4 Mill Street
Built ca. 1801
In 1807, Eunice Baxter Lawrence (1770–1859) moved with her husband and four children to a handsome new house on Mill Street, at the southern edge of the town of Nantucket.
Local housewright Richard L. Coleman had purchased the land on Mill Street in 1801, and within the next half-dozen years built the house now known as the 1800 House. Like other local housewrights of his generation, Coleman no longer built lean-to houses like the Oldest House (ca. 1686) and the Macy-Christian house (ca. 1745). Instead, he configured a house that is two and a half stories high, symmetrical, with a center chimney and a central doorway, presenting a more classically proportioned exterior. He gave it embellishments suitable to a substantial house of the era, such as paneled walls around the fireplaces, wainscoting in the parlors, and interior wooden shutters. In 1807, Coleman sold the house to Jeremiah Lawrence (1768–1827), High Sheriff for the County of Nantucket, for $2,000, an above-average price for a new house of the period, indicating that the house had features that made it special.
Lawrence enjoyed his new house on Mill Street for twenty years, and his wife, Eunice, continued to live there until 1856, when she sold the property to Love Calder for $700. The beginning of the end of Nantucket’s whaling-era prosperity was already felt, and the value of the fifty-year-old house was less than half of what it had been when new in 1807.
Love Calder (1785–1870) was a single woman, but she shared her house with relatives: an 1865 census indicates that she was head of a household that included her cousin and other family members. Calder sold her Mill Street house to James Monroe Bunker (1818–1902) in 1865 for $300. Bunker was a carpenter by trade, adding the one-and-a-half story kitchen ell and a large barn. He and his wife, Rebecca, were fixtures of Mill Street for the remainder of the nineteenth century.
In 1903, Leonora James bought the Bunker house. She and her husband, Everett, had a twelve-year-old daughter, Marion. Everett died in 1914, but Leonora stayed at 4 Mill for almost fifty years, and Marion did, too, along with her husband and daughter. In 1950, Louise Melhado, owner of neighboring Moors End — the large brick-walled property at 19 Pleasant Street — purchased 4 Mill Street from Leonora James and the next year gifted it to the Nantucket Historical Association. It was the era of house museums, and the NHA increased its property portfolio with a representative house from the early nineteenth century.
For many years, the 1800 House was furnished with artifacts from the NHA’s collection and was open for public viewing; it provided curious visitors with a glimpse of domestic life in an earlier era. The house underwent a major restoration beginning in 2003, and reopened in 2005 as a center for instruction in early-American decorative arts and crafts, celebrating the rich legacy of Nantucket artists and artisans.
Excerpt from the Nantucket Historical Association Properties Guide, 1800 House by Betsy Tyler, 2015.
Banner image of 1800 House side yard, showing James Bunker drying fish with his wife, Rebecca Bunker at the pump. ca. 1890. (F1798)