In 1777 John Langdon married Elizabeth (Betsy) Sherburne. They had two children, Elizabeth (Eliza) and John, who died as an infant. Betsy was nearly twenty years his junior and the cousin of his brother Woodbury’s wife.
During the time of the construction of the Pleasant Street house, John Langdon was elected president of New Hampshire. In 1783 he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, helping to develop the newly formed United States of America. In 1788 he worked for New Hampshire to be the ninth and deciding state to ratify the Constitution. He was elected to be the first president of the United States Senate, the highest ranking office in the nation, until he informed George Washington of his election to the presidency. Langdon continued as a state senator until 1801, the year he turned down an appointment by President Thomas Jefferson to serve as secretary of the Navy. Langdon was elected governor of New Hampshire from 1805 to 1809 and 1810 to 1812. Although he began his political career as a Federalist, his decision to change to a Jeffersonian Republican marked his, and New Hampshire’s, desire to adhere to democratic ideals. In 1812, just seven years before his death, Langdon again turned down a national post, this time an offer to serve as vice president to James Madison.
The house he built for his small family and to declare his status in the community is a traditional Georgian-style home with a few special features. The plan is recognizable from many other regional homes built in the latter half of the eighteenth century, but built on a larger and more impressive scale. The left parlor runs the entire length of the house and was surely used as a public reception room by Langdon during his three terms as governor of New Hampshire. The elaborate Rococo carvings found in both front rooms are unusual and recognized as some of the best work done north of Boston. The carvings in the parlors, and possibly the front portico, are based on Abraham Swan’s The British Architect and A Collection of Designs in Architecture, respectively. Daniel Hart, a soldier alongside John Langdon during the revolution, and Michael Whidden III are master joiner and carver of the home. Work on the house, particularly the staircase which features the traditional triplet of Portsmouth balusters, is attributed to Ebenezer Clifford, a master joiner who worked on many Piscataqua homes, including Rundlet-May House and Ebenezer Dearing House. The estate also includes two brick lodges, possibly built during the main house construction, that appear on the Hales 1812 map of Portsmouth. The lodge to the left of the main house was used in 1816 by lawyer William Richardson as an office.
During George Washington’s visit to Portsmouth in 1789, he noted in his diary many visits to Langdon House. Although he stayed in a nearby tavern, he took tea and enjoyed meals and other social events in the Langdon parlors. On November 3, Washington writes of Portsmouth, “there are some good houses, among which Col. Langdon’s may be esteemed the first.”
John Langdon remained in his elaborate home until his death in 1819. His wife pre-deceased him in 1813. His one surviving child, Eliza Langdon Elwyn, returned to the home after her husband’s death until 1833. Presumably at least some of her nine children resided in the house with her.
During the occupation of the Langdon family, the house at 143 Pleasant Street was a social center and meeting place for the New Hampshire political elite.