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The Girl Who Saved Warner House

Edith Greenough as a child / Presents 
Historic Portsmouth #420

This column recently offered a photograph of little Barrett Wendell (1855-1921) with cape, cane, and feathered hat. The often-photographed Mr. Wendell can also be seen in the Portsmouth Athenaeum archive  posing as a boy in short pants studiously reading a book while leaning on a pedestal. Prophetically, Barrett went on to become a celebrated professor of English Literature at Harvard. (Continued below)


Though born in Boston, Barrett was descended from Jacob Wendell a wealthy merchant of Portsmouth. Today’s photograph shows Edith Greenough who married Barrett. Born August 2, 1859, Edith was only five when she posed for this picture during the Civil War. A studio painter later filled in the colorful details of her dress and hair. The Barretts remained connected to their ancestral hometown. It was Edith who stepped in to prevent the amazing brick Warner House (1715) on Daniel Street from being torn down and replaced by a gas station. As with the majority of Portsmouth’s preserved house museums, the building was slated for demolition by local residents, but preserved at the eleventh hour by wealthy “outsiders” who vacationed in the region. Without the intervention of summer tourist families named Barrett, Coolidge, Langdon, Howells, Nutting, and others, our historic architectural gems would have been lost and the city’s growing reputation as a heritage destination might not exist. (Picture courtesy of Portsmouth Athenaeum)

Edith_Greenough_married Barrett-Wendell / Portsmouth Athenaeum Collection


I enjoyed your segment of Thursday's paper, "The Girl who Saved Warner House".  My grandmother, who was also a summer resident, Mrs. A. D. Hill, was a great friend to Edith Wendell and her husband...and was devoted to the Warner House.  I believe, due to her friendship with the Wendell's, she was once on the board of the house.  She also gave a magnificent piece of furniture, (a secretary) which was located in one of the second floor bedrooms, the last time I was in the house.  I think she and my grandfather inherited the piece from his mother, at her death.  As a child, not unlike my other family members, I used to color at the desk.

SEE Barrett Wendell as a boy

At one time, it had gold leaf angels on the front, but they had been removed, but kept by the house. Also, at one time, someone from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in NYC, had told my grandparents that the angel figures were probably added after the piece was in existence. As a "thanks" for donating the secretary, my grandmother was presented with a framed lithograph of the Warner House.  All locals, my family bought the house in New Castle where I live, should as you noted be grateful to folks who stepped up and saved some of the old colonial treasures.  St. John's Church was another favorite place to my grandmother--she worshipped there, in the summer. Thanks, again, for your article.  I enjoy every one, but was particularly touched by the Wendell story.

John Hill, New Castle, NH

VISIT Warner House Web site


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018 
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