House Stories – Wigglesworth-Lunt House – 41 Fair Street

41 Fair Street If I was one of the persons living in this house (It’s two-family now), I think I would be nervous.      Periodically, not everyone, but most when they live in this house, feel they have to accomplish some great deed or do something worthy of historical note.    Remember the Chinese curse, “May you live an interesting life.”  

 

Apparently, the urge to greatness clings to this house.

 

First, this building is much earlier than the heyday of Newburyport and was constructed well inside the Georgian period.     The Assessor’s office puts it about 1760 which is just about right.      On the gambrel roof is a curious curved front which is most unusual amongst this style – in fact, in the city there are only two or three with a similar silhouette.   Even without this feature, it is a lovely house in form and appearance.

 

This streak of greatness began when Colonel Edward Wigglesworth purchased it in 1773.     All the history books will say is he served in the Continental Army between 1776 to 1779.     Considering some of the greatest battles and some of the most vicious winter encampments from Morristown to Valley Forge occurred during this period, this man was made of flint.        

 

It is clear that he took his resolve to attain some prominence and great trust.      He became the collector of customs for Newburyport from 1792 to 1795; you know that George Washington was fully aware of whom he appointed at the fledgling start of the United States of America.    This was a time when almost all revenue for the Federal Government came from port customs across the states and Newburyport was the fifth wealthiest town in the Republic.

 

This pattern of entrustment occurred locally too.     He was a representative to the General Court even before he served in the army and, after serving as a town selectman, was re-elected to the post again in 1785.        He was also very much a part of Newburyport – he was a member of the Newburyport Marine Society* in 1775, and was active in the Marine Fire Society.     

 

But unfortunately, his luck ran out as he tried to be one of the pioneers of the industrial revolution.   Capitalism has produced some great benefits in the last three hundred years but it has a cruel side.    For every champion we see, there is a host of losers and they can be good people, even great.    He became part owner of the Newburyport Woolen Manufacturing Company in 1794.       It did not do well initially and he went bankrupt.    His house was sold out from under him to pay his creditors.

 

Dudley Atkins Tyng (of which Tyng Street is named after) purchased the house in 1796.    A very wealthy merchant, he only owned it for three years before selling it to David Coffin in 1799.      Coffin sold the house to Abel Lunt in 1800.     The house stayed in the Lunt family all the way to 1851.

 

Another prominent Newburyporter was born in this house December 31, 1803, George Lunt.     He graduated from Harvard in 1824 and became a lawyer.     He became a representative in the General Court in 1830 and became state senator between 1835 to 1836.      He went on to become the U.S. Attorney for the State of Massachusetts between 1849 and 1856.       He moved to Boston in 1848 to hold the position but kept the home until 1851.     From there his fortunes took off and he found himself the editor of the Boston Courier in 1856 among other things.    He died on May 17th, 1885.

 

The most recent records show a Glenn & Kinga Walsh selling the home to Gail D. Gentile in 1999.

 

This home is located at the corner of Temple and Fair and covers one of the most beautiful corners in Newburyport passed by heavy traffic coming off Fruit Street and readily available for all to see.    It is a shame it has ugly concrete sidewalks framing it when brick would so enhance this famous house.

 

-P. Preservationist
www.ppreservationist.com

 

* The Newburyport Marine Society leaves most locals and visitors with a blank stare as they see the name on the building on State Street.    I am going to have to devote an entire post to this organization.    The Society was a strange combination of seaman’s club, a port-safety enterprise, a benevolence society, a charitable organization and a local version of the famed New York Adventurer’s Club.       More later.

 

References:

 

1851 Plan of Newburyport, Mass H. McIntire

1851-1871 City Directories

1872 Map of the City of Newburyport, Mass. D.G. Beers and Co.

A. Osgood “Recollection of Temple Street”, Historical Society of Ould Newbury.

J. J. Currier, History of Newburyport 1764-1905, Vol. I and II, reprint, Newburyport, 1977.

Assessor’s Records 1890-1980

Newburyport, 2011, City of Newburyport Vision Appraisal Online Records.

Newburyport Historic District, www.newburyporthistoricdistrict.org, Historic Survey of the National                 Register of Historic Places, 1984.

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About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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