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Daniel Webster Birthplace

Phone: 603-934-5057 or 603-485-2034

Location: Off Route 127, Franklin

Activities: Historical interpretation, picnicking

Amenities: Living history, guided tours

Acreage: 147 acres

Pets: Pets are not permitted at state historic sites.

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The Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site is associated with the birth and early childhood years of Daniel Webster, one of our country's most respected orators and statesmen. While the site affords a view of the early years of Daniel Webster, it also provides a glimpse of 1700s farm life in the infant years of the United States.

The Site

When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Ebenezer Webster was operating a mill and farming a stony tract of land in Salisbury, New Hampshire. He shared a log cabin with his four children and second wife, Abigail Eastman Webster. Ebenezer was a patriotic man who had served with "Roger's Rangers" in the French and Indian Wars. He was active in Salisbury town affairs, and when the call came for soldiers to fight the British, he organized and captained a company of local volunteers.

Captain Webster came home each winter during the war, but he depaRouted again when the fighting resumed again in the spring. His family was growing. Abigail gave birth to a daughter in 1779 and a son in 1780. During this period Ebenezer built a two-room frame house to replace the crowded log cabin.

It was in this new home that Abigail's fourth child, Daniel, was born on January 18, 1782. Thick snow probably blanketed the little house on that winter day adding to the farm's isolation. Ebenezer was still away, serving his final days in General Washington's army. Abigail must have been glad to have her older children around her to help with the birth, fetching buckets of water from the well and keeping a good fire going in the large fireplace.

Around 1785 Ebenezer sold his farm and mill and moved the family to more fertile land near the Merrimack River. The farm's new owner, Captain Stephen Sawyer, built a large square farmhouse on the site. He also moved the Webster's small house across the road and attached it to his new home to form a shed, or ell.

The property passed through the hands of several owners until Judge George Nesmith gave it to Daniel Webster in 1851. After his death it was sold again, and finally in 1910 it was acquired by the Webster Birthplace Association. The original cellar hole was located and cleared, and the frame house moved back to its original foundation. In 1917 the restored house and 155 of the farm's original acres were deeded to the State of New Hampshire.

The Birthplace

The house, associated with Daniel Webster's childhood, provides an intimate snapshot of frontier life during the country's earliest years.

The hearth was obviously the center of the home, with the smell of freshly baked bread drifting from the oven while a stew bubbled in an iron pot or a haunch of venison roasted slowly on a spit. It is here where the family would have gathered to talk, work and eat. By the flickering light of hand-dipped candles they would also have read from the family Bible, which was kept in the cupboard above the mantle.

The stairs in the corner of the main room lead to a loft, where the many Webster children slept on cornhusk mattresses. Abigail and Ebenezer slept in the house's second room, with baby Daniel in a wooden cradle similar to the one now on display.

Much of the house is believed to be original despite its several moves. The fireplace was rebuilt using the original handmade bricks and hearthstone. The attached woodshed and well surround are reconstruction's. Furnishings such as the flax spinning wheel and kitchen utensils are typical of a rustic farm of the period. Other items on display belonged to Daniel Webster later in his life.

The foundations of Ebenezer Webster's mill can be found among the trees behind the house near Punch Brook. The original mill was for sawing wood, but Ebenezer also added a grist and cider mill. There are still some apple trees near the house.

The Area

When the Webster family left their small home they moved to Elms Farm, where Ebenezer ran a mill and also built and operated a tavern. They later sold this property to finance Daniel and his brother at Dartmouth. The family moved to a smaller house nearby. This new home eventually passed to Daniel, who owned it until his death. It is now owned by the Sisters of the Holy Cross and can be viewed from the outside.

The old Salisbury cemetery is on the same road as the Webster house. Ebenezer and Abigail are buried there along with many other Websters. Daniel is buried in Marshfield, Massachusetts. The Webster Birthplace and Elms Farm were in the town of Salisbury, which was incorporated as a part of Franklin in 1828.

The Man

Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a frail and sickly child. He was given only light chores to do and spent much of his time playing, fishing and roaming the countryside, often in the company of his older brother, Ezekiel. During this period, while he was building his physical strength, he also developed a deep love of literature from reading the family Bible and books borrowed from neighbors.

Daniel graduated from Dartmouth College in 1801 and became a lawyer and renowned orator. He served as U.S. congressman from New Hampshire and Massachusetts; and secretary of state under presidents Harrison, Tyler and Fillmore. In all, he spent forty years in public service, helping to mold the loose collection of states into a single unified nation. One theme in particular stands out from his many impassioned speeches: "The Union, one and inseparable, now and forever."

Although his later life was centered around Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., Daniel Webster never forgot his New Hampshire roots. He often returned to visit old friends, fish in Punch Brook, and enjoy the robust social life of the local taverns.

Visiting the Birthplace

The Daniel Webster Birthplace is a state historic site managed by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, Department of Resources and Economic Development. The birthplace staff can be reached on weekends during the summer at 603/ 934-5057. The Franklin Historical Society provides living history interpretation at the site on the weekends it is open. It also offers a participatory living history program for school groups midweek during May and June, on a reservation only basis. For information about the school program or to make a reservation for a class visit call 603/736-8938.

Directions

From Tilton, exit 20 of Interstate 93, follow Route 3 south (west) through Franklin to Route 127. Take 127 south and follow the signs to the Daniel Webster Birthplace

Fort Constitution Historic Site

Phone: 603-436-1552

Location: On Route 1B at U.S. Coast Guard Station, New Castle

Activities: Self-guided walking trail.

Amenities: None

Operation Schedule: None

Acreage: 2 acres

Waterfront: Atlantic Ocean

Number of Campsites: None

More Information: Coastal Defense

Fort Constitution State Historic Site is located on a peninsula on the northeast corner of New Castle Island. It overlooks both the Piscataqua River and the Atlantic Ocean. Fort Constitution is one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor. The others in New Hampshire are: Fort Washington, Fort Stark and Fort Dearborn (Odiorne Point State Park); and in Maine: Fort Sullivan, Fort McClary and Fort Foster.

The earliest forts were built to protect the colonists. As Portsmouth Harbor's importance increased with the Revolutionary War shipbuilding industry and the establishment of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1800, additional fortification was needed.

Following the Spanish American War (1898) the improved defense of key harbors became a national priority. Fortifications such as Fort Constitution were constructed on both coasts during the Endicott Period (1890-1920) and at Forts Stark, McClary and Foster. The basic defense concept was to mine the harbor entrances and erect gun batteries.

The final coastal fortification occurred during World War II (WWII) when batteries were added to Fort Foster, and Fort Dearborn was constructed. The five remaining forts are obsolete and today considered historic sites or parks which are open to the public.

Fort William and Mary

The first military installation on this site was an earthwork fort (redoubt) with four "great guns" erected in 1632. This early fort was followed by a timber blockhouse built in 1666. By the time William and Mary came to the throne of England a strong rivalry with France had developed and stronger defenses were required. Cannon and military stores were sent from England in 1692 and a breastwork was constructed to protect them. This fort was named Fort William and Mary and took its place as on the line of so-called castles along the coastal area of the colonies. Although additional guns were sent and repairs made to the fort from time to time during the French and Indian Wars, the breastworks remained essentially the same until the time of the Revolution. Each breastwork was a rampart of turf three feet high on which batteries of guns were clamped to wooden platforms protected by a stone wall about seven feet high. The stone walls had window-like openings called embrasures through which the guns were fired.

It was on the eve of the revolution the fort played its most dramatic role in history. On December 13, 1774, Paul Revere rode from Boston with a message that the fort at Rhode Island had been dismantled and troops were coming to take over Fort William and Mary. The following day the drums beat to collect the Sons of Liberty, and 400 men from Portsmouth, Rye and New Castle raided the fort and removed 98 barrels (approximately 5 tons) of gun powder.

The next night a small party led by John Sullivan carried off sixteen pieces of small cannon and military stores. This raid took place months before the incidents at Concord and Lexington, and was an important event in the chain of events leading to the revolution. Governor John Wentworth immediately sent to Boston for help. The sloop Canceaux arrived December 17, followed two days later by the frigate Scarborough. The latter had forty guns and carried one hundred British marines on board. This prevented further raids by the patriots, but produced a dangerous state of tension.

By the summer of 1775 Governor Wentworth, with Lady Frances and their infant son took refuge in the fort and lived there two months in hope that a conflict should be avoided. Admiral Graves sent a transport under the Falcon to dismantle the fort and carry off the cannon to Boston. Finally on August 24, 1775, the governor and his family sailed to Boston on the Scarborough. Wentworth made a brief visit a month later when, from the Isles of Shoals, he issued a proclamation discontinuing the assembly. This was the last act of royal authority in New Hampshire.

Fort Constitution

In 1791 the state of New Hampshire gave the United States the neck of land on which Fort William and Mary and a lighthouse were situated. The fort was repaired, renamed Fort Constitution and garrisoned with a company of United States artillery. Renovations which included a wall twice as high as that of the colonial fort and new brick buildings were completed in 1808. It is the ruins of this fort that are seen today. The fort was used during the War of 1812 and was still serviceable during the Civil War when various units were trained there.

Improvements in artillery during the nineteenth century made it clear the old fort would have to be replaced. A new one was begun during the Civil War. It was to be a massive, three-tiered granite structure, but like others begun at the same time, was never completed. Armored steam-powered warships with heavy guns made the masonry fort obsolete.

Outside the old fort in the area now occupied by the coast guard, a completely new system of fortifications was built between 1897 and 1903. This included a battery of two eight-inch guns on disappearing carriages, a mines casement, cable tank and a storage house for mines. The harbor was protected by mines during the Spanish American War and during World War I and II. Fort Constitution was returned to the state in 1961 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 2, 1973.

Fort Stark Historic Site

Phone: 603-436-1552

Location: On Route 1B, New Castle

Activities: Picnicking, interpretive center

Amenities: None

Operation Schedule: Limited hours contact Regional office

Acreage: 10 acres

Waterfront: Atlantic Ocean

Number of Campsites: None

More Information: History

Fort Stark State Historic Site is located on a peninsula historically called Jerry's Point on the southeast corner of New Castle Island. It overlooks the Piscataqua River, Little Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Fort Stark was named in honor of John Stark, commander of New Hampshire forces at the Battle of Bennington (1777). It is one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor. The others in New Hampshire are: Fort Washington, Fort William and Mary (Constitution), and Fort Dearborn (Odiorne Point State Park), and in Maine: Fort Sullivan, Fort McClary and Fort Foster.

The earliest forts were built to protect the colonists. As Portsmouth Harbor's importance increased with its Revolutionary War shipbuilding industry and the establishment of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1800, additional fortification was needed.

At Jerry's Point there is evidence of earthwork fortification, circa 1842, and a stonework fort, circa 1873. Following the Spanish American War (1898) the improved defense of key harbors became a national priority. Fortifications such as Fort Stark were constructed on both coasts during the Endicott Period (1890-1920) and at Forts Constitution, McClary and Foster. The basic defense concept was to mine the harbor entrances and erect gun batteries. No shots were ever fired in anger.

The final coastal fortification occurred during World War II (WWII) when batteries were added to Fort Foster, and Fort Dearborn was constructed. The five remaining forts are obsolete and today are considered historic sites or parks which are open to the public. Following World War II the navy took over the army installations and used Fort Stark primarily for reserve training until the property was deeded to the state of New Hampshire in 1978 and 1983.

Visiting the Site

A visitor center, located in the old mines building, is open by appointment only. Arrangements to have it open may be made by calling the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation's East Region staff at 603/436-1552 prior to a visit. A walking trail traverses the ten-acre fort site. There are no camping facilities.

Please visit with caution! Fort Stark is a former military installation. Beware of dangers of unprotected stairs, high walls, rough ground and slippery rocks. Adult supervision of children is required.

Governor Wentworth Historic Site

Phone: 603-823-7722, Ext. 757

Location: On Route 109, Wolfeboro

Amenities: Guided tours, picnicking

Pets: Pets are not permitted at historic parks.

More Information:

The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion is the former home of New Hampshire's first royal governor, Benning Wentworth, who served in office from 1741 to 1767. The rambling 40-room mansion which overlooks Little Harbor, is one of the most outstanding homes remaining of the colonial era. Its stateliness and impressive interior and furnishings reflect aristocratic life in Portsmouth in the 1700s.

The Mansion reflects five distinct periods of architecture. The extraordinary skill of New Hampshire's eighteenth-century craftsmen is exhibited in the intricate hand-carved mantelpiece. The council chamber and the spy closet reveal details about daily life and government during the colonial period. Purple lilacs, descendants of the first European stock imported by Wentworth, decorate the grounds.

Guests can visit the Coolidge Visitor Center, located on the grounds. The grounds and the Visitor Center are available to rent for events and meetings. Picnicking on the grounds is welcomed; however, pets are prohibited. Restrooms are available in the carriage house.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Phone: 603-675-2175

Location: Off Route 2A, Cornish, NH

Activities: 2 hiking trails that explore the natural areas.

Amenities: None

Operation Schedule: The park is open daily from May 24, 2008 to October 31, 2008. Exhibit buildings are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the grounds until dusk. From November through late May the exhibit buildings are closed but the park Visitor Center is open most days Monday - Friday, from 9:00 - 4:15. Park information, brochures and the passport stamp are available there.

Acreage: 150 acres

Waterfront: None

More Information:

Discover the beautiful home, studios and gardens of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of America’s greatest sculptors. Over 100 of his artworks can be seen in the galleries, from heroic public monuments to expressive portrait reliefs, and the gold coins which changed the look of American coinage. Enjoy summer concerts, explore nature trails, or indulge your hidden talents during a sculpture class.

Endicott Rock Historic Site

Phone: 603-823-7722, Ext. 757

Location: Off Route 3, Weirs Beach

Activities: Picnicking

Amenities: None

Operation Schedule: Year-Round

Acreage: .1 acres

Waterfront: Lake Winnipesaukee

More Information:

Endicott Rock may be the oldest public monument in New England. The name of John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay, and the initials of Edward Johnson and Simon Willard, Commissioners of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and of John Sherman and Jonathan Ince, Suveyors, were inscribed on the rock on August 1, 1652. The rock marked the assumed headwaters of the Merrimack River. Under the original Bay Charter of 1629, the northern boundary of the colony was fixed as a line three miles north of the Merrimack.

Endicott Rock is unstaffed but is open to the public year-round.

The site is located between the parking lot and the channel abutting Weirs Beach.

Hannah Duston Memorial Historic Site

Phone: 603-485-2034

Location: Exit 17, off I-93, Boscawen

Amenities: None

Operation Schedule: Year-round

Acreage: 1 acre

Waterfront: Contoocook and Merrimack Rivers

More Information:

Monument, located on a small island at the confluence of the Contoocook and Merrimack rivers, commemorates the courage of Hannah Duston, who was taken prisoner during a raid by Mohawk warriors in 1697.

Robert Frost Farm State Historic Site

Phone: 603-432-3091

Location: On NH Route 28, Derry
Activities: Walking

Amenities: Guided house tours, a children's garden, walks along the Hyla Brook Trail, a summer lecture series, and poetry readings on selected Sundays.
Acreage: 64 acres
Waterfront: None
More Information
Home of Robert Frost and his family from 1900-1909; simple 2 story white clapboard farm house typical of New England in 1880s.

The Robert Frost Farm was home to Robert Frost and his family from 1900-1911. Frost, one of the nation's most acclaimed poets whose writings are said to be the epitome of New England, attributed many of his poems to memories from the Derry years.

The simple two-story white clapboard farmhouse is typical of New England in the 1880s.

Tours, displays, a trail, and poetry readings are all available at the park. Programs are offered to the public at no charge. They are made possible by grants from the N.H. Humanities Council and are sponsored by the Division of Parks and Recreation, the Robert Frost Homestead Trustees, and the Friends of the Robert Frost Farm.

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