In 1690, Richard Gardner Jr. (1653-1728) received the land and dwelling house from his late father Richard Gardner (1622-1688) who was born in England and settled in Nantucket by way of Salem upon his death. The primitive, First Period home was occupied by subsequent generations of the Gardner family, and altered and expanded to fit the growing needs and wealth of the family. By 1840, the house was owned by George C. Gardner, a whaling captain and descendant of Richard Gardner. The original home was located on what is now Lowell Place, just off Main Street, and the Gardner Homestead was converted to a carriage house for the more modern George Gardner Home. By 1927, Ms. Gladys Wood purchased the deteriorating and heavily altered structure, and moved it to its current location on Main Street. Ms. Wood hired architect Alfred Shurrocks, who summered on the island and was restoring the Jethro Coffin house nearby, to restore the former Gardner Homestead, but this one was all based on conjecture and historical precedent. The home looks much like a 17th century saltbox and has stood the test of time.
Jethro Coffin House // 1686
Here it is… The oldest house in Nantucket! The Jethro Coffin House dates to 1686, and when it was built, Nantucket’s English population totaled several hundred, and the native Wampanoag outnumbered them by at least three to one. The home was built seemingly as a wedding gift from twenty-three-year-old Jethro Coffin (1663–1727) to his new sixteen-year-old wife Mary Gardner (1670–1767). The marriage merged two of the old Nantucket families and was built on Gardner family land out of lumber transported to the island from Exeter, New Hampshire, where Jethro’s father, Peter Coffin, owned timberland and a saw mill. The First Period house has small windows of small panes of glass as the material was shipped from England at high cost. The large central chimney would heat the entire home on cold winter nights. Mary and Jethro sold their Nantucket dwelling to Nathaniel Paddack in 1708 and moved to Mendon, Massachusetts, when Jethro inherited property there. By the late nineteenth century, the house was abandoned (for some time it was used as a barn) and had fallen into disrepair. A Coffin family reunion held on the island in 1881 renewed interest in the property and off-island members of the family bought the old Coffin House. The Nantucket Historical Association acquired the house in 1923, and four years later, Historic New England), commenced an extensive reconstruction in an attempt to return the house to its historic appearance. It remains a location of pride for residents and visitors to the island to this day.
The Old Jail, Barnstable // c.1690
The Old Jail in Barnstable is a historic wooden jail, resembling a colonial domestic residence, which was built by order of the newly established Barnstable County, which separated from the Plymouth Colony on in 1685. It served as the Barnstable County jail from 1690 to 1820 and is the oldest extant wooden jail in the United States! By 1702, prisoners were being held in the jail while awaiting trial at the Court Sessions held in Barnstable. In 1716, the jail imprisoned Mehitable “Goody” Hallett, the lover of pirate Samuel Bellamy, later known as the Witch of Wellfleet, as well as the two survivors of Sam Bellamy’s flagship Whydah Gally which wrecked at Wellfleet, and the seven pirate survivors of his consort ship Mary Anne which wrecked ten miles south. The jail house is considered one of the most haunted in America, supposedly containing the spirits of these pirates and lost loves. The jail building was attached to a barn by the 19th century, when a new jail was constructed. This building was later removed from the barn and restored, and moved to the present site next to the old Customs House in 1968.
Sturgis Library // 1644
The original section of this building was the second dwelling house of Rev. John Lothrop (1584-1653), one of the first European settlers who settled in present-day Barnstable in 1639. The oldest part of this structure, built in 1644 (yes you read that correctly), is possibly the oldest extant house in the Town of Barnstable. The home was constructed as 21 feet long and 29 feet deep with a chimney on the west side of the house. Perhaps John Lothrop’s principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called “Freedom of Religion”). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of Lothrop. His descendants today include six former presidents, Louis Comfort Tiffany (of the stained glass fame), J. P. Morgan, Clint Eastwood, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and many more recognizable names! The house was eventually owned by Isaac Chipman in the 19th century, and he modified the house close to its current conditions, adding on numerous times.
Captain William Sturgis, a mariner, businessman and politician, who was born in the house, purchased the property in 1862 from the heirs of Isaac Chipman. Sturgis left $15,000 along with this property in a trust to be gifted to the people of Barnstable for a public library. The library opened in 1867 in his honor, with 1,300 books. As the old Lothrop House is incorporated in the building, it makes the Sturgis Library the oldest building housing a public library in the USA. A great claim to fame for this town!
Polly Crispell Cottage // c.1700
Another of Hurley’s stone houses is this beauty, known as the Polly Crispel Cottage. The house was built before the American Revolution c.1700 by an Anthony Crispell, a cordwainer. The home was likely a half cape in form with the door and two windows to its right. The other half was added at a lower level later on with the floors uneven, likely in 1735 where a construction date plaque read. The home also features a dutch door, which I wish we had more of in New England.
Half Moon Tavern – Elmendorf House // c.1710
When Pieter Ostrander settled in Hurley, NY with his family in the late 1600s. Being of Dutch descent, he (and other settlers) built their homes and barns in Dutch traditions. This lot along the village’s main street was acquired by Pieter and inherited by his son, Arent in about 1710, about the time the home is estimated to have been built. It was acquired by the Elmendorf Family by the early 19th century. At that time, the property operated as the Half Moon Tavern, after Petrus Elmendorf purchased it in 1804. The addition to the east (right) was built as a weaving room. The property remained in the Elmendorf family until 2008 (that’s almost 300 years in two families!) It was acquired by the new owner who has been restoring and researching the home ever since. He runs a blog documenting the property’s rich history.
Ostrander-Houghtaling House // c.1705
Pieter Pieterzen Ostrander (1657-1706) was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands by 1657. His father died in the East Indies and soon after, Pieter, his mother, his stepfather Arent Teunissen, and older sister Tryntje Pieters immigrated to New Netherland (New York), arriving in 1661. Initially the family settled on Coney Island in Brooklyn and were eventually forced out by English settlers. The family removed to Wiltwyck (present-day Kingston, in Ulster County, New York. In Kingston, Pieter married Rebecca Traphagen Ostrander (1662-1720) in the Reformed Dutch Church of Kingston, New York, on 19 January 1679. Some time after their marriage, Pieter and Rebecca moved southwest to the nearby village of Hurley, where in 1687 he was one of several villagers to take an Oath of Allegiance. They built a small, single-room cottage here and lived there until it was expanded around the time Pieter passed away. In 1715, the house was deeded to Pieter’s son, Arent. During the time of the American Revolution, the home operated as a tavern. In October, November, and December of 1777, this house is said to have been the military headquarters for General George Clinton’s Continental forces and the town was the temporary capital of New York State. In 1782, the home was later believed to be where a reception was held in front for George Washington as he rode through town in 1782. In the 19th century, the left (northern) half of the house was added on by owner Abe Houghtaling, who operated that side as a wagon making shop. Whew! That’s a lot of history!
King’s Head Tavern // 1691-1870
Another of Boston’s Lost buildings is the King’s Head Tavern, an old establishment that was built in the early days of Boston and rebuilt following a fire in 1691. It stood on the corner of Lewis and North Streets, in the North End near Scarlett’s Wharf. Due to its proximity to the harbor and wharfs, it became the first place weary sailors stopped to get a drink on solid ground. The two-story, brick tavern was capped with a gambrel roof, which was later filled with wooden additions giving the structure a boxy look. The establishment was named the King’s Head Tavern after a popular London tavern of the same name. Like much of the North End, surging immigrant populations put immense strain on the built environment and many older buildings were demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for tenement housing. The old King’s Head Tavern was demolished in 1870, just two years after the photo was taken.
Downe-Tremere House // c.1674-1896
One of the finest First Period Houses to have been built in New England was this brick mansion, formerly on North Street in Boston’s North End. On December 29, 1674, John Paine conveyed his property including a dwelling house to William Downe his new son-in-law. It is unclear when the house was built, but it was completed by the time of sale to William. Luckily, the house was constructed of brick, which likely saved it from the Fire of 1676. In later centuries, the building was converted to commercial use, at times housing a feather store. After the Civil War, the property was owned by the Tremere Family, who rented out commercial space and held tenements in the floors above (the third floor was added, filling in the space between the two end chimneys which were added in the early-19th century. The property was razed in 1896 for the present tenement building on the site.
John Palmer House // c.1683
In 1682, John Palmer acquired a small piece of land in Marblehead, soon after building this First Period home. The house is said to have framing timbers made of English walnut, salvaged from a sailing vessel off shore, with one timber formerly a mast and still displaying rope marks. The house was willed to his son after his death, who built a larger home soon after nearby. This house was “modernized” with double-hung windows which likely replaced the smaller, diamond pane casement windows typical in homes of this period.