Historic Sites and Buildings
This structure, overlooking the Squamscott River, is sometimes also called the Gilman House. It was the birthplace and home of bachelor signer Nicholas Gilman, Jr., for most of his life. His grandfather, Col. Daniel Gilman, purchased it from a relative by marriage, Nathaniel Ladd, in 1747. The signer's parents, Nicholas, Sr., and Ann Taylor Gilman, moved in when they wed 5 years later. Nicholas, Sr., held a colonelcy during the War for Independence and served as New Hampshire's first State treasurer. Another resident, until 1818, was the signer's brother, John Taylor Gilman, who succeeded his father in the latter office and was also a Member of the Continental Congress and Governor of New Hampshire.
In 1721 Nathaniel Ladd, whose forebears were among the earliest families to settle in Exeter, built the original 2-1/2-story, five-bay, square brick house. The central entrance opened into a narrow hallway, which bisected the main floor into two pairs of rooms and contained a steep, enclosed stairway.
In 1752 Nicholas Gilman, Sr., substantially enlarged and altered the house. He apparently removed the north wall and the partitions separating the north pair of rooms, and attached two additional bays, fronted by a small, enclosed portico. The brick exterior of the original portion was also clapboarded to match the addition.
Both the interior and exterior are well preserved, and changes from their late 18th-century appearance are minimal. The windows, topped by cornices on the first floor, are unevenly spaced and larger toward the north end of the building. This results in an asymmetrical facade. Three gabled dormers and two large interior chimneys protrude from the front of the roof, which is gabled on the south end and hipped on the north. A transom and pilasters, surmounted by a triangular pediment, accent the original paneled front door, situated to the south. The north entrance, to the newer part of the residence, also features a paneled door, which is flanked by pilasters and leads to a small, enclosed porch, which has a gable roof. A basement extends under at least the north part of the house. A large piazza is at the rear of the same end. The 1-1/2 story caretaker's wing, a modern addition, which has two front dormers, is set back against the west, or rear, portion of the south end of the residence on the same axis.
The north entrance opens into a square hall, which contains a three-run stairway set against a large chimney. One large room is to the north, and a small one is west of the chimney, which provides a fireplace for both rooms in the addition. The southeast corner room, in the older part of the house, was used by Col. Nicholas Gilman, Sr., as his treasury office and contains a chest in which he probably stored State valuables. The original kitchen is to the west. A long parlor, once two rooms, occupies the entire north side of the older part of the structure.
The impressive interior features many spacious rooms, deep window seats, fluted pilasters, paneled wainscoting, and huge fireplaces. One of the six rooms on the second floor was apparently once utilized by jailkeeper Simeon Ladd as a cell. An iron ring in the baseboard was likely used to chain prisoners. A copy of the committee of detail draft of the Constitution annotated by signer Nicholas Gilman, Jr., hangs in one of the stairway halls. Among the portraits on display are one of George Washington, attributed to Gilbert Stuart, and one of Gilman.
The Society of the Cincinnati in New Hampshire, of which Nicholas Gilman, Jr., was one of the first members, has owned and maintained the house since 1902. The society, which has restored the building, uses it as a meetingplace and museum and opens it to the public on a restricted basis.
Last Updated: 29-Jul-2004