|Ascending the stairs|
Archibald Macpheadris built his house on the shores of the
Piscataqua River in 1716. The house is a fine example of a London style late
baroque merchant’s house—rare enough in England, but exceptional in the United
States. Over time, the processional
essence of that world has been lost, but in anticipation of the 300th
anniversary of the building of the house an attempt has been made to remember
and display how that theatrical world influenced, but did not wholly shape the
present. A mode of life that was taken for granted disappeared in a historic
instant—leaving only the rooms that accommodated the private/public stage of
|Talk & Cheese|
Over the centuries this small chamber has been used as a
bedroom, closet and in this example, its earliest use, as a study, or private
chamber. In 1718 this room was at the heart of the public area of the house.
Guests were entertained on the second floor in both the “smalt” room with its
sprung floor for music and dancing and in the southwest bedchamber, where the
most important guests were received. Due to its location and size, this room
provided Macpheadris with a private study near his family, a place to instruct
and engage his business staff, to display special wares and exotic items from
his travels for his clients, and a separate area for his role as a member of
the King’s council for New Hampshire.
|Silk & Wool & Mat|
This small room was a microcosm and center of Macpheadris’s
mercantile world—poised between the early period of colonization and the
growing prosperity of the eighteenth century. It was a world comprised of
English wool, glass, furniture, engravings and pewter, Asian ceramics, a chest
of drawers from nearby Saco, Maine, Virginian tobacco, Irish cheese,
Spitalfields’ silk from London, woven mats, from the Mediterranean, and Port
and Madeira from the Iberian Peninsula.
This was the British Atlantic world of the early eighteenth century and
Macpheadris and other Portsmouth merchants were active participants in it.
|Clay & Wood|
The room was pivotally located so that with the door open it
overlooked the social center of the house. With its turned balcony, walls
decorated with murals, and a large weight-balanced glazed window it was a space
of determined urban sophistication. To complete the impression, in 1718 the
view looking across the street through the room’s front window would have
included the gardens and large wooden shop, warehouse and guest quarters that
sat next to it. Anyone entertained in this room would have understood
Macpheadris’s social standing and aspirations. However, styles changed. When
his daughter, Mary, and new husband, Jonathan Warner, took possession of the house
in 1760, this room and all the others on the second floor retreated forever
into the private household.
|Passing Scenes of Importance, Once Meaningful, Now Obscure|
Jeff Hopper manages historic properties and writes about history, architecture and clothing, among other things.