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Linden Tree at Gardner Mansion


Linden Tree at Gardner Mansion
Mechanic Street, Portsmouth, NH
Illustration (c) 1913 Helen Pearson

Click to see Wentworth-Gardner Mansion

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

Built in the year 1760, by Madam Mark Hunking Wentworth for her son Thomas, this mansion came into the possession of Major William Gardner in 1792. Born in 1751, he had followed the custom of the period and entered a counting house for his business education, in his case the office of Colonel Joshua Wentworth at the corner of Vaughan and Hanover Streets.

During the Revolution, he was an Acting Commissary furnishing supplies to the army. It is related that at one period of the war he was called on for blankets, of which there were none in Portsmouth. At Newburyport Major Gardner found a stock, but the merchant was unwilling to sell. Said he, "The government is so much in debt to me that, if the Revolution is not carried, I am a ruined man. I cannot trust the government any further, but if Major Gardner will take them upon his own personal note, he can have them." To have a reputation for solvency greater than that of the United States government is a distinction not many of its citizens have possessed.

In point of fact, the Major found an empty national treasury to meet his claims, and was so sore a sufferer for his sacrifices at the end of the war, that President Washington appointed him Commissioner of Loans and Pension Agent. His office was over an arch which spanned the present Gardner Street, a well-known landmark in the old town.

When Adams came into power and made a sweeping change of government office holders, the Major was removed, to his great indignation. He became more ardently republican than ever, and was rewarded by having his office restored in 1897 by Thomas Jefferson, being allowed to keep it as long as it existed. The major died in 1833, "one of the most honorable and respected of our citizens."

The magnificent linden tree which stands before the house is well over two hundred years old.

( Update: In fact, after all this explanation, the Linden tree and counting house arch are gone, but the extraordinary Georgian-style mansion, latter owned and made world famous by photographer Wallace Nutting, is open to the public each summer.)

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