Wheelwright House exterior and interior.
For a Virtual Classroom tour of this house, click here.
Captain John Wheelwright was an elected member of the Marine Society, a group of mariners who were “more intimately acquainted with the Circumstances and Incidents attending the Navigation of (the Piscataqua River) than others.” During the five years preceding the American Revolution Wheelwright commanded the brig Abigail on eight consecutive voyages to the West Indies. But in September of 1775 the Abigail, laden with a cargo of lumber, was seized off the New Hampshire coast by a squadron of British ships, and taken to Boston, then under British control.
Wheelwright then served first as second lieutenant aboard the Portsmouth-built Continental ship Raleigh and later as commander of several privateers in Boston. He had little success in these ventures, however, and wartime inflation caused him to go into debt. When he died in 1784, he owed his creditors in excess of £400. To pay the debts his house was sold at public auction. His wife, Martha was permitted to live on in a small section of the house, and his children Elizabeth and Jack, were forced to move away.
Built at the time of the American Revolution, Wheelwright House is an excellent example of a basic middle-class dwelling made more dignified by the addition of classical Georgian embellishments. It is not a large house but its features reflect the same style and taste found in grander homes of Portsmouth. The exterior details, the triangular pediments and the fluted pilasters on either side of the front door, are an example. Most notable inside is the abundance of paneling, including folding paneled window shutters and the deeply grooved pilasters that frame the fireplaces of the two lower front rooms.
This house was restored through the generosity of the S. Judson Dunaway Charitable Foundation of Dover, New Hampshire.
Cooking demonstrations are held daily on the open hearth of the Wheelwright House and during scheduled Workshops open to the public.