In 1739, recently married Daniel Davis (1713-1799) and Mehitable Lothrop Davis (1717-1764) inherited land in Barnstable Village from Mehitable’s father Thomas as their wedding present. The young couple broke ground on a new family home that year. Daniel Davis fought in the American Revolution and was was a selectman, assessor, town clerk, and treasurer for Barnstable and represented it at the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Council. Davis also held the position of Guardian of the Mashpee Indians, a position begun in 1746 when Massachusetts appointed white guardians to manage each Indian reservation in the province, the Mashpees protested. Daniel Davis died in the home in 1799. The house retains much of its original design from the multi-pane double-hung windows to the large, central chimney.
This historic building was constructed in 1763 as the Barnstable County Courthouse replacing an even earlier courthouse building that was outgrown in the village. The building served primarily as a courtroom with jury deliberations carried out in one of the nearby taverns. Additionally, large town meetings were sometimes held in this building until it too was outgrown. This courthouse was the site of a mass protest on Sept. 27, 1774, after Britain revoked Massachusetts Bay’s 1691 charter — one of a series of Coercive Acts intended to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party the previous year. As a result of the protest, all Barnstable county officials agreed to ignore Parliament’s new rules, effectively freeing Cape Cod of British control. The significance of this building cannot be understated as the building is one of only two remaining Massachusetts colonial-era courthouses where such protests occurred. The county dedicated its new courthouse in the 1830s, consolidating all court functions in a large, granite structure closer to the present center of Barnstable Village (featured previously). This building was acquired by the Third Barnstable Baptist Church, who renovated the building at the time and again in 1905. After the church was disbanded in 1972, the building was purchased by Tales of Cape Cod, a nonprofit volunteer group committed to preserving the Cape’s history. What a building to be based out of!
Jonathan Wright bought land on State Street in Marblehead in 1770 to build a new home for his family. The large property included his Georgian, gambrel-roofed home and a small pond/marsh in the rear. Sadly, John died by 1773 and his widow Abigail had to sell the property to settle the debts of the estate. Isaac Martin bought the house, and it passed down to his son Thomas, a wagoneer, when he died in 1777. The marsh was eventually drained by the town in the 20th century, likely due to issues with mosquitos and disease and the old barn was converted to a residence behind. The old Wright house has remained a well-preserved Georgian residence for 250 years!
In 1725, Samuel Merritt, a fisherman, inherited some of his father’s land in Marblehead and built this house. After Samuel Merritt died in 1743, his second wife Mary, her daughters Mary and Elizabeth and her son-in-law James Dennis, lived in the house. They added the one-story lean-to, giving the house a saltbox roof in 1762. This house, and many others in Marblehead are the reason why human-scaled historic neighborhoods built before the automobile, are some of the best places to explore. Historic preservation equals tourism, which results in tax revenue and property values, stabilizing neighborhoods and cities from the ebbs and flows of the economy. Gotta love it!
In 1720, James Pearson acquired a house lot on Windmill Hill in Marblehead, and he soon after built a house in the bustling harbor town. He lived in the house until 1734, when it was sold to a Giles Irwin. After Mr. Irwin’s death, it was conveyed to John Patton and John Bailey, both mariners, who likely split up the home inside. From this, fireplaces were punched into the central chimney inside, totaling 10 fireplaces in the home! John Bailey also worked as the Captain of Fort Sewall during the War of 1812. His wife Mary, served as temporary commander of Ft. Sewell after his death until a successor was appointed. The house eventually came under the ownership of siblings Carrie Florence Bessom (1867-1944) and her brother Frank Lewis Bessom (1870-1952). Florence operated an antiques store in town and Frank worked as a welfare commissioner. The home is a great example of a Georgian, Colonial-era home with a gambrel roof and even has the two (what I believe to be) separate coal doors in the raised stone foundation when the home was occupied by two families.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the most charming towns in New England to explore by foot, largely due to its walkable network of streets and tight blocks filled with preserved Revolution-era homes. Like many other cities all over the region (and nation), Portsmouth was hit by Urban Renewal, a planning tool used nationwide to provide Federal funds to address “urban blight” and revitalize downtown cores after decades of suburbanization and loss of tax revenue. An urban renewal district for Portsmouth was its North End neighborhood, which similar to Boston’s, was home to a vibrant Italian-American population.
In 1964, federal funds were allocated to the North End project area in Portsmouth, for urban renewal. Prior to redevelopment, the North End was a mix of residential and commercial buildings, with many older houses converted into storefronts with apartments above. In the mid-1960s, the area was considered overcrowded, run down, and a fire hazard. As a result, the Portsmouth Housing Authority proposed the destruction of approximately 200 buildings, a school, and a church and redevelopment for commercial, industrial, and public use, rather than for residences. The project would displace approximately 300 families as a result. In 1968, Portsmouth Preservation Inc., a preservation organization was formed to attempt to save some of the historic building stock in the area slated for redevelopment. After bitter fighting and preservation advocacy, just fourteen houses were saved and mostly moved to an area known today as “The Hill”. This building is one of them. It was constructed around 1725 for Rev. Jabez Fitch, the new minister of the North Church in town. Fitch graduated from Harvard College in 1694 first settling in Ipswich, MA, before becoming minister of the North Church in 1724, a position he held until his death in 1746. The house was one of the few in the urban renewal area to not have been moved.
Around the year 1713, Benjamin Hoyt built a home for himself and his family on Lot 2 of the laid out building lots along Main Street of Ridgefield CT. The building was originally a one room dwelling with a stone fireplace and no basement and was located next to the David Hoyt mansion (aka The Fountain Inn). After several years, he expanded the property by building around and above the structure, to give it the gambrel roof and size we see today. More than 50 years later, in 1769, the property was purchased by Hoyt’s son-in-law, Timothy Keeler. Timothy Keeler and his wife converted the building into an inn in 1772, just prior to the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Keeler sided with the American revolutionaries and was active in the local militia. After the Battle of Ridgefield, British forces fired on the Keeler Tavern, because Keeler was an enemy. One of the cannons used to pummel the tavern is still lodged in a corner post of the house to this day. After later owners in the Keeler Family, the property was purchased by world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who turned it into his family’s summer home in 1907. In doing so, he made various improvements and additions to the building, in particular he designed a Garden House and added a sunken around the year 1910. Gilbert would also design a fountain as a gift to the town, which sits almost opposite his family’s summer residence. The property was purchased in the 1960s and has since been a historical museum.
Located on Main Street in idyllic Ridgefield, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, The Fountain Inn provides one of the most welcoming and historical bed and breakfast experiences in New England! The Fountain Inn was built in 1740 as a “city home in the country” for David Hoyt, who showed off his wealth and stature in the young town by having such a high-style home built at the time. Decades later during the Revolutionary War, David Hoyt’s house became a part of the Battle of Ridgefield. After defeating the Colonial militia elsewhere on Main Street, British Gen. William Tryon‘s troops turned their attention to nearby Keeler Tavern, the local militia’s headquarters, which just happened to be neighbors with the mansion owned by David Hoyt, a known Loyalist. General Tryon’s troops practiced their artillery-firing skills on the building pummeling it with cannonballs, sending a message to the head of the local militia. David Hoyt formally demanded a cease-fire, as he was concerned about wayward cannonballs damaging his home. By 1790, with Ridgefield’s British influence diminishing by the day, David Hoyt finally left his Connecticut home and sailed back to England. The home was expanded and modernized over the next two hundred years until the present owners purchased the property and underwent a massive restoration of the Colonial house inside and out as their family residence. In the past year, the inn opened as the Fountain Inn so-named after a Cass Gilbert-designed fountain across the street.
While Newport is arguably best-known for the Newport mansions from the Gilded Age, there are soooo many amazing buildings from the Colonial era, including some of the most significant and historic in the United States. Touro Synagogue in Newport is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era, and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America (for reference, second-oldest extant synagogue in North America was built in 1833, seventy years later)! Its history begins in the 17th century when the small but growing colony of Newport received its first Jewish residents possibly as early as 1658. The earliest known Jewish settlers arrived from Barbados, where they participated in the triangular trade along with Dutch and English settlements. By 1758, the Jewish population had grown sufficiently that there was a need for a house of worship. The Congregation now known as Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Salvation of Israel) engaged Newport resident Peter Harrison to design the synagogue. Harrison, a British American merchant and sea captain, who was self-tutored in architecture, studying mostly from books and drawings. By the time he designed Touro Synagogue, he had already completed iconic buildings including Newport’s Redwood Library and King’s Chapel in Boston. Construction began on the “Jews Synagogue” in 1759, which was completed years later in 1763. The building is one of the most significant buildings in America, and is open to tours where you can see the immaculately restored interiors.
John Sullivan was born in nearby Somersworth, and studied law. He settled in Durham to practice law in 1763, and purchased this house in 1763 (it was built in 1740 by Reverend Hugh Adams). It served as his home for the rest of his life, and is buried in the family cemetery nearby. Sullivan was a vocal opponent of British rule in the colonies, and was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774. In December of that year he led a raid on Fort William and Mary in which the colonial militia seized munitions stored there. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army in 1775, and served through the American Revolutionary War. He participated in the Siege of Boston, and was captured by the British in the 1776 Battle of Long Island. After being exchanged, he served in the Battle of Trenton, the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, the failed attempt to recapture Newport, Rhode Island, and the 1779 Sullivan Expedition, in which the Iroquois, who had largely sided with the British, were driven from upstate New York. Sullivan’s actions and barbed personality made him enemies in Congress, and he resigned from the army late in 1779. He returned to New Hampshire, where he served as Attorney General 1782-86, and as President (the office now known as Governor) 1787-89. He chaired the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution. His home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972, the most prestigious designation (more than listing on National Register of Historic Places). I encourage everyone to read his Wikipedia page, he was a fascinating and polarizing early Revolutionary, that I personally did not know about until researching.