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Langdon House Doorway

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Langdon House Doorway
Pleasant Street, Portsmouth, NH
Illustration (c) 1913 Helen Pearson

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Excerpt from "Vignettes of Portsmouth," (1913) by Helen Pearson and Harold Hotchkiss Bennett, Courtesy of Portsmouth Public Library Collection.



This stately mansion was built in the year 1784, by Governor john Langdon and occupied by him until his death, on September 18, 1819. A venturous life of unusual interest began when the future patriot was two years old and dwelt in his ancestral home near the crossing of Lafayette and Elwyn Roads, for in the year 1741 the house was consumed by fire and the child was saved from destruction by being thrown from a window down upon a snow bank. After school days at Major Hale's on State Street and further education in the counting-room of Daniel Rindge, John Langdon engaged in a sea-faring life until the Revolutionary troubles enlisted his ready support.

In the year 1774, with Captain John Pickering and Major Sullivan, he led in the daring midnight capture of Fort William and Mary, recorded in British Annals as the first action of the rebels against British soldiery, preparatory to the War of the Revolution. " In the years 1775 and 1776, he was a delegate to the General Congress and as commander of an independent body of cadets was present at Burgoyne's surrender.

He was a member and speaker of the Provincial Legislature of 1776 and 1777 in session at Exeter. When the fall of Fort Ticonderoga led to a decline in the public credit and general discouragement at the country's situation, addressing the Representadves, he made his stirring pledge to the cause of freedom: "I have a thousand dollars in hard money; I will pledge my plate for three thousand more. I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum which will be sold for the most they will bring. They are at the services of the State. If we succeed in defending our firesides and our homes, I may be remunerated; if we do not, then the property will be of no value to me. Our friend Stark, who so nobly maintained the honor of our State at Bunker Hfll may safely be trusted with the honor of the enterprise and we will check the progress of Burgoyne." From this noble offer came the gallant little New Hampshire army that turned back the British northern invasion at Bennington.

Holding many National offices of trust, and frequently elected to State and National Legislatures, John Langdon was chosen President of the United States Senate at its first session, and in that capacity declared the vote of the nation which elected Washington President, and AdamsVice-President of the United States, administering to them their oaths of office. After serving the State as Governor from I 805-I8II, with the exception of the year I809, he declined the National Vice-Presidential nomination from the Republican Congressional Caucus in I8I2, thereafter retiring from public affairs cc and passed the evening of his days in calm retreat from the business of politics and contending parties.

Aside from being the residence of a man so famous in his day, this mansion gains interest from the notable guests who have passed within its doors. President Washington's diary, kept during his visit in 1789, notes that on the day of his arrival, October 31st, after a day of public receptions, he "drank tea at Mr. Langdon's." On Monday, November 2d, he "dined at Colonel Langdon's and drank tea there with a large circle of ladies." Just before leaving Portsmouth, and noting his impressions, he writes, "There are some good houses, among which Colonel Langdon's may be esteemed the first."

At the time of the French Revolution, the three sons of the Duke of Orleans, among them Louis Phillipe, the future King of France, took refuge in the new republic, and coming to Portsmouth found the I "William Pitt " unable to accommodate them, whereupon they took quarters with Governor Langdon. Years afterward, when a Portsmouth lady was presented to King Louis Phillipe he remembered his visit and made inquiry, "Is the pleasant mansion of Governor Langdon still standing?" Another Presidential guest at the Governor's hospitable hall was President Munroe, who called here at the time of his visit to Portsmouth in the year I817.

Following his illustrious predecessors, President William H. Taft called at the Governor's mansion when in the city of Portsmouth, October 23, 1912.

After Governor Langdon's death, Reverend Doctor Burroughs, Rector of St. John's Church for forty-five years, resided in the house, but in recent years (written in 1913) it has returned to the family of its first owner.

SeacoastNH.com Editor's Note: The Langdon House is currently open seasonally to the public and is run by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

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