Jabez Fitch House // 1725

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.

Rev. Thomas Hawley House // 1713


This old Georgian house was built in 1713 on the Proprietors Lot 5, on Ridgefield’s Main Street. Constructed for the first minister of Ridgefield, the home was originally occupied by 25-year-old Reverend Thomas Hawley (1689-1738) not long after his graduation from Harvard in 1709. In addition to being minister of the newly formed Congregational Church, Hawley (also spelled Hauley) also served as school teacher and town clerk. The house employs Dutch Colonial detailing from the gambrel roof to the extended portico over the front door, common in the Dutch colonies in the Hudson River Valley in New York.

Keeler Tavern // 1713

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.

Elias Danforth House // 1832

On the southern end of Center Village in Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous late-Federal style home holds a stately presence built into and atop a sloping hill. The home was built for Elias Danforth (1788-1868) in 1832 and has been so little-altered in the nearly 200 years since. The house features amazing full-length side porches with bold columns, an early sign of the emerging Greek Revival style. The home sold a couple years ago for just over $600,000, which is a STEAL for the location and high-quality house and interior. Wow!

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?

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.

Simeon Wetherbee Farmhouse // c.1800

This late-Georgian farmhouse in Boxborough, Mass showcases how architectural integrity and historical context matter in historic preservation. Architectural integrity means the degree to which a building’s original design and physical composition is evident and intact. Historic contexts are the patterns, themes, or trends in history by which a specific property or site is understood and its meaning (or significance) within history is made clear. In this example, the old farmhouse retains much of its architectural integrity as it physically appears much as it would have upon its time of construction. However, the former farmland was sold off and developed as a residential subdivision, which completely obscures the historical context of the building in relation to its original use. The Simeon Wetherbee Farm remained in the Wetherbee family until the 1965, when the land was likely soon after subdivided and sold off for housing lots. A majority of the homes built surrounding this old farmhouse are classified as “Neo-Traditional” a modern take on Colonial architecture, but with cheaper materials and odd proportions. They are not a favorite among architects and historians.

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.

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.

Whipple House // c.1680

Hamilton, Massachusetts was first settled in 1638 and was originally a section of Ipswich known as “The Hamlet”. The first recorded land grant in the Hamlet was Matthew Whipple’s farm, dated 1638. On this land, the old stagecoach road (now Bay Road) connecting Newburyport to Boston was laid out through his and his brother’s land in 1641. A descendant of William (also named William) built this home along the stagecoach road in around 1680, likely operating it as a tavern for weary travelers. In 1712, Matthew Whipple IV and his brothers John and James petitioned the Town of Ipswich for the right to establish a church in the Hamlet, and succeeded. By 1800, the home was occupied by the Brown Family, with Capt. Daniel Brown occupying the home as a postmaster and tavern-keeper. Over the years, the home was “modernized” giving it Georgian double-hung windows, replacing the historic diamond pane casement windows. The home was eventually restored to its 17th century appearance and sold for an estimated $2 Million.