At Home With: English Accents
Diplomacy and outreach may be Phil Budden’s specialties, but try telling that to Sophie and Lizzy, his young daughters. The girls are racing through the second-floor parlor of the family’s 19th-century brick townhouse—one of architect Charles Bulfinch’s famous Beacon Hill “Swan houses”— wielding plastic light sabers and squealing with glee as their play-fight takes them across antique Oriental rugs and around the furniture. The kids’ presence—imaginary battles and all—is key to making the official house feel like a real home, Budden says.
As Britain’s consul general for New England, Budden moved into the Chestnut Street brownstone in 2007 with wife Deborah (who’s Boston-bred) and their children. Prior to taking his current post, the Southampton, England, native served at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, and did stints in London and Vienna before that. The family was content, then, to plant roots in the Hub. “This posting has brought my wife back to her hometown,” Budden explains, “and both of us back to a city we love.” (The pair married on Cape Cod in 1992.)
As glamorous as a diplomat’s international life may sound, it’s not always easy setting up camp in a government-owned home, even if it is a grand old manse. Referring to “the residence,” as he calls it, Budden acknowledges that it’s also a working house. “It’s the center of our public outreach,” he says. The family’s visitors have ranged from Senator John Kerry (a Beacon Hill neighbor) to MIT’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Brit who invented the World Wide Web.
Consequently, upgrades to the 200-year-old house involve more than your typical Home Depot runs. “We feel a great responsibility to [maintain] this house on behalf of Boston,” Budden says. “We recently concluded a two-year project to restore the fabric of the house, update some of its key systems, like the furnace and wiring, and make it more environmentally friendly.”
Of course, living in the historic home does have drawbacks. When his four-year post is up, Budden says, “I may not miss leaving my papers on the top floor of the house, and remembering them when I get down four flights of stairs.”
Still, the family is cheery about what the next couple of years hold. “Boston is a great cultural city, and we’re looking forward to discovering more places,” Budden says. “The Museum of Fine Arts and the New England Conservatory are world-class. And I do not say that just because they both happen to be run by Brits.”