John Coburn House
2 Phillips Street
John P. Coburn was born about 1811 in Massachusetts and died in 1873. After
working as a housewright in the 1820s, Coburn established a clothing business from his
small house in the cul-de-sac off of Phillips Street.
Coburn later commissioned Boston architect Asher Benjamin to design a house for his new
property on this corner between 1843 and 1844. Coburn, his wife Emmeline, and their
adopted son Wendell lived here. Coburn embraced Garrisonian principles in the 1830s and
went on to become treasurer of the New England Freedom Association, a petitioner in the
Boston desegregation campaign, and a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee.
In the last capacity he was arrested, tried, and acquitted for the 1851 rescue of the
fugitive slave Shadrach. Later in the 1850s, Coburn was co-founder and captain of the
Massasoit Guards, a black military company. Coburn also established a gaming house here
with brother-in-law Ira Gray. It was described as a "private place" that was
"the resort of the upper ten who had acquired a taste for gambling." John Coburn
died in 1873. He left the bulk of his estate to his adopted son.