Toward the end of the 18th century, Beacon Hill was still pasture land, an extension of Boston Common, its only structures a powder house and a watch house that presumably contained the beacon that gave the hill its name. By the middle of the 19th century, it was completely inhabited, on one side by some of Boston's wealthiest families, on the other, it is said, by sailors, poets, and former slaves. Beacon Hill's narrow byways inhibited the kind of fast-paced changes wrought by streetcars and other modern modes of transportation, and its neighborhoods remain, even now, much as they were in the early 1800s, with cobblestone streets, gas lights, and beautifully preserved brick homes in Federal, Victorian, and Georgian styles.

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