Thursday, March 22, 2012

Governor John Langdon House

Governor John Langdon’s house is located at 143 Pleasant Street, on the southeast corner of Pleasant and Court Streets.

The Langdon family was already influential when John was born in 1741. He would become one of the most remarkable Portsmouth citizens who ever lived.

John Langdon captained a merchant ship owned by Daniel Rindge when he was twenty-two years old. Before long, he was in business for himself and owned his own merchantman. British trade restrictions, like the Stamp Act, fueled his revolutionary rebelliousness.

In December 1774, almost exactly one year after the Boston Tea Party, armed patriots led by Major John Langdon, Major John Sullivan, and naval Captain Thomas Pickering raided Fort William and Mary (now Fort Constitution) on New Castle Island. This was the first military confrontation between armed American rebels and British troops. The raiders confiscated British gunpowder, muskets, and small cannons stored at the fort. Some of the gunpowder was later used at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston.

In 1775, he was a delegate to the first Continental Congress, and from 1776-1782, served as Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

During the Revolutionary War, he commanded his own company of volunteers. His shipyard on Langdon's Island (now Badger's Island) built privateers and warships during the war, including the Raleigh, the Ranger, and the America.

The 32-gun Raleigh, launched in 1776 and captained by Captain Thomas Thompson who lived next door, is featured on the State Seal of New Hampshire.

The famous 18-gun Ranger was launched in 1777 and captained by John Paul Jones when he captured HMS Serapis.

After years of delays, the 74-gun America was finally launched in 1782. It was intended for Captain John Paul Jones but was given to France instead as compensation for the accidental loss of the Magnifique in Boston Harbor.

John Langdon married Elizabeth  Sherburne in 1777, the cousin of Woodbury Langdon’s wife.  They had two children, Elizabeth and John, who died in infancy.

After the Revolutionary War, in 1884, he built this house on Pleasant Street and lived here for the rest of his life.
 John Langdon signed the United States Constitution in 1787 as a representative of the state. His illustrious career also included two terms as President of New Hampshire; U. S. Senator from 1789 – 1801 and President of the first U. S. Senate; member of the state legislature from 1801-1805; and Governor of New Hampshire from 1805 – 1809 and 1810-1812.

He was nominated to run for Vice President with James Madison in 1812 but declined the offer.

Many distinguished visitors have walked through the front door of this mansion. President George Washington visited in 1789 and President James Monroe in 1817. A future King of France, Louis Philippe, once stayed here when the William Pitt Tavern had no vacancy.

John Langdon spent his retirement years here and died in this house on September 18, 1819.

The 1907 photograph below is from the Library of Congress.

 After John Langdon's death, other influential Portsmouth families occupied the house. Navy officer Joseph Wilson owned it from 1833-1836. A rector of St. John’s Church on Bow Street, Dr. Charles Burroughs, and his wife lived here for more than forty years, from 1836-1877.

The next owner was Woodbury Langdon, a descendant of and named after John’s brother. His mother, Frances Bassett, lived here from 1877-1902. After her death, Woodbury Langdon deeded the house to his wife, Elizabeth. During their years here, they revived the home in a Colonial style. President William Howard Taft visited them here in 1912.

Elizabeth Langdon deeded the house to Historic New England in 1947. Not surprisingly, the mansion is a National Historic Landmark.

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