Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth NH
It was a pleasant mansion, an abode
Near and yet hidden from the great high-road,
Sequestered among trees, a noble pile,
Baronial and colonial in its style;
Gables and dormer-windows everywhere,
And stacks of chimneys rising high in air,
Pandaean pipes, on which all winds that blew
Made mournful music the whole winter through.
Within, unwonted splendors met the eye,
Panels, and floors of oak, and tapestry;
Carved chimney-pieces, where on brazen dogs
Revelled and roared the Christmas fires of logs;
Doors opening into darkness unawares,
Mysterious passages, and flights of stairs;
And on the walls, in heavy gilded frames,
The ancestral Wentworths with Old-Scripture names.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from the poem “Lady Wentworth” published in 1862 in his collection Tales from a Wayside Inn
Benning Wentworth (1696-1770) was appointed royal governor by King George II following New Hampshire’s separation from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1679. He rented a brick residence in Portsmouth (Warner House), capital of the new colony. However, when the colonial assembly refused to provide funds for his purchase of the house, he relocated his governmental headquarters to Little Harbor, outside Portsmouth and built a mansion. Today, the Wentworth-Coolidge House is an outstanding example of a colonial governor’s mansion.
The excerpt from Longfellow’s poem (above) recounts the widowed governor’s marriage to his servant, Martha Hilton. He was 64; she was said to be 23. (A Wentworth descendant wrote Longfellow after publication to dispute details of the poem, insisting her age was actually 35.)
The state-owned site celebrates each season’s blooming lilacs with a festival. I’m feeling festive because the lilacs are blooming here so am re-sharing this post with you.