Rockingham House Papers, 1832-1836 – MS053

Source: Purchased by the Portsmouth Athenaeum in 1992. Collection had been found in a trunk of papers containing business records associated with Ichabod Goodwin, a contemporary merchant.

Citation: Rockingham House Papers, MS053, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1 Hollinger Box (6 linear inches)

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Revised by Susan Stowe Kindstedt in 2010


Deeds, insurance policies, cash books, inventories, bills and receipts connected with start up costs of the Rockingham House as an incorporated public house.

Scope and Content

The Rockingham House Records consist of one archival box and one flat box folder and contain mostly financial accounts of remodeling and furnishing Elwyn Place as a boarding house. There are numerous receipts for a wide variety of goods and services provided, related bills of lading for items shipped from Boston, the proprietor’s deeds, and fire insurance policies covering the ten years after the 1834 incorporation of the Proprietor’s of the Rockingham House. There is also a cash book and an account book, both with limited entries and two undated inventory notebooks. Finally, and perhaps most interesting, are the overall accounting records of the manager, Thomas J. Coburn and a list of business options considered by the proprietors after running the Rockingham House at a loss for its first two years.

Biographical and Historical Note

The Rockingham House was originally the mansion of Judge Woodbury Langdon, built in 1785. Upon his death in 1805, the house was divided between his widow, Sarah, and other members of the Langdon family. By 1808, Sarah Langdon’s son-in-law, Edmund Roberts, recently married to Catherine Langdon, was also living at the then Broad Street house. In 1810, former governor John Langdon bought out his brother’s family’s interest in the house for $17,000 and gave it to his daughter and her husband, Elizabeth and Thomas Elwyn. Elizabeth Elwyn continued to live in the house with her family after her husband’s death in 1816 until 1823 when she moved to Philadelphia. On October 15, 1832 she sold the property for $6150 to Charles H. Atherton, a probate judge and banker from Amherst, New Hampshire.

On April 23, 1833, Atherton sold the building for $7100 to Joseph Wilson, Richard Ayer, Samuel Hale and Mark Wentworth Pierce whose shares divided in eights. In 1834, the shareholders were expanded to include John F. Sheafe, Samuel Sheafe, Henry Ladd and Alexander Ladd, the shares divided into thirty-seconds and the venture incorporated as the Proprietors of the Rockingham House. Joseph Wilson acted as treasurer but the actual management of the business was conducted by Thomas J. Coburn, listed as keeper in the 1834 Portsmouth directory.

Large scale repairs and renovations were undertaken in late 1833 and 1834 including the addition of a kitchen and summer house. The guest register begins in November 1833, suggesting that the house was open for business while work continued elsewhere on the property. Water was brought into the house from the aqueduct in lead pipe, plaster repaired, new doors and windows added or replaced and fences constructed. At the same time, interior furnishings were obtained in large quantities from local merchants and from Boston. Carpeting, bedsteads, linen, crockery, stoves, silver, and cookware represented a financial outlay that was carried on the books for several years. By early 1836, the business had lost money each year and as they sought a way of cutting their losses, these initial start-up expenditures remained a significant liability. Most likely, a lease agreement was worked out with Thomas Coburn since his name is connected with the Rockingham House over the next 25 years.

On September 13, 1851, Thomas Coburn and his brother Samuel A. Coburn bought the property from Joseph Wilson, Richard Ayer, Samuel Hale and Joshua W. Pierce for one dollar to each grantor and continued to maintain the business as a boarding house. The building burned in 1884 and was rebuilt by Frank Jones.

Folder List

Folder 1 Proprietors’ Deeds

Folder 2 Bill of Lading, 1833

Folder 3 Inventory Notebooks, undated

Folder 4 Account Book, 1833-1835

Folder 5 Cash Book, 1833-1835

Folder 6 T J Coburn Accounts, 1834-1836

Folder 7 Notes on Finance, 1834-1835

Folder 8 Loan Receipts, 1834-1835

Folder 9 Receipts, Sept. 5, 1833 – Oct. 31, 1833

Folder 10 Receipts, Nov. 1, 1833 – Dec 30, 1833

Folder 11 Receipts, Jan. 3, 1834 – March 29, 1834

Folder 12 Receipts, April 1, 1834 – June 27, 1834

Folder 13 Receipts, July 1, 1834 – July 13, 1836

Folder 14 Insurance Policies, 1833-1836


Flat Box 4 F 11: Construction accounts & fire insurance policy, 1834