Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rider-Wood House

The Rider-Wood House, sometimes spelled Ryder-Wood, is located on the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and Whidden Place, on the property of Strawbery Banke Museum.

Before the American Revolution, George Walton opened a tannery on this lot, where he converted animal hides into leather. Walton is also associated with the Conant House at Strawbery Banke.

One of the many Samuel Jacksons to reside in Portsmouth built the current house around 1780-1800. He was a skilled carpenter who also built his own home, the Jackson House, around 1795-1800. 

Although the Rider-Wood House is a small, four-room building representative of a middle-income wage earner of the late 18th Century, Jackson added fine details – like the transom and pediment above the front door – that were personal touches and showed that he took pride in his work. 

Compare this house with the Peacock House, constructed around 1821, which was built strictly as a rental property. The tenant houses are simply constructed and plainly ornamented.

John and Mary Rider, who came to the United States from Devonshire, England in 1790, purchased this house from Henry Jackson, probably a son of Samuel Jackson, in 1809. They added the two sheds to the house. The one on the west side facing Jefferson Street was added around 1811 and most likely used as a retail shop.

After John Rider died in 1818, Mary ran a grocery shop until the 1830s. By then, she was a wealthy woman who lived on profits from her rental properties as well as dividends and interest from stocks and bank accounts. When she died in 1861, this house became the property of her nephew, James Wood, who lived here until 1900.

Later, the house served as a Kosher butcher shop and then rental apartments. Slated to be torn down by Portsmouth’s urban renewal in the 1960s, the Rider-Wood House was preserved by Strawbery Banke Museum.

The black-and-white photographs are from a 1961 Historic American Building Survey (HABS) by the National Park Service. The report refers to this structure as the Ryder-Wood House and claims that the home was built around 1740 and the shop addition added around 1820-1830. The statistics I used for this article came primarily from more recent studies by Strawbery Banke Museum and from the book, Building Portsmouth: The Neighborhoods and Architecture of New Hampshire's Oldest City, by Richard M. Candee.

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