Livermore-Lunt-Barron House, Circa 1805
79 High Street, Newburyport, MA
In 1803, this house was in process of construction by Enoch Thurston who had purchased the land from Ebenezer Wheelwright. Enoch was a joiner and was probably building the house himself. Two years later, due to his untimely death in the same year, 1805, his widow sold the land to Samuel Newman who in turn sold the uncompleted house to Edward St. Loe Livermore, who completed the house to his own plans. He was a very prominent lawyer in Newburyport and was the Director of the Newburyport Academy. A handsome ball room was built on the second floor and on the first floor there was a bedroom for himself with a private staircase to the wine cellar.
He was elected to Congress in 1807. His daughter Harriet was his hostess while he was in Washington, leaving her mother at home to raise the family of twelve children. Harriet was equally ready to dance in a Washington ball room or to expound the doctrine of the second coming of the Messiah. She later taught school in Haverhill and was the not un-feared “half welcome guest” spoken of in “Snow Bound.” Whittier writes in his preface to this poem that she later went abroad, lived on the slopes of Mt. Lebanon and was finally found wandering with a tribe of Arabs, who regarded her as a prophetess.
Keep in mind these were tough times in Newburyport with the embargo of 1807, the Great Fire of 1811 and the War of 1812 to 1814. Due to the dire times like so many others, Mr. Livermore moved to Boston for greener and more prosperous pastures. For a brief time it passed over several owners: Robert Foster, 1811, John Dean, 1813 and George F. Pearson in 1834.
Captain Micajah Lunt acquired the property in 1838 and his heirs kept the property all the way into the twentieth century. He, himself, was a prominent merchant in Newburyport who won fame in the War of 1812 by becoming a member of a voluntary organization of seamen and merchants called the “Sea Fencibles” for the defense of the coast. Most of the members were merchants then out of work by the Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812. They were willing to defend the coast but were opposed to an extension or prolongation of the War of 1812. When the British blockaded the Merrimac River, it was this organization that prevented the British from staging any landing that would threaten Newburyport. Later in 1830, he was the leader in a venture to fit out vessels for whale fishing on the West Coast. Regrettably for him this venture failed to take root in Newburyport.
Lunt was also a Director of the Newburyport, Boston and Haverhill Steamboat Company and the Merrimack Insurance Company. Even when young, Lunt had a counting room and warehouses on Terry’s Wharf and managed and owned many vessels. He was also vice-president of the Newburyport Marine Society and was President of the Bartlet Steam Mills for twenty years. He even became president of the Institution for Savings from 1846 to 1870. He was the director of the Eastern Railway Company and served as a state senator in 1853.
He made many structural changes to the Federal home to make it more in the Greek Revival style. He removed the old woodwork, the high dadoes and the shutters and put in marble mantles so he could burn coal. He also installed a new staircase and windows with weights. (Newfangled at the time.) He added a Greek Revival entrance to extend out from the front door to allow for a tiny mudroom.
A beautiful formal garden was laid out by an English gardener. The property extended down Browns Lane almost to the bend. Box-edged beds were separated by curving walks. The slopes were laid out in three terraces, with flights of steps between a summer house at the top. A small orchard contained quince, apple, cherry and every variety of pear trees. A pump house over a spring was in the pasture with a trough outside for animals.
In all this time, the Lunt family held onto the home until 1912 when it was sold to the Shepard family. Then in 1924, it was sold to Mary L. Barron who held it in her family until 1965. It was then sold to Donald Atkinson who held it to 1998 where it passed into the hands of Jack C. Dobson who presently owns the property.
Historic Survey database, Planning Office, City of Newburyport, 1984
Assessor’s Database via Vision Appraisal, 2009 (Assessor’s Records 1890-1980)
J.J. Currier, History of Newburyport, 1764-1905, Vols I and II, reprinted 1977.
1851, Plan of Newburyport, Mass by H. McIntire
1872, Map of the City of Newburyport, D.G. Beers and Co.
1851, 1871 City Directories