The Abraham Wendell House on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a three-story, five-bay, masonry Federal-style residence with symmetrical facade. The building has a slate hip roof with overhanging eaves, a dentilled cornice, and tall brick chimneys. The facade has a wood-paneled entrance door with elliptical entablature, Corinthian pilasters, and a fanlight above. The home was built around 1815 for Abraham Wendell (1785-1865) a ship’s chandler and hardware merchant. Along with his brothers, Jacob and Isaac, established cotton mills in Dover. Although they lost money on the early mill attempts, they became wealthy importer of foreign goods into the ports of Portsmouth. The house remains a highly significant example of early 19th century residential architecture built for wealthy merchants.
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.
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.
Mitchell-Beinecke House // c.1821
At the peak of Nantucket’s whaling industry wealth, the island began to see new brick buildings and whaling mansions that symbolized the stability and success of the town. In 1821, Frederick W. Mitchell (1784-1867), acquired this property on Main Street, demolishing the previous wood-frame house on the site, in preparation for his own mansion. Frederick Mitchell was a successful whaling merchant and one-time president of the Pacific National Bank. Mitchell was married twice but left no children from either marriage. The house remained in the Mitchell family until 1889 when it sold it to Caroline Louisa Williams French (1833-1914) of Boston, who summered on Nantucket until her death in 1914. A devout Episcopalian, French gifted this house to St. Paul’s Church in Nantucket for use as a Parish House. The church deaccessioned the house, and it eventually sold in 1962 to Walter Beinecke (1918-2004) acquired the house for his home. A central figure in the preservation and revival of Nantucket in the second half of the 20th century, Beinecke sought to preserve the island and reduce the damage done by tourism by creating a higher-priced resort that would reduce the number of day tourist and aim at increasing the number of wealthy tourists who would come as summer residents or for extended visits. Working towards this goal, Beinecke acquired large numbers of buildings (more than 150) in the commercial core of the town as personal investments through his private company Sherburne Associates, restoring many. The house is one of the finest examples of late-Federal residential architecture on the island with its recessed entry and fanlight transom, symmetrical five bay facade, decorative parapet and belvedere at the roof.
Lydia S. Hinchman House // c.1819
This late Federal style house on Nantucket was built in the early nineteenth century for Thomas Coffin, who himself acquired the land in 1818, which would date the home to around 1819. The Federal house exhibits a raised basement with a five bay facade with central entrance. The door is surrounded by sidelights and transom with Classical enframement. Like many houses on Nantucket, the house is clad with cedar shingles. After ownership by Thomas Coffin, the property passed through numerous hands until 1929, when the house was purchased by Lydia S. Hinchman (1845-1938). Lydia deeded the property to her son requesting that it go to the Maria Mitchell Association upon his death (Lydia was a first cousin of Maria Mitchell). He died in 1944, and the property transferred soon after to the Maria Mitchell Association which was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell.
Folger House // 1807
There is so much to love about this house! The lot here was purchased by Paul Macy and Gideon Folger in 1807, and they had this house built on the site that year. Paul Macy and, Gideon Folger were two major shareholders in the ill fated whaling schooner “Essex”. In 1820, while at sea in the southern Pacific Ocean under the command of Captain George Pollard Jr., the ship was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Thousands of miles from the coast of South America with little food and water, the 20-man crew was forced to make for land in the ship’s surviving whaleboats. The men suffered severe dehydration, starvation, and exposure on the open ocean, and the survivors eventually resorted to eating the bodies of the crewmen who had died. When that proved insufficient, members of the crew drew lots to determine whom they would sacrifice so that the others could live. Seven crew members were cannibalized before the last of the eight survivors were rescued, more than three months after the sinking of the Essex. This ordeal was inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick. The Folger House was owned for some time by Walter Folger, a lawyer who served in the state senate.
Kent-Isham House // c.1800
Located at the principal intersection in the Kent Hill area of Dorset, this home is the visual anchor for its surroundings. The property is a typical early 19th century Federal style house in Vermont, sheathed in clapboards, a central entrance, with a slate gabled roof and two exterior end chimneys. The house was probably remodeled not long before the Civil War, which would account for the classical entry porch, with square piers, entablature, and paneled parapet. Together with the peaked lintels, these are the only classical details on the exterior of the building. This was the home to Martin Kent (1769-1857), a son of Cephas Kent, an original settler to the area of the prominent Kent family of Suffield, Connecticut. Cephas built a house and tavern on the southwest corner of this home, which hosted four meeting of delegates from various southern Vermont towns in 1775 and 1776 to determine how to act together against New York claims to their lands, a catalyst to the establishment of the state of Vermont. Other owners of the Martin Kent House have included historian and novelist Zephine Humphrey, her artist husband Wallace Fahnestock, and Lincoln Isham, Abraham Lincoln’s great-grandson! Lot of history here!