Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion

The first Governor of New Hampshire was a real character.  Benning Wentworth Colonial Governor from 1741 to 1766, granted the governorship by Great Britain to settle a business deal with Spain that went south when the two countries got into one of their many disputes.

As Governor, Wentworth had a damn the torpedoes approach that fits well with the Live Free or Die state motto that was adopted later.  One of the most controversial things Wentworth did was grant land in what is now Vermont to settlers, even though New York claimed the land as theirs.  Naturally this eventually led to hostilities between the two, most famously with Ethan Allen.  That’s a story for another day.

Wentworth requested that a capital building be built in Portsmouth, but the New Hampshire General Council denied his request.  So Wentworth built a council chamber at his 100 acre farm instead.  It was here that he did most of the governing of the state.  It’s also where he sprung another controversy on his guest one night when, as a widowed 64 year-old, he married his 23 year-old servant.  It seems Wentworth was a player.

The farmhouse is actually four or five buildings tacked together.  According to the Wentworth-Coolidge mansion web site, “The property became the center of political and social life in the colony. The Mansion is historically significant as the only original surviving residence of a Royal Governor in the United States”.  Interestingly, the first lilacs planted in the United States were planted here and the oldest in the country.  So New Hampshire has potatoes in Londonderry and lilacs in Portsmouth as two firsts.

The house was eventually sold off a couple of times, remaining a farm for some time but gradually falling into disrepair until it became the summer house of John Templeman Coolidge III in 1886.  The Coolidge family, wealthy Bostonians, restored the property and likely saved it from oblivion.  The family hosted wealthy friends and artists from Boston each summer, and the area thrived.  His widow donated the mansion to the state in 1954.

Today the property is a state park, surrounded by some pricy real estate.  I did a first day hike here to mark the New Year, 2018.  It’s a property I’d love to explore sometime, and dig into the history a bit more.

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