1203-1205 Adams Street, John Bussey House

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No. 11546 1203-1205 Adams Street, photograph February 21, 2011.

Statement of Significance


The significance of the property derives from its architectural style, its period of construction, its siting, and its association with the John Bussey family and the chocolate manufacturer, Walter Baker & Co.

In a list of Strangers in Dorchester, Mass., compiled by Noah Clapp, town clerk, published in NEHGR 1906, we find that John Bussey & his Family came into this Town to live, in the year 1785 or 1786, from Milton.

In 1795 merchant John Bussey purchased the property at 1203 Adams Street from Daniel Vose, a property that included the already-existing house.  Bussey, who was a veteran of the Revolutionary War lived to 90 years of age, and his name appeared the year before in an 1840 Census of military pensioners in Dorchester.

In 1837 John Bussey, Gentleman, also known during his life as Colonel Bussey, transferred the property to his son John Bussey, Jr.  The property remained in the Bussey family until it was purchased by Henry L. Pierce about 1890, possibly with plans to use it for the Walter Baker & Company, of which he was the head.  Pierce, a one-time Mayor of the City of Boston and a Representative to the United States Congress, died in 1896, and the property was transferred from Pierce to the Company sometime between 1894 and 1898.  The chocolate company turned the building into a reading room.   

In The History of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, Dorchester, Massachusetts. By John R. Chaffee. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1917, we find a statement on p. 42 referring to 1203 Adams Street in the period 1840 – 1846:

            “The Walter Baker & Co. reading room, opposite the Pierce Mill, was then the       Bussey store.”

The association of this property with the chocolate company makes this building with its storefront reading room a valuable adjunct to the National Register district that includes the commercial buildings of Walter Baker & Co.

The house is a 5 bay Federal house that was probably built about 1790, just prior to its acquisition by John Bussey.  In the late 19th century or early 20th, the house acquired a colonial revival shop front, quite probably constructed by the Walter Baker & Company when it decided to use the property as a reading room.  The house is prominently sited on Adams Street, the old road from Boston to the south shore.

As one of the few remaining federal-era buildings, the house takes on added significance in a city that celebrates its very old properties from the period of first settlement and its late 19th-century Victorian dwellings.  The buildings from the period 1700 to 1870, the year Dorchester was annexed to the City of Boston, have largely disappeared.  The City has placed great emphasis on the restoration of its 17th-century buildings, but the later colonial period, the federal era, and the period of Gothic and Classical Revival, have essentially been lost in the neighborhoods.  The fact that the house at 1203 Adams Street is still a good example of the federal style that has not been altered beyond recognition and its later use by Walter Baker & Co. make it a significant property worthy of Landmark status.

Massachusetts Revolutionary War Soldiers and Sailors

Name:  Bussey, John,   

Source Info:       Volume 2 page 938         

Information:      Bussey, John, Milton (also given Dorchester). Matross, Capt. Daniel Vose’s co. of the train in Milton, Col. Robinson’s regt.; marched from Milton to Roxbury; service, 14 days, after battle at Concord and before the standing army was completed; also, receipt dated Roxbury, June 18, 1775, for rations for Capt. Pierce’s co.; also, 2d Lieutenant, Maj. Thomas Pierce’s co., Col. Richard Gridley’s (Artillery) regt.; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted May 8, 1775; service, 3 mos. 3 days; also, company return dated Roxbury Camp, Sept. 29, 1775; also, 1st Lieutenant, Capt. John Gill’s (6th) co., Col. Thomas Crafts’s (Artillery) regt.; engaged May 9, 1776; service to Nov. 1, 1776, 5 mos. 24 days; also, 1st Lieutenant, [p.938] Col. Crafts’s regt.; list of officers of Mass. Line dated Boston, April 18, 1777; commissioned April 18, 1777; also, Lieutenant and Captain Lieutenant, Col. Crafts’s regt.; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Jan. 1, 1777, to Feb. 26, 1779; reported as serving 19 months as Lieutenant, 6 mos. 26 days as Captain Lieutenant; also, 1st Lieutenant, Capt. Gill’s co., Col. Crafts’s regt.; service from Feb. 1, 1777, to May 8, 1777, 3 mos. 7 days; also, Captain Lieutenant, Capt. William Todd’s (6th) co., Col. Crafts’s regt., service from date of appointment, to Oct. 1, 1777, 4 mos. 25 days; also, same co. and regt.; pay abstract for Jan. and Feb., 1779; also, petition dated Boston, Feb. 26, 1779, signed by said Bussey, asking that he be allowed to resign his commission as Captain Lieutenant in Col. Crafts’s regt.; resignation accepted in Council Feb. 26, 1779.


Posted on

March 27, 2020