History of the Wentworth-Gardner House

Built in 1760, the Wentworth-Gardner house is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in this country.  The house was built as a wedding gift by Mark Hunking  and  Elizabeth Wentworth for their son, Thomas, and his bride, Anne Tasker.  The Wentworth family was a powerful dynasty in colonial New Hampshire.  Thomas’s uncle Benning Wentworth was the Royal Governor for the Province of New Hampshire from 1741–1766 and was succeeded by Thomas’s brother John Wentworth, who became the last Royal Governor in 1766.  The Wentworth wealth is demonstrated in the heavy carving and exquisite detail of the formal parlor, parlor chamber, and traditional hallway, which extends the entire depth of the house.

In 1793, Major William Gardner bought the house and moved in with his second wife, Elizabeth.  Major Gardner lived in the house for forty years until his death at age 83; however, his third wife, Sarah Purcell Gardner, remained in the house until 1854.  Later owners converted the mansion into a tenant house in the time when the waterfront neighborhood had become somewhat disreputable.  Pubs and brothels clustered along Mechanic Street and the surrounding streets.

In 1915 the house was purchased by Wallace Nutting, a photographer and antiquarian.  He restored the home in the Colonial Revival manner and photographed models in almost all of the rooms.  In 1918, during World War I, Nutting offered the house for sale, and it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Met prized the house for its detailed carving and nearly perfect Georgian architecture.  Plans were to move the house to New York.

After the Stock Market crash of 1929, the Depression put to rest any ideas of relocating the house to New York City.  The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) furnished the house and briefly operated it as a house museum.  In 1940, the house was purchased by a group of preservation-minded local citizens who established the Wentworth-Gardner and Tobias Lear Houses Association, now known as  Wentworth Lear Historic Houses.


The Wentworth-Gardner House is now available for wedding photography. If you are interested in having your wedding photos taken at this lovely historic house, please visit our wedding page for more information.