IN 1716 THE AMBITIOUS IMMIGRANT MERCHANT Archibald Macpheadris commissioned the construction of an impressive, two-story brick dwelling with finely wrought paneling, staircase, and mantels crafted by English-trained artisans.
The house set the standard for genteel living in Portsmouth for the next century as succeeding generations of Warners and Sherburnes lived and entertained in well-appointed and handsomely furnished rooms. By the early twentieth century, the house and its surroundings had lost some of their luster, but none of their cherished associations as descendants consciously did little to alter the fabric of the building or upgrade the furnishings. Threatened with demolition and replacement by a gas station, the site was rescued by the Warner House Association in 1932, which saw it as a very important relic of early Portsmouth.
This fascinating guide covers nearly three centuries of life in the Warner House. In a series of concise and generously illustrated chapters, a number of experts describe the architectural evolution of the property and document the changing tastes in furnishings and finishes. Packed within a judicious balance of curatorial scholarship, architectural sleuthing, and imaginative antiquarianism, the story of the Warner House is told with a clarity that is too often missing from most local histories. The authors proudly recount the many things that have been learned about the place over the past two decades such as the original paint schemes and room functions but are just as candid about the many objects and events that remain shrouded in mystery. The rare and splendid murals that decorate the stair passage still defy definitive interpretation. The Warner House, A Rich and Colorful History is very much a story of a work in progress. It provides a very useful exploration of the state of scholarship and interpretive philosophy that drives the work of the Association and will enhance any visit or armchair encounter with this remarkable house.
Senior Architectural Historian Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
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