615* Main Street, New London NH


Current Use

  • Since 2004 - Colby-Sawyer College Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations

Formerly

  • Susan Colgate Cleveland and Mather Cleveland residence
  • Mary Colgate summer residence
  • Daniel Colby residence; (Susan Colby Colgate officially owned it in 1869, but the deed was not recorded until after her brother's death)
  • Gov. Anthony Colby residence
  • Joseph Colby residence

Building History

The Colby Homestead was built in 1800 by Joseph Colby (1762-1843), his fourth residence in New London since arriving from Hopkinton in 1786. Colby was an agent for Jonas Minot, one of the original proprietors in New London, and thus was able to acquire this prime piece of property for himself. The property included 110 acres on both sides of Main Street. The large, Federal style house with central chimney and gable roof had a small, open porch on the right, and a one story attached shed, as well as several barns. Joseph also had a tavern license, and a tavern and store operation took place in the northwest corner of the house on the first floor. Store ledgers from 1799-1802 indicate that a number of the store customers paid their debts by helping to construct the Homestead. They include Samuel Messer and Josiah Brown, both carpenters and joiners, as well as Messer's sons, Zaccheus and James How. Hardware was made by Jonathan Greeley and Jesse Dow, and other New London citizens built the barns, put up chimneys, and laid the stone walls. Joseph and his wife, Anna, had four children - Joseph, Jr., Sarah, Anthony, and Judith. Joseph, Jr. never married but remained at home, Anthony raised his own family of three children in the house, and Joseph, Sr. built houses for each daughter across the street (Herrick and Burpee Homesteads). By 1801 Joseph Colby paid the highest taxes in New London and was probably the town's most prominent citizen. Shortly before his death in 1843 Joseph deeded the farm with 75 acres to his younger son, Anthony.[1]

After Anthony's wife, Mary Everett Colby, died in 1837, he married her first cousin, Eliza Messenger Richardson, a widow from Boston, in 1840. The house was updated at this time. The store moved to a separate building (located where parking lot is today) about this time. A new two story ell was built onto the house where the shed had been and the shed was moved further back. One of the barns, now attached to the shed, was reoriented and enhanced with a large cupola. Other extensive improvements were made to the barns and sheds at this time.

After Anthony's death in 1873, his son Daniel and wife lived in the Homestead, while Daniel's siblings, Susan Colgate and Robert Colby were regular visitors. After the deaths of Daniel (in 1891) and Robert (in 1904), Susan owned the house. (Daniel's wife, Martha, lived here with her sister, Mary Greenwood Runyon, until her death in 1900.) Susan lived in New York City and Yonkers but continued to come to New London regularly, with tenant farmers managing the property. Her daughter, Mary Colgate, owned the house after Susan's death in 1919 until her own death in 1936 and made some minor changes to the house. Mary's niece, Susan Colgate Cleveland was the next owner. Alfred J. Messer was foreman of the property for many years under Daniel Colby[2] , and George Sholes was foreman after 1889, aided by his son, Karl.[3] Victor Smith was the next superintendent, followed by Mr. W.M. Nagle, a professional gardener, in 1938 (The Speaker, March, 1938, p. 8).

In 1948 Susan Cleveland and her husband, Mather, decided to retire to New London. At this time they almost completely gutted and rebuilt the ell, while maintaining the integrity of the main section of the house. It retains its original doorway, many of its original window frames and sash, grained doors, pulpit stairway, and Indian shutters. The two-bay porch on the right was removed in this period. Susan died in 1966, and her husband, Mather, lived alone in the house until his death in 1979.

The property passed from the six Cleveland heirs to Colby-Sawyer College in July of 1981. The barns of the property were converted into the college library soon after, a massive project involving lifting the two large barns and moving them so that substantial foundation wall could be constructed. The new Susan Colgate Cleveland Library/Learning Center opened in the fall of 1985 and won an A.I.A. award in 1987. Theoriginal shed connecting the house with the barn (which the Clevelands had used as a summer living room) became the new college archives in 1996.

The house has been used by the College for the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations (see the fall/winter 2004 issue of the Colby-Sawyer Alumni Magazine).

Stories & Trivia


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Photos & Images

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Colby Homestead


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Colby Homestead

  1. ^ Merrimack County Registry of Deeds, Vol. 72, page 194
  2. ^ Lord, p. 529
  3. ^ Lord, p. 529