Hidden Treasure

The state's oldest wood-frame house (and probably the oldest, period) is tucked away in Portsmouth

In 1664 Richard Jackson - a woodworker, farmer and mariner - built this house on his family's 25-acre plot of land in Portsmouth. Seven generations of his descendants would live there; at points a whole passel of people crowded into the four rooms.

A census in the early 1700s showed that 12 adult men occupied the house. If that seems like a lot, it doesn't include the women and children that the census didn't bother to count. "Back then it wasn't that unusual to have people live cheek to jowl," says Craig Tuminaro, regional site manager for Historic New England, which now owns the house.

As time went along, he says, first a lean-to and then more rooms were added to accommodate all the people and their belongings. When Historic New England bought the property in 1924, Tuminaro says the rooms were "taken back to as early as they found evidence for." Some 18th-century sash was replaced with the diamond-pane casements like those the house originally had.

The house sits above North Mill Pond on a hillside dotted with a variety of apple trees. "It's a really evocative house," Tuminaro says. "It's been witness to so much change. You really get a wonderful sense of time passing."

He'd like to have more people experience the Jackson House, which is a little off the beaten track: "There are people who have lived in Portsmouth all their lives and have never heard of it. Our other sites in Portsmouth are better known."

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