Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sherburne House

The Sherburne House, once called the Goodwin House, stands on the northeast corner of Puddle Lane (formerly Charles Street) and Horse Lane, on the property of Strawbery Banke Museum.

While researching historic Portsmouth buildings on the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, I found pictures from 1961 of the Goodwin House. They were photographed by the National Park Service for an Historic American Building Survey (HABS). 

The report gives its address as 55 Charles Street, which places it between the Lowd House at 43 Charles Street and the Drisco (now Shapley-Drisco) House at 65-67 Charles Street. Today, the Goodwin House lot is occupied by the Sherburne House.

This led to a mystery for me: How could the Goodwin House have been located on the same lot as the Sherburne House, when my research suggests the Sherburne House has been here since around 1700? For example, on, an article about the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail states that, “The white Sherburnes built this steep roofed house in two phases c. 1695 and c. 1702, when this neighborhood was new.” 

As shown below, the National Park Service’s photographs prove that, in 1961, the Goodwin House occupied the lot that now holds the Sherburne House.

The house to the right of the Goodwin House is obviously the Shapley-Drisco House, the same building that appears to the right of the Sherburne House in my recent photograph. Notice also that the granite marker on the corner appears to be the same in both pictures. 

This is a 1961 photograph of the Shapley-Drisco House in poor condition. The house next door is obviously not the Sherburne House. A comparison with the fifty-year-old photo above is further proof that the Goodwin House once stood here.

I wondered if the Sherburne House had originally stood here, then been moved to another location like so many other buildings in Portsmouth to make way for the Goodwin House, and later returned to its original location. Then I noticed something: both houses are in the exact same position relative to the Drisco House. This suggested to me that the Goodwin House is in fact the Sherburne House before Strawbery Banke Museum restored it! 

After more research on the Web, I found a 1982 New York Times article, “Strawbery Banke: A Lively Legacy”, that confirms it: “The Sherburne House is a striking example of how Strawbery Banke has reclaimed the past through skillful restoration: When it was acquired in 1964, this was a non-descript two-family dwelling with a jerrybuilt second-floor back porch. Layer by layer, the additions were carefully removed (each stage was recorded by photographs now on display) to reveal the original house, which is typical of the postmedieval style of architecture that the English colonists brought to the New World.”

The Sherburne House was built in two phases, from around 1695-1702, by one of the oldest families in Portsmouth, the Sherburnes. The building is best known as the home of Joseph Sherburne, a shipmaster who owned a nearby wharf, a farm on the Portsmouth Plains, and also ran a shop in this house. He and his wife, Mary Lovell, had five children and owned two slaves. Joseph Sherburne served as a Provincial Councilor of New Hampshire from 1733 until his death in 1744.


  1. The Sherburne House is NOT the same building as the Goodwin Mansion. The c.1695 Sherburne House is on its original foundation at the Marcy Street end of the Strawbery Banke campus. The Goodwin Mansion, on Hancock Street, was moved to Strawbery Banke from its original location on Islington Street, in 1963.

  2. You are confusing the Goodwin HOUSE with the Goodwin MANSION, the former home of Governor Ichabod Goodwin that was moved from Islington Street to Strawbery Banke.

    The Sherburne House was built around 1695 at this location. Over the years, it was transformed into a typical suburban home as shown in the 1961 photographs above, taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). At that time, the 'Sherburne House' was owned by a family named Goodwin, so the HABS page on the Library of Congress Webpage refers to the Sherburne House as the "Goodwin House". I have no idea whether or not the Goodwin family who lived here were descendants of Ichabod Goodwin.

    During the late 1960s, Strawbery Banke restored the 'Goodwin House' back to what they believed was the original configuration when built by the Sherburnes.