Built sometime between 1749 and 1756, the Hart-Rice House, a little-altered example of Georgian architecture, stands out in the densely packed Hill section of Portsmouth, NH. The area contains amazing early homes, largely moved to their sites from nearby, saving them from the wrecking-ball of Urban Renewal in the 1970s. The house demonstrates the high-quality craftsmanship of its owner, ship-joiner Samuel Hart (1701-1766), who likely built the home himself. Decades later, William Rice, a sea-captain, purchased the home. Rice was a known privateer during the War of 1812, causing a lot of trouble for British ships off the shores.
After the Revolutionary War, Assonet became a prominent village for shipbuilders and sea captains, who loved the inland location but easy access to the sea via the Taunton River. This transitional Georgian-Federal style home was built in 1789 for Jonathan Bowen, a ship master, who likely also had a shipyard in the village. In the 19th century, the property was purchased by Augustus Barrows, another mariner. The home is extremely well-preserved and sits on a hill just outside the main village. The narrow door surround features a transom and is flanked by pilasters which support a triangular pediment with dentil trim. The traditional Georgian central chimney is a nice touch as well!
The best street in Assonet (Freetown), Mass. is Water Street, a quiet road that runs along the bank of the Assonet River with gorgeous old homes lining the opposite side. This beautiful home on Water Street was built around the turn of the 19th century, possibly as a rental property for Philip Hathaway who lived nearby. The home was likely built by shipbuilders, who worked across the street, building sloops for the village’s sea captains. From the date, we know the boxy Federal style home once was more refined, but it was updated by a later owner, Captain Washington Read. Captain Read loved being on the open sea. From age nine, he worked on his father’s ships as a cabin boy, eventually commanding his own sloop at just thirteen years old! Later, in the ship “Caroline Read” (named after his wife), he circumnavigated the globe. Starting from New York in 1850, being then thirty-seven years of age, he doubled Cape Horn to San Francisco; thence to Singapore, thence to Calcutta, thence around the Cape of Good Hope to London, and from there home to New York. The trip occupied seventeen months. Captain Read crossed the Atlantic about seventy times, his wife accompanying him thirty-eight times. He never grounded or lost a vessel. He rescued many survivors from numerous wrecks, taking fifty-two from one wreck in mid-ocean, encountering great peril in so doing. For this he received high commendation from the Lord Mayor of London, the rescued being British subjects. It was Read who “modernized” this home with Italianate detailing including: the bracketed eaves, bay windows, and door hood. The monitor roof may have been original.
This beautiful house was built by retired whaling Captain John G. Dexter in 1860. The Dexter family’s ties to Rochester, Massachusetts, began when William Dexter became the first descendant of the Dexter
family to settle in town around 1679. William, one of the 32 original grantees of the town (from land by Sachem Metacomet), died in Rochester in 1694 and his four sons and grandsons remained in Rochester through the 19th century. After being away for months or years at a time, Captain John Dexter returned to his hometown to build this home on family land that was previously undeveloped. The Dexter family remained in the house well into the early 20th century, carrying on the family’s deep rooted history in the area. The home is a blending of Gothic and Italianate styles, which work really well in the rural area.
During the 1790s and early 1800s, the rise of the coastal schooner trade and whaling ushered in a long period of prosperity for coastal towns in New England, which continued unabated until the Civil War. The War of 1812 provided many Marion sailors and sea captains with the chance to experience life at sea with privateers papers issued by the United States government, these captains went to sea in their schooners to hunt down British ships, plundering them like pirates. One of these captains was Ward Parker Delano, who built this house in 1797 overlooking Sippican Harbor. Under subsequent owners in the Delano family, the home was modified on numerous occasions in styles popular at the time until the early 20th century when it was Colonialized, which added the portico, gable, and dentils.
Captain Russell Grey (Gray) was one of a handful of sea-captains who lived in Wharf Village, the downtown of present-day Marion, Massachusetts. The men would own ships that were docked in the harbor or in nearby New Bedford, and would leave for months-long excursions chasing whales, fish, or other treasures. Behind, they left their young wives and growing families, who braved the harsh New England winters and the unpredictable coastal weather events. This small cottage was built around 1845, for a young Russell Grey and his wife, Sarah Luce, who’s own family was full of mariners as well. The couple’s Greek Revival style cottage remains as one of the most charming in the village.
On July 7-8, 1779, the Red Coats marched through Fairfield torching houses to punish the locals for seeking independence. They killed locals, destroying anything they could find on their way out, setting fires to homes and civic buildings around the Green. This home was built by Isaac Tucker, later sold to Jonathan Maltbie, sea captain involved with East Indies trade. He later would fight against the British during the Revolution, and after the war, was hired as captain on one of the first cutter ships built, the Argus. During the British invasion of Fairfield, they attempted to set fire to this home three times, but it seemed to never go up in flames when they returned. The tradition holds that an elderly servant, hiding upstairs, put out the flames and saved the house from destruction, after the British Troops torched it. Burn marks apparently remain inside to this day. Since the home was built, the front door facing the street was relocated to the side, and a large multi-pane bay window was installed in its place.
Standing out amongst the Federal and Greek Revival homes in Edgartown, this Victorian home was constructed in 1892 by Captain Charles W. Fisher (1835-1905) for his new wife. The Fisher family includes many members who were active in the local whaling industry. Fisher is said to have caught the largest sperm whale on record in 1884 and apparently loved being on the open ocean. The next year he married Parnell Pease and she sailed with him to the Pacific on a whaling voyage, lasting five years! At the time of their marriage, Fisher was in his 50s and his new wife in her 20s. Upon their return, Fisher built his wife this “modern style house on the pretentious side with Victorian ornamentation.” Unfortunately, his wife preferred her former house, which was a block a way and obscured any views of the water. Tradition states that apparently, Mrs. Fisher had seen enough of the water during her voyage, as her diary on the five year trip detailed her many unfortunate bouts with sea-sickness, a stay on an island, and dangerous storms.
Built for Melville Walker, a sea captain on land gifted to him by his father, this home perfectly exhibits the changing dynamic of Kennebunkport. Melville Walker would often be out at sea for months at a time, and he apparently brought along his wife, three daughters and son on many trips to ports all over the world. The Italianate home was eventually sold out of the family, and by 1901, it was purchased by George Little, an executive with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. That year, he had the summer home renovated with Colonial Revival detailing, including the hipped roof, dormer, and other detailing. The belvedere, 2/2 windows, and Victorian era porch were retained, showing the original form and detailing of the Italianate version. In the 1950s, the home was converted to an inn, with small cottages constructed surrounding the property to house additional families. Today, Maine Stay Inn & Cottages welcomes families from all over the world to experience the beauty of Kennebunkport.