The Captain Drisco House on Meetinghouse Hill Road is a recently restored example of the vernacular Federal period architecture so many flock to Portsmouth to see. The house sits in the middle of a warren of short streets where houses (all built before zoning and setbacks) were built right at the sidewalk creating the most pleasant walking experience. The symmetrical five-bay Federal house was built by Captain Drisco, who purchased the house lot after the Revolutionary War.
Nathan Parker House // 1815
Many may not know this fact about Portsmouth, which shaped the city’s development for some of the formative years of the coastal town. The 1814 Brick Act was passed by the New Hampshire legislature after three devastating fires wiped out hundreds of closely-packed wooden buildings in the heart of the state’s only seaport. The act prohibited the erection of wooden buildings of more than twelve feet high in the downtown area which was the densest, it was effectively an early building code. The regulation helped change the look of the city, creating the red brick image Downtown that many identify today as Portsmouth. As a result, nearly all homes and buildings in the downtown area of Portsmouth were constructed of brick, largely in the Federal style, popular at the time. This home was constructed around 1815 as a wedding present for the South Parish’s minister, Reverend Doctor Nathan Parker, upon his marriage to Susan Pickering, the daughter of New Hampshire Chief Justice John Pickering and a descendant of the original John Pickering.
Haven-White House // 1800
Another three-story Federal period house on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, NH is this wood-frame example, known as the Haven-White House. The property was developed in 1799-1800 by Joseph Haven, a merchant who built the house across the street from his father’s residence. Joseph Haven occupied this house until his death in 1829. After his wife Sarah’s death in 1838, the house remained in the Haven family, though usually occupied by others, until 1898 when it was sold to Mrs. Ella White. The White family, which included a grocer, a City Councilman in the early 1900s; and a chiropractor, with the family occupying the house until 1981. This history of long ownership by only two families for nearly 200 years perhaps accounts for the survival of this important house with so few changes. As a result, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, marking it as a nationally significant building.
Samuel’s Stairs // 1810
Houses with unique names are always the most fun to research and post! This stately Federal style mansion in Kennebunkport was built in 1810 for Samuel Lewis (1777-1857), a cabinetmaker and carpenter in town. Lewis also worked as an undertaker and made glass-top coffins from 1801, until his death. It is estimated that Mr. Lewis made 2,500 coffins during his career – including his own. Samuel was a quirky character and built his home as a large addition to a 1762 home, which possibly remains today as an ell. The 1810 house with original transom and sidelights at the entrance was two stories as built which contained a spiral staircase that ended on the second floor at a skylight. Thus, the house became known locally as “Samuel’s Stairs.” A later owner added the third floor, but maintained the Federal proportions. SWOON!
Benjamin Coes House – “Tory Chimneys” // c.1785
One of the hidden architectural gems of Kennebunkport is this Revolutionary-era house with some serious proportions. The house was built around 1785 by Benjamin Coes, a sailmaker from Marblehead, who settled in the burgeoning Kennebunkport in search of new work and opportunities. He married Sarah Durrell and the couple erected the seventh house in town, which is part of this property. For his work, Mr. Coes used the first two floors as his residence and the third floor was used as a sail loft, with an exterior staircase. A young boy, Joseph Brooks, would work in the loft and he would go on to marry Benjamin’s daughter, Sarah. The couple inherited the family house and retired here. The property was sold out of the Coes-Brooks Family when Maine State Historian, Henry Sweetser Burrage and his wife Ernestine purchased this house in 1917, which would be used as a guest house. The couple and lived in the house across the street. Ernestine Burrage, who was Chairperson of the Kennebunkport Chapter of the Red Cross, allowed the ladies of her chapter to gather there three times a week to roll bandages for the soldiers injured in battles overseas. It became the headquarters for the Kennebunkport Red Cross. It was likely Ernestine who had the chimneys painted white, which resembled the old Tory Chimneys in Revolutionary-era New England; where, when painted white, they served as a quiet signal which indicated that a home’s residents were loyal subjects of the British Crown.
John Bourne House // c.1800
John Bourne (1759-1837) was born in Wells, Maine as the son of Benjamin Bourne. When the American Revolution hit a peak, when he was only sixteen years of age, John enlisted in the service of the country, and marched in company of Capt. Thomas Sawyer, to Lake Champlain. After the war, he learned the trade of shipbuilding and established himself in Kennebunkport, at the height of the village’s manufacturing. John Bourne built ships for a wealthy ship-owner and became successful himself. Bourne was married three times. His first wife, Abigail Hubbard (m.1783) died at just 24 years old after giving him three children. He remarried Sally Kimball a year later, who died in her twenties at just 28, she birthed one son for him in that time. His third wife, Elizabeth, would outlive John, and they had five children together. After his marriage with Elizabeth, John likely had this home built, possibly from his own hands. The Federal style home stands out for the unique entry with blind fan and modified Palladian window framed by engaged pilasters.
Asa Hutchins House // 1795
The village of Kennebunkport in Maine is a well-preserved enclave of Federal period houses built at the heyday of shipbuilding and maritime trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many sea captains and shipbuilders erected stately homes in the village, with high-quality design and woodworking inside and out. This Federal period home was built for Asa Hutchins (1769-1860) a blacksmith who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and settled in Kennebunkport in the late 1700s. The house exhibits a central chimney a feature more common in Colonial-era homes, with a five bay facade and projecting entrance.
Captain Nathaniel Ward – Abbott Graves House // 1812
In about 1812, Captain Nathaniel Ward Jr. of Kennebunkport purchased this home in the village from housewright and builder Samuel Davis. The Federal style house is five bays with a central entrance with pedimented fan over the door. Two end chimneys would heat the home in the winter months when Nathaniel was out at sea and his wife, Sarah, would be maintaining the home and caring for their six children. The couple’s eldest son Charles Ward, served as the second American Consul to Zanzibar in Africa. In his role, Ward bickered continuously with the Sultan, whose word of law changed with the wind and he eventually left his position and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. This house was later owned by Abbott Fuller Graves (1859–1936), a renowned painter before he built a Prairie Style house in Kennebunkport in 1905.
H. P. Lovecraft House // c.1823
In 1823, Samuel B. Mumford (1791-1849) purchased a lot on College Street in Providence and erected this modest Federal style home. The house’s marker reads “Samuel Mumford House”, but the most famous resident was actually Howard Phillips Lovecraft aka. H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and lived almost his entire life there besides a few years in New York. He resided in a few places in the city but eventually settled in this home which he rented a room in his final years. Sadly, Lovecraft died at just 46 years old from intestinal cancer, and was largely unrecognized during his short, impoverished life. Since his death, he’s grown in literary stature to become one of the great fantasy classic horror authors of all time. While Lovecraft only lived in this home from 1933-1937, it was the location where he wrote his most mature and final pieces. I bet he would never imagine how popular he would become (even with an HBO series based on his worlds). The house was moved in 1959 (due to Brown University’s ever-growing and expanding campus) and now sits not too far from Prospect Terrace a small square that Lovecraft visited frequently during his time in Providence.
Welcome Congdon House // c.1820
In 1820, Joseph Dorr, a trader, purchased this house lot in Providence’s East Side overlooking present-day Downtown. He had this Federal style house built with a symmetrical five-bay facade with fanlight transom over the door. He occupied the house until 1827 when he sold the property to a Charles Hadwin. In 1832, the property was acquired and soon after purchased by Welcome Congdon (1794-1874) who lived there until his death. The house was more recently added onto with a Modern addition on the side, to provide additional, private space for the owners who live directly next to a public park.