Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hamilton House

The Hamilton House, also known as the Jonathan Hamilton House, overlooks the Salmon Falls River at 40 Vaughan Lane in South Berwick, Maine, about twelve miles north of Portsmouth.

Jonathon Hamilton was a successful shipping merchant who made his fortune running privateers during the American Revolution. With his new found wealth, he constructed the Hamilton House during the mid-1780s, and ran a shipyard and shop nearby. His prosperous business, which he  centered in Portsmouth, included shipbuilding and timbering. He invested in local mills and owned sugar plantations on Tobago in the West Indies.

After Jonathon Hamilton died in 1802, his sons owned the house and continued their father’s businesses, although not with the success that he had known. In 1811, they sold the Hamilton House to their sister, Oliver, and her husband, Joshua Haven, who sold it four years later to a business associate of Jonathon Hamilton, Nathan Folsom.

From 1839-1898, Aipheus Goodwin and his wife, Betsy, owned the Hamilton House and surrounded it with a family-run farm. Afterwards, the last private owners were Emily Tyson, the widow of a B&O Railroad executive, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Elise Tyson. Friends of Sarah Orne Jewett, who lived in downtown Berwick, the Tysons turned the farm into a Colonial-Revival country estate. Emily died in 1922, but Elise and her husband, Henry Vaughan, continued to summer here.

In 1949, they donated the Hamilton House and adjoining property to Historic New England.

The black-and-white photograph above was taken less than fifty years ago, by the National Park Service in 1970, the year the Hamilton House was named a National Historic Landmark.

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