continued northward on his tour after Ipswich. On the final leg of his North Shore tour, Mr. Washington went to Newburyport.
After much pomp and circumstance, Washington spent the night at the State Street home of the Tracy family. The spacious house was built in 1771 and currently houses the Newburyport Public Library. “Say what?” you must be thinking. The library has gone through a few additions in the past few centuries but the older, main part of the library was, in fact, the Tracy House. And thankfully, wasn’t owned by George Cabot. So, to make a long story short, George Washington slept in the Newburyport Library. Today, there’s even a statue of Washington close to the Bartlett Mall (on the corner of High Street and Pond Street) to commemorate this historic visit.
“In visiting the Town of Newburyport,” Washington wrote. “I have obeyed a favorite inclination, and I am much gratified by the indulgence. In expressing a sincere wish for its prosperity, and the happiness of its inhabitants, I do justice to my own sentiments, and their merit.”
Additional factoid – Washington wasn’t the only President to visit the Tracy House: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were also guests of the Tracy family. (http://www.newburyportpl.org/about_us/)