Historic New England
Governor John Langdon House is an exceptional Georgian mansion which George Washington “esteemed the first” in Portsmouth. Its reception rooms are of a grand scale suited to ceremonial occasions and are ornamented by elaborate wood carving in the Rococo style. John Langdon was a merchant, shipbuilder, Revolutionary War leader, signer of the United States Constitution, and three-term governor of New Hampshire. He built this impressive home to express his status as Portsmouth's leading citizen.
In 1911, the Swett-Ilsley House became the first property acquired by Historic New England, just a year after its founding. The original portion, built in 1670 by Stephen Swett, was one room deep, and later additions more than doubled the size of the house. Over the centuries, the building served as a tavern, chocolate shop, chandlery, and press room, in part due to its location on Newbury's most traveled road.
Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, was the summer home of one of America’s first professional interior designers, Henry Davis Sleeper. Perched on a rock ledge overlooking Gloucester Harbor, Beauport became Sleeper’s retreat, backdrop for entertaining, professional showcase, and an inspiration to all who visited. After Sleeper’s death, Beauport was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McCann, who left most of Sleeper’s arrangements and collections intact.
The Rocky Hill Meeting House is one of the best preserved examples of an original eighteenth-century meeting house interior. It was built in 1785, replacing a c. 1715 meeting house for the West Parish of Salisbury. The Rocky Hill Meeting House was strategically placed along the only road that crossed the swift Powow River (via ferry) and led travelers to the Salisbury Point area, and then onward toward Portsmouth. In fact, George Washington paused here to greet the townspeople on his northward journey in 1789.
In 1821, four intact rooms from an earlier house were transported by ox sled to Salem's fashionable Chestnut Street to form the core of a new Federal-style mansion being constructed by Captain Nathaniel West. Nearly a century later, Anna Phillips bought the house and launched a fourteen-month renovation in the Colonial Revival style. When she, her husband Stephen Willard Phillips, and their five-year-old son moved in, they brought with them a family collection that spans five generations and blossomed during Salem's Great Age of Sail.
Salem shipwright Eleazer Gedney built the earliest portion of the Gedney House in 1665. Originally, the house was an asymmetrical composition consisting of two rooms on the first floor, a single chamber above, and an attic with a front-facing gable. Significant renovations to the structure in 1712 and 1800 resulted in dramatic changes to the house's appearance.
The Dole-Little house was built around 1715 with materials salvaged from an earlier structure. Its first owner was Richard Dole, a cattleman, who built a two-room, central-chimney house with a small kitchen shed at the rear. This shed has since been replaced with a larger lean-to. Decorative carpentry and finishes include chamfered edges, molded sheathing (especially in the hall and parlor), and possibly original stair balusters.
A mecca for lovers of American folk art, Cogswell’s Grant was the summer home of renowned collectors Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little. The colonial-era farmhouse on the property serves as a rich backdrop for their celebrated collection, assembled over a period of nearly sixty years. Though known for their meticulous research, the Littles decorated with an eye for visual delight rather than historic accuracy, and the result is a house rich in atmosphere and crowded with works of strong, even quirky character.
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