A National Historic Landmark open to the public since 1912
The Ladds made significant changes to the house.They moved and added several buildings on the property, including a warehouse situated on the working side of the house, near the yard, most likely from a neighboring property. Inside, they converted the Front Parlor into a Dining Room with the addition of a sideboard niche and the removal of closets.They also redecorated by papering the walls of the Great Hall and staircase with a Federal grisaille wallpaper by DuFour in the Vues d'Italie pattern.The parlor was comfortably furnished in the prevailing fashion with a marble-top pier table and glass, a hair sofa and two large old armchairs, possible from the set of London-made furniture in the Chinese taste purchased from the Wentworth estate by Nathaniel A. Haven in 1794, and given to Maria by her mother after her father died.
Alexander Ladd had wide-ranging civic interests and was an accomplished writer.He was elected to the State Legislature in 1826-27 and 1830, and held the city offices of Selectman, Fire Ward, and Justice of the Peace.As secretary for the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Portsmouth in May 1823, he submitted his proceedings for publication in the New Hampshire Historical Society's Collections.The parchment record of the participants in the festivities includes both Alexander's and Maria's signatures.The following year the selectmen chose Alexander and two others as a delegation to go to Boston to persuade the Marquis de Lafayette to include Portsmouth in his tour of New England.
Maria Tufton Haven Ladd was educated at Miss Kimball's school, possibly in Portsmouth, and at the Berry School in Boston.Maria was a well-educated woman who kept up with the latest literature.She was the family curator, lovingly preserving and labeling many items now in the house's collection, including the set of London-made furniture in the Chinese taste seen in her portrait, and her wedding dress, and several dresses of her daughters.
Maria and Alexander were married on December 29, 1807, and quickly began a family. They would have 13 children over the next 20 years, but only 5 of whom would live to adulthood. Oddly enough, no child born in the large house on Fore Street (now Market Street) would live to be an adult.
Alexander died in 1855 and Maria in 1861. Maria left the house to her daughters, but her son Alexander Hamilton Ladd bought his sister's shares and assumed full ownership of the house in late 1861. A.H. Ladd entered into partnership with his brother Charles Haven Ladd and among other ventures established Portsmouth's only whale oil refinery which operated from about 1836 through 1849.He invested in the Portsmouth Pier Company and its whaling ventures, and he and his brother were part owners of the famous whaling ship the Ann Parry. One of the primary investors in the Portsmouth Steam Factory for the manufacture of cotton cloth, he opened a cotton brokerage in Galveston, Texas, working on behalf of several New England cotton mills, spending the winter months in Galveston.His wife Elizabeth Jones Ladd died in 1865, and in about 1875 A.H. retired from business and set up housekeeping in Portsmouth on a full-time basis.
A.H. Ladd seemed to delight in modernizing the working systems of the house.He constructed an extensive drainage system under the house to deal with flooding in the basement, and equipped his home with the latest in modern conveniences including updated stoves, a patented earth closet, and a combination refrigerator/ dumbwaiter marketed as an "elevating refrigerator".
His love of color he indulged in the beautiful terraced formal garden behind the house.His mother's letters mention the garden, and references to it go back to the first bills for the house, but it was A.H. Ladd who immersed himself in his garden project with particular intensity.He became an avid cultivator of tulips, and kept beehives to ensure that his flowers would be properly pollinated.In one year he complained that bad weather had caused him to lose 60,000 of his bulbs.
In spirit of the beauty that he brought to the house and grounds, A.H. Ladd could not stay the decline of the port of Portsmouth. As Portsmouth's maritime trade diminished, its dockyards became unpleasant places.Freight trains pulled into the coal yards along the banks of the Piscataqua River within a hundred yards of Ladd's garden oasis, and more than once he repelled would-be robbers.His children tried to persuade him to give up the family home, but A.H. Ladd insisted on protecting and preserving the house as he was profoundly aware of the imports of the house, and the family who had occupied it for more than a century.
A.H. Ladd died on May 21, 1900.His children inherited the family home, and for the next eleven years they maintained it and used it on occasion; his daughter Elizabeth Hamilton Ladd and her husband Charles Wentworth briefly resided in the house, but no one chose to make it their permanent home.In 1911, the heirs of A.H. Ladd offered the house to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Hampshire to be preserved as a museum and maintained as the group’s headquarters, bringing an end to a nearly 150 year occupation of the house by the same family.
Owned and operated by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Hampshire