In 1690, Richard Gardner Jr. (1653-1728) received the land and dwelling house from his late father Richard Gardner (1622-1688) who was born in England and settled in Nantucket by way of Salem upon his death. The primitive, First Period home was occupied by subsequent generations of the Gardner family, and altered and expanded to fit the growing needs and wealth of the family. By 1840, the house was owned by George C. Gardner, a whaling captain and descendant of Richard Gardner. The original home was located on what is now Lowell Place, just off Main Street, and the Gardner Homestead was converted to a carriage house for the more modern George Gardner Home. By 1927, Ms. Gladys Wood purchased the deteriorating and heavily altered structure, and moved it to its current location on Main Street. Ms. Wood hired architect Alfred Shurrocks, who summered on the island and was restoring the Jethro Coffin house nearby, to restore the former Gardner Homestead, but this one was all based on conjecture and historical precedent. The home looks much like a 17th century saltbox and has stood the test of time.
Here it is… The oldest house in Nantucket! The Jethro Coffin House dates to 1686, and when it was built, Nantucket’s English population totaled several hundred, and the native Wampanoag outnumbered them by at least three to one. The home was built seemingly as a wedding gift from twenty-three-year-old Jethro Coffin (1663–1727) to his new sixteen-year-old wife Mary Gardner (1670–1767). The marriage merged two of the old Nantucket families and was built on Gardner family land out of lumber transported to the island from Exeter, New Hampshire, where Jethro’s father, Peter Coffin, owned timberland and a saw mill. The First Period house has small windows of small panes of glass as the material was shipped from England at high cost. The large central chimney would heat the entire home on cold winter nights. Mary and Jethro sold their Nantucket dwelling to Nathaniel Paddack in 1708 and moved to Mendon, Massachusetts, when Jethro inherited property there. By the late nineteenth century, the house was abandoned (for some time it was used as a barn) and had fallen into disrepair. A Coffin family reunion held on the island in 1881 renewed interest in the property and off-island members of the family bought the old Coffin House. The Nantucket Historical Association acquired the house in 1923, and four years later, Historic New England), commenced an extensive reconstruction in an attempt to return the house to its historic appearance. It remains a location of pride for residents and visitors to the island to this day.
In 1682, John Palmer acquired a small piece of land in Marblehead, soon after building this First Period home. The house is said to have framing timbers made of English walnut, salvaged from a sailing vessel off shore, with one timber formerly a mast and still displaying rope marks. The house was willed to his son after his death, who built a larger home soon after nearby. This house was “modernized” with double-hung windows which likely replaced the smaller, diamond pane casement windows typical in homes of this period.