An early record of this property dates from 1779, when Benjamin Bigelow, a Portsmouth market trader or grocer, purchased the land, which included an old house. A second house, probably the one that still exists today, was constructed on the lot around 1789, the same year that Bigelow sold the land to his son, also named Benjamin Bigelow.
The first prominent owner of the house was Captain Robert Whipple Blunt, a respected Portsmouth mariner and Captain of the schooner, James.
Captain Blunt married Elizabeth Sherburne in 1792, and they had five children. The Blunts purchased this house from the junior Benjamin Bigelow around 1799. Captain Blunt shipwrecked in the West Indies and died in Santo Domingo in 1825.
Leonard Cotton purchased Captain Blunt’s estate in 1826. Born on December 20, 1800 in Portsmouth, Cotton was a merchant and cooper – a barrel maker – who, like many wealthy Portsmouth merchants of the time, traded with the West Indies. He married Martha Clarkson, whom he first met while on a trading voyage to that area. They had seven children in this house, and lived here for forty-six years, from 1826 until Cotton died in 1872.
The house has been remarkably preserved. The black-and-white photograph above, taken in 1961, is courtesy of the Library of Congress’s online Digital Collections.
A sign in front of the building gives a construction date of c. 1747. This may refer to the original house that stood here when Benjamin Bigelow, Sr. purchased the lot. My construction date of 1789 came from an Historic American Building Survey (HABS) of the "Captain Robert Blunt House" by the National Park Service.
The Leonard Cotton House is now office space occupied by Attorney Peter J. Loughlin and Robert A. Lucas and Associates, Public Insurance Adjusters.