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More on Tobias Lear

Tobias Lear House

  • House:
    1740 colonial hip-roofed Four-square
  • Collections:
    restored furnished parlor, original kitchen, antique toys and furniture
  • Open:
    Wednesdays in summer 1-4pm and by appointment
  • Admission:
    $4-adults, $2-children 6-14 years. Call or write for group tours.


Home of Tobias Lear V who became secretary to George Washington. Washington visited the house in 1789 while touring Portsmouth.

The land deed to the Lear House was only recently discovered and is dated October 1738. The land was sold by Elijah Plaisted to Captain Tobias Lear III, grandfather to the most famous Lear, who became secretary to President George Washington. Tobias Lear IV brought his bride Mary Stillson here in 1759. He also worked for his cousin John Langdon, a wealthy ship builder. Tobias Lear IV was Langdon's crew chief at the building of The Ranger, the Portsmouth-built ship commanded by John Paul Jones.

Tobias Lear V was born here in 1762 and died by his own hand in Washington D.C. in 1816. In 1789 he accompanied America's first president George Washington on his tour of the original colonies. The president's visit to the Lear House is well documented and the parlor of the house is restored to represent that 1789 period. Washington met with Mrs. Tobias Lear IV and the event is briefly noted in Washington's journal. Charles Brewster wrote about the meeting in the mid 1800s, getting his details from an eye witness.

"After he [Washington] entered the Lear mansion, a crowd such as has never since been seen here, gathered around the door. In the south-west parlor, he was introduced to and cordially greeted every member of the family.-- the venerable mother, her children and her grandchildren. Of the latter might be seen a bright little girl of three or four years, sitting on his lap and giving him a kiss... That Lady, Miss Mary L. Storer, still occupies the mansion. There is also a babe presented who has been christened George Washington."
Brewster's Rambles

Madame Lear became friends of the Washington's, even travelling to stay with them in Philadelphia when Lear's first wife Polly died of yellow fever. She lived in her Portsmouth house until 1829 when she left the house to Mary Lear Storer who sold it outside the family in 1860 to James Flynn and Jermiah Falvey.

The modern history of the house has yet to be fully researched, but it fell into disrepair and was occupied by a number of families until the 1930s. Ironically, the lack of modernization -- no electricity or plumbing was installed when the whole the house was occupied. The Lear House was part of the property purchased by photographer Wallace Nutting who restored the adjacent Wentworth-Gardner mansion to its original Georgian style. The Lear House is also called a "mansion" because of its size, two-story layout, large palladium window, wide hallways and fine stairway. It is a "four-square" house with wide halls running front to back on the first and second floors. There are eight fireplaces in low posted rooms. The interesting hip roof style can best be observed from the attic where, it is assumed, the Lear family slaves resided.

Until released the attached photos by Frank Clarkson, the inside of the Lear House has rarely been seen by the public. Continued renovation is planned and recent acquisitions to the collection include items originally belonging to the Lear family.

Brush up your "Lear IQ" with these
other fine web pages.

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John Paul Jones Join & Contribute
Use the online form below to apply for membership and we will send a statement to you via postal mail. You may also print this form and send checks directly to the address below.

PO Box 563
Portsmouth, NH 03802

Select your level for these membership benefits:
  • Unlimited free admission to both houses
  • Invitations to all special events
  • Invitations to "members only" events
  • Newsletter subscription

one season pass
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three season pass
three season passes and a guided tour
four season passes and a guided tour
all of the above plus two tickets to fundraiser
all of the above plus four season passes, plus video tour of Wentworth home

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Site label
PO Box 4458
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03802
Voice: 603-427-2020

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