Charles Bulfinch designed this gorgeous 1796 mansion for his friends Harrison Gray Otis, an up-and-coming young lawyer who later became mayor of Boston, and his wife, Sally. The 1960s restoration was one of the first in the country to use computer analysis of paint, and the result was revolutionary: It revealed that the walls were drab because the paint had faded, not because the colors started out dingy. Furnished in the style to which a wealthy family in the young United States would have been accustomed, the Federal-style building is a colorful, elegant treasure. Guided tours (the only way to see the property) discuss the architecture of the house and post-Revolutionary social, business, and family life, and touch on the history of the neighborhood.
Tip: Historic New England owns and operates the Otis House and dozens of other properties throughout the region. Contact the organization ([tel] 617/227-3956; www.historicnewengland.org) for information on its properties, visiting hours, and admission fees.