This house is very important as a precedent in Newburyport. Contrary to what you would think, moving houses around was quite common in the 18th and 19th century. Using a large team of oxen, it was a simple matter to move many homes from one location to another sometimes clear across town! The home I live in has an 18th century first floor that came from elsewhere, moved and then built upon so the second floor and general shape of the structure is Greek Revival. How’s that for using older materials in a new building! In another example, one of the oddest things to see is a home on Ferry Road that was once a Quaker Meeting House downtown! Quite a distance. It is hoped that as the expanded local historic district takes root, that moving a home rather than demolishing it will become the norm once more.
An Edmund Greenleaf originally built the home in the early part of the 18th century (pre-1726). When he finished, the home was facing Fish Street which is present day State Street. Not much is known about Mr. Greenleaf. The house and a barn were conveyed to a Thomas Brown, Jr. who was a yeoman (farmer who owns his own land.) and butcher who in time sold the two acres of land on May 23rd, 1726 to the Reverend John Lowell.
Born in Boston in 1704, he graduated from Harvard in 1721 and then at the young age of twenty-two became ordained and in 1726 became the first minister of the Third Parish of Newbury. When Newburyport separated from Newbury, the Parish renamed itself The First Religious Society of Newburyport. Shortly after the name change, Reverend Lowell passed away in 1767 and the house passed to his son John, Jr. who was a lawyer.
The younger Lowell did quite well and later built a large home now known as the Lowell-Johnson House (203 High Street). Therefore, he sold the tract and house to Patrick Tracy, the famous merchant of Newburyport in 1771. State Street was being widened that very same year causing the house to be too near the street. Mr. Tracy moved the home to its present location on Temple Street (Rather than demolishing it!) Later, in 1851, the home transferred to George Fitz, who was a cooper* (One who made or repaired wooden casks, kegs or tubs.) and was also a prominent land lord in the city and owned the home into the 1870’s. Later, it transferred to a Greenleaf Dodge, a carpenter who also owned several houses in the South End. Dodge had a business on Ferry Wharf.
It might be noted that it was a common practice for tradesmen to own multiple homes to help supplement their sometimes seasonal work with steady rental income. The home I live in was owned by a carpenter who worked on the Clipper Ships and records show he owned multiple homes in the South End.
Presently, the home is owned by Hall & Moskow. The front of this home is covered in asbestos siding also known as asbestos cement siding. It sounds dangerous but because the asbestos is surrounded by a thin layer of cement, it is inert and poses no danger. The big problem occurs when you try to remove it which is probably why David Hall hasn’t attempted to get rid of it. If you are someone who has bought an historic home and this material is on your house and you wish to replace it with historically accurate wood siding, my suggestion is to do some research on www.asbestossiding.org. It gives the details on how to remove and dispose of this hazardous material. This is strictly my opinion, but this siding is often found on aging homes & rental property and looks dreary like some poster child for the Great Depression. Replacing it can sharpen up your home’s appearance and enhance your property value.
* Newburyport was an important center for the making of rum selling 3,000 hogsheads annually back in the 18th century and on into the 19th century. A hogshead was a 63-gallon wooden cask making a cooper a very important occupation.
Assessor’s Records, Vision Appraisal, 2009, City of Newburyport Website.
Historical Surveys, City of Newburyport, Historical Commission, 1984.
History of Newburyport 1764-1905, by J. J. Currier, Volumes I & II, Reprinted Newburyport, 1977.
Newburyport, by John Hardy Wright, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC.
Ould Newbury: Historical and Biographical Sketches, by J. J. Currier, Boston, 1896.
Recollections of Temple Street, by A. Osgood, Historical Society of Old Newbury, Newburyport, MA.