The Wentworths were one of the wealthiest and most influential families in New Hampshire before the American Revolution. Thomas Wentworth, whose uncle and brother both served as Royal Governors of the province, received this house as a wedding gift from his parents in 1760. Thomas and his wife had five children over the next few years; however, he died in this house only eight years after it was built.
William Gardner purchased the house in 1793. A major during the Revolutionary War, he served as General Washington's Commissary, procuring supplies for the revolutionary army. When the new government lacked funds, he used his own money to purchase goods and ended the war nearly penniless.
To repay him for his sacrifice, President Washington named Major Gardner a United States Loan Commissioner. William Gardner lived in this mansion until his death in 1833, and his widow owned the home until 1854.
During the 1860s, this area of Portsmouth became a seedy neighborhood filled with pubs and brothels. Owners converted the Wentworth-Gardner House and the nearby Tobias Lear House into tenant apartments. They continued boarding guests until author and photographer Wallace Nutting purchased the Wentworth-Gardner in 1915. He restored the Wentworth-Gardner to its 18th-Century elegance.
Wallace Nutting sold the mansion to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1918. The new owners intended to move the building to New York City, but the plan failed with the stock market crash in 1929.
Not surprisingly, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
The South End is a great place to walk in Portsmouth, especially the area around Pleasant Street, Gates Street, Marcy Street, and Mechanic Street. Shady sidewalks along quiet roads, dozens of historic homes, and very friendly residents make any ramble worthwhile. If you go, please respect the property and privacy of the nonpublic homes.