Sparhawk House // 1742-1967

Often called Sparhawk Hall, this massive Georgian mansion was built at the end of Sparhawk Lane in Kittery, just down the street from the Pepperell House and Lady Pepperell’s dower house. The Sparhawk house was funded by William Pepperell as a wedding gift for his daughter Elizabeth and her new husband Nathaniel Sparhawk.

Sparhawk House ca.1900. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Nathaniel Sparhawk was a merchant from lavish means, but was habitually in debt, so his marriage to the daughter of one of the richest men in the state, re-established himself financially. With a new mansion, and father-in-law to pay off his unsettled debts, Sparhawk continued his business dealings in Portsmouth and Boston. After his safety net that was his father-in-law passed away, he saw himself again in financial difficulties, and declared bankruptcy.

Getty Images photograph of Sparhawk House, undated.

Sir William died in 1759.  Although he had a close relationship with Nathaniel Sparhawk, who often helped him to manage his business affairs, Pepperrell’s will suggests that he didn’t quite trust his son-in-law to provide for his family. The will left many parcels of land formerly owned by Nathaniel to Nathaniel’s various children, but not to Nathaniel himself.  It seems that when Nathaniel went bankrupt, William Pepperrell bought up many of his properties, with the intent of keeping them in the family.  Also telling is the fact that in an age when women lacked a legal identity apart from their husband, Sir William was quite clear that while income from certain properties would go to Nathaniel for “the support of his wife and children,” the property was not his to sell or mortgage, with the will stating that Elizabeth was “required to sign all receipts and to have sole power to bequeath her legacy.”

Ca. 1930 image of Sparhawk House entry. Historic New England image.

By the 1960s, the home was occupied by a Sparhawk descendant, who had difficulties heating and maintaining the large mansion and grounds. Many interior features were sold off to the highest bidder (some preserved for public consumption at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH). The home was razed in 1967. The doorway was saved at the eleventh hour and was gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and is displayed in the Art of the Americas Wing.

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