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An Old Town by the Sea 4

Portsmouth stairway treadle pattern/

Aldrich continues his 1893 tour and visits the Langdon House, Warner House, the William Pitt Tavern, the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion and the John Wentworth Home. Amazingly, all of these historic houses are still open to the public more than a century after the author’s demise – and his house too!




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SEE PIX of Historic Portsmouth

When Washington visited Portsmouth in 1789 he was not much impressed by the architecture of the little town that had stood by him so stoutly in the struggle for independence. "There are some good houses," he writes, in a diary kept that year during a tour through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, "among which Colonel Langdon's may be esteemed the first; but in general they are indifferent, and almost entirely of wood. On wondering at this, as the country is full of stone and good clay for bricks, I was told that on account of the fogs and damp they deemed them wholesomer, and for that reason preferred wood buildings."

The house of Colonel Langdon, on Pleasant Street, is an excellent sample of the solid and dignified abodes which our great-grand-sires had the sense to build. The art of their construction seems to have been a lost art these fifty years. Here Governor John Langdon resided from 1782 until the time of his death in 1819 -- a period during which many an illustrious man passed between those two white pillars that support the little balcony over the front door; among the rest Louis Philippe and his brothers, the Ducs de Montpensier and Beaujolais, and the Marquis de Chastellux, a major-general in the French army, serving under the Count de Rochambeau, whom he accompanied from France to the States in 1780.

John Langdon House, Portsmouth, NH/

The journal of the marquis contains this reference to his host: "After dinner we went to drink tea with Mr. Langdon. He is a handsome man, and of noble carriage; he has been a member of Congress, and is now one of the first people of the country; his house is elegant and well furnished, and the apartments admirably well wainscoted" (this reads like Mr. Samuel Pepys); "and he has a good manuscript chart of the harbor of Portsmouth. Mrs. Langdon, his wife, is young, fair, and tolerably handsome, but I conversed less with her than with her husband, in whose favor I was prejudiced from knowing that he had displayed great courage and patriotism at the time of Burgoyne's expedition."

It was at the height of the French Revolution that the three sons of the Duc d' Orleans were entertained at the Langdon mansion. Years afterward, when Louis Philippe was on the throne of France, he inquired of a Portsmouth lady presented at his court if the mansion of brave Gouverneur Langdon was still in existence.

The house stands back a decorous distance from the street, under the shadows of some gigantic oaks or elms, and presents an imposing appearance as you approach it over the tessellated marble walk. A hundred or two feet on either side of the gate, and abutting on the street, is a small square building of brick, one story in height-probably the porter's lodge and tool-house of former days. There is a large fruit garden attached to the house, wbich is in excellent condition, taking life comfortably, and having the complacent air of a well-preserved beau of the ancient regime. The Langdon mansion was owned and long occupied by the late Rev. Dr. Burroughs, for a period of forty-seven years the esteemed rector of St. John's Church.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2018 
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