John Sullivan House // 1740

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.

Burnham House // c.1682

Samuel Burnham bought an older house on this site, and added to it, creating a larger residence for his family (a common occurrence in early Colonial times). One thing he did keep was a 30-foot well within the building to supply the family drinking water. Interior wells were not common, but very useful on the New England “frontier” where attacks from Native American tribes were more frequent. In the event of an attack in town, a family could close their interior shutters, and wait them out with drinking water from their internal well.

God, I love old New England homes! Could you live in one that is older than the United States?

Valentine Hill House // c.1649

Valentine Hill emigrated to Boston in 1636 from England with his brother and began a successful career as a merchant and trader. In 1638 Valentine was made a member of the Artillery Company, In 1640 he took the Freeman’s Oath, and in that same year ordained as a Deacon in the Boston Church. In 1641 he was elected a Selectman serving until 1647. In 1643 Valentine received a grant of land at the falls of the Oyster River in what is now Durham, N.H. In 1649, Valentine and an associate got permission to build a saw mill on the river. Additional grants of land included 500 acres for farming. Due to issues with his businesses in Boston, he moved up to present-day Durham to manage his mills and property there. On the property, he employed “seven Scots”, who were indentured servants captured by British forces in the Battle of Dunbar, and among other industries, lumber was milled for use in the shipbuilding industry in surrounding towns. In 1649 Valentine Hill built the original homestead, a single-story house with a basement. In 1699, Nathaniel Hill, son and heir of Valentine, made a two-story addition to the house, giving the home the appearance we see today. After successive owners, the next major period of the property was early in the 1900’s, when James Frost took over the estate, completing the transformation of the grounds and turned into a Colonial Revival summer estate with extensive formal gardens, arbors and an elaborate stone wall. The property remained in the family until the 1980s, but suffered from some neglect. The house was purchased in 1997 and restored to her former glory and is now known as the Three Chimneys Inn. Interestingly, if this home can be dated with dendrochronology (aging the home based on the age of the cut timber), this home would be at least a decade older than the present oldest home in New Hampshire!

Major Rowland Luce House // c.1790

Built around 1790 for Rowland Luce (1756-1835), this Federal home oozes character and charm, and is located right on Main Street in one of my favorite towns, Marion, Mass. Luce was born in Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard into a very religious family. While studying to become a Deacon like his father, the Revolutionary War broke out, and Rowland served to fight the British, leaving service as a Major. He eventually settled in Marion’s Sippican/Wharf Village and worked as a Deacon for the Congregational Church. The simple house is clad in cedar shingles and has two chimneys, a departure from earlier homes with one, large central chimney.

John Carter House // c.1765

The simplicity and proportions of old Georgian houses are just so pleasing to me. This c.1765 home was built before the United States of America was even a country, a fact that always boggles my mind when doing research on buildings. These four walls have survived numerous wars, pandemics, families, and storms, and will continue to do so for (hopefully) hundreds of more years in the future. This Canterbury house was built for John Carter (1708-1776) and his family, which included a wife and over 10 children in all. The house retains its double-width doors, 12-over-12 windows, central chimney (though likely reduced in size), and stone foundation.

Elijah Locke House // 1739

John Locke (1627-1696) settled in New Hampshire about 1640, arriving from London. He was a farmer and carpenter, and reportedly built the first church in New Hampshire. He was also a Captain in the local militia, who was constantly at odds with the people who’s land they were usurping. While working the fields at his homestead in Rye, he was killed by a native person, likely as a retaliatory attach. The attacker was soon after shot by his son, who was helping his father at the time. This Georgian home was built by John’s grandson Elijah in 1739 on family land; the date is found incised on one of the original roof beams inside.

Jones Tavern // 1732

Settlement of South Acton (by colonialists) was begun in 1701 when the Jones and Knight families purchased 600 acres of a private land grant. Over the next 26 years, members of the two families established and operated mills near the Fort Pond Brook, which provided running water for operations. Samuel Jones built a home here in 1732, which as originally built, was a simple, four room central entry Georgian home with gable roof, typical of many eastern Massachusetts homes at the time. In 1750, Jones opened a tavern and general store in his house, enlarging it with a two story addition now visible on the left side. Samuel’s son Aaron Jones, a Harvard graduate and soldier who fought at the Battle of Concord nearby, took over the tavern from his father. In 1818, Aaron more than doubled the size of his establishment when he built a large, 5-bay extension and rear kitchen ell directly behind the existing structure. In addition to enlarging his property, Aaron also had it “modernized”, inserting sash windows (replacing the casement windows) throughout and adding fashionable Federal style door and window surrounds. The additions gave the building two major entries, as well as secondary access to the communal taproom. The property was then willed to his son Elnathan Jones, who operated the establishment until 1845 as both a tavern and hotel. The building remained in the Jones family until it was sold in 1946, and divided inside into multi-family use. The house was sold for salvage in 1964 after years of neglect, but was saved by Iron Work Farm, Inc., a non-profit who maintain the property to this day.

Tewksbury Congregational Church // 1922

Located across the Town Green from the Tewksbury Town Hall (1920), this Colonial Revival style church with Classical elements, perfectly compliments the design motif seen here. The Tewksbury Congregational Church was established in 1734 by some 34 resident families who, after leaving the church in Billerica, established the new town of Tewksbury. Their first church was erected in 1736, and was replaced in 1824. The second church edifice (and much of the town center) suffered a catastrophic fire in 1918, destroying both structures, and resulting in a rebuilding campaign. Architect Curtis W. Bixby of Watertown, furnished designs for the church, which stands boldly beyond a large front lawn.

Tirrell-Cobb House // c.1750

One of the most stunning Georgian cape homes I have seen is this charming house in Hull, Massachusetts. Built in the mid-18th century, this house was acquired by Gideon Tirrell after the Revolutionary War. Gideon married Mary Loring, a descendant of John Loring, who built the home in my last post. The family appears to have occupied the home until the Cobb family acquired the house in about 1860, when Capt. Joseph Cobb and his wife, Eliza Turner settled here. He was the third “Keeper of the Lifeboat” from 1858-1876. In his role, he rowed out to sinking ships in the Boston Harbor and attempted to save any sailors still alive, often saving dozens of lives. The home was restored in the 1980s and remains one of the best-preserved in the town!

Loring House // c.1658

Likely the oldest home in the town of Hull, the Loring House has ties to the significant Loring Family, who’s descendants include individuals on both sides of the American Revolution, the US Civil War, and today live across North America, Spain, England and Australia. This house was built on land purchased by Thomas Loring (1600-1661) who came to Hingham in 1634 from England. He built a larger estate in town until a fire destroyed all his belongings, and he chose not to rebuild, but acquired property in the adjoining plantation of Hull. In Hull, he served as constable (court officer and tax collector), and raised his family there. His eldest son, John, married in 1657 and likely had this home built on his father’s vast land holdings within the year. John worked as a house-wright and likely built the home himself. He had two wives (his first wife Mary died at 39), and 15 children at the home, though some likely did not live past infancy as was common in early colonial days. John died in 1714, but left a lasting legacy in New England and beyond. Notably, his grandson was Joshua Loring, a British Loyalist who built the famous Loring-Greenough House in Boston. The old Loring House in Hull is very-well maintained inside and out and serves as a time-capsule of days past.