Jackson House (c. 1664)

Visit the oldest house in New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A National Historic Landmark, Jackson House is the oldest surviving wood-frame house in New Hampshire. It was built by Richard Jackson, a woodworker, farmer, and mariner. It resembles English post-Medieval prototypes, but is notably American in its extravagant use of wood. Succeeding generations added a lean-to by 1715, along with more additions in the 1700s and 1800s to accommodate different family groups sharing the house at once.

Historic New England’s founder, William Sumner Appleton, acquired the house in 1924 from a member of the seventh generation of Jacksons to live there. Despite pressure to remove post-seventeenth century additions, Appleton limited his restoration to stripping off twentieth-century lath and plaster and replacing eighteenth-century sash with diamond-paned casements where evidence of the original fenestration was too compelling to ignore.

Plan Your Visit

Location

76 Northwest Street
Portsmouth, N.H. 03801

Days & Hours

First and third Saturdays
June 1 – October 15
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Tours on the hour.

Last tour at 4:00 p.m

Closed July 4

Admission

$6 adults

$5 seniors

$3 students

Free for Historic New England members and Portsmouth residents.

Directions

Take I-95 to Exit 7 (Market Street) and follow signs for downtown. Bear right after the railroad tracks. Turn right onto Deer Street. Turn right onto Maplewood Avenue. Turn right onto Northwest Street.

Parking

There is street parking along Northwest Street.

Contact Information

Jackson House Exterior

Jackson House, the oldest timber-framed dwelling in New Hampshire, was constructed with sawn lumber in the mid-seventeenth century.

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  • Jackson House Exterior

    Jackson House, the oldest timber-framed dwelling in New Hampshire, was constructed with sawn lumber in the mid-seventeenth century.

  • A Seventeenth-Century Parlor

    In seventeenth-century America, the abundance of virgin forests led to the construction of wooden structures like Jackson House.

  • Northeast Room

    Jackson House's hewn frame reflects English timber-frame tradition, but partitions and vertical planks are sawn (an American innovation).

  • A Family Gathering Place

    The hall, a room we could consider the kitchen today, was likely the gathering place for the Jacksons.

  • West Addition

    Succeeding generations added to the original structure beginning in 1715.

  • West Chamber

    This bedchamber is believed to have been created in 1727 for John Jackson, Richard Jackson’s son.

jackson_house_archivalRichard Jackson Occupancy

Jackson House, the oldest timber-framed dwelling in New Hampshire, was constructed with sawn lumber in the mid-seventeenth century. Richard Jackson, a cooper among other things, situated his house above the North Mill Pond which, when it was built, was “on the other side of Strawbery Banke Creek.” Richard owned twenty-five acres, which he merged with the adjoining twenty-five acres owned by his father-in-law. The house was built with vertical planks that run from the sill to the plate. There are no studs supporting the walls, only the window openings. The roof pairs rafters with the major posts, collar beams, and purlins to support vertical roof boards. The first-floor ceiling and second floors and ceiling are supported with impressive summer beams, complete with chamfered edges with lamb’s tongue stops.

Richard Jackson outlived his two sons, dying in 1718. In 1727 the house and land were divided between his daughter-in-law and her children. A tax bill from that same year shows that there were twelve “polls,” or men above the age of sixteen, living in the house. This number does not include women or children, which would bring the number of people living in Jackson House to a much higher number.

9-stairwayFive Generations of Nathaniel Jackson Ownership

Five generations of men named Nathaniel Jackson owned and occupied the house from 1727 to 1897. Nathaniel Jackson II was deeded half the house and his brother John, deemed to be “delirious above one year,” was deeded the other. Nathaniel Jackson III was also deeded only part of the house; his mother retained rights to one third of the house during her lifetime. Prior to 1769, during Nathaniel III’s occupancy, an addition was added to the east side of the house. By 1810, this addition was referred to as the “shop.” Another addition was added to the western side of the house in the very early nineteenth century.

Nathaniel IV inherited from both his father and his grandmother and finally Nathaniel V inherited the house in 1829, on his twenty-first birthday. Benjamin Jackson, brother of Nathaniel IV, was granted life rights to the western half of the house in 1824, but he sadly died just five years later.

10-atticMary Jackson Brown and the Tilley Family

Nathaniel V’s daughter, Mary E. Jackson Brown, inherited the house in 1897 along with her son, another Nathaniel. The house was rented at this time to Clarence and Isabelle “Belle” Tilley, who were African-American. It is said that Belle came to New Hampshire via the Underground Railroad. Although Mary and Nathaniel sold the house to William Sumner Appleton and Historic New England in 1923, Belle retained life residency rights to the property until 1947.

3-jacksonhouseellBecoming a Museum

William Sumner Appleton, Historic New England’s founder, first visited Jackson House as a college freshman in 1893. In a letter dated April 4, 1923, he stated that “at the time I knew nothing about old houses but remember liking the place very much in a perfectly ignorant way.” He also visited the house in 1913, when Mary Jackson Brown was living there, but he did not gain access to the interior. He mentioned that the house seemed to be in good condition with fresh roof shingles and sills “not too badly out of plumb.” He also states that “altogether the house is one of the most interesting looking exteriors I know of.” It was so interesting to him that Appleton approached the Jackson family about purchasing the house in 1924.

Appleton’s thoughtful restoration of the Jackson House became the basis for Historic New England’s preservation philosophy of keeping generations of changes intact. In response to the urging of contemporaries to restore the house to its seventeenth-century appearance, he stated in a 1932 letter that “I would have to destroy much interesting old work…Even were this new wall built of old stock, it would still remain mine, and I much prefer the interesting alteration made by some long dead generation of Jacksons.”

Property FAQ’s

Find out about parking, accessibility, photography policy, and more.

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  • Can I park at the museum? Is there street parking?

    There is plenty of unmetered parking on the street.

  • Can I take photographs at the museum?

    Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods, and selfie sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.

  • How can I book a group tour? What is the cost?

    The cost for a group tour of eight or more is $1 off the regular admission price. Call 603-436-3205 or visit our Group Tours page.

  • Do we need to take a guided tour or can we just look around?

    All visitors to the house receive a guided tour.

  • Is the museum accessible to people with disabilities?

    A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. Jackson House has not been equipped with handicapped accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. Service animals are welcome. We encourage visitors with concerns to call ahead. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one.

  • How do I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?

    Join Historic New England now and help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

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Become a member and tour for free.

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