About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Monday, December 18, 2017



Hannah Jumper house in better days.
If you haven't read my blog post called "Hannah Jumper's House by the Sea" dated September 22, 2017 maybe you should take a look at that before proceeding with this post.  The original post has had a huge number of viewings and comments so I know you will be interested in what happened next.

The September post left with the house a precarious looking shell.  Was it too far gone to save?  "Not at all", said an expert who looked at it and still found much to recommend it for preservation.

A huge problem was that the house had virtually no cellar and was just a humble cottage sitting right on the ground; sills, if there were any, left right in the dirt.  It needed a foundation because it had never had one if you can imagine.  How did it last for nearly 300 years with its sills right on the dirt and its additions practically sitting on the seawall with rough waters in the harbor lapping at it?

So it was determined that there must be a foundation built if the house was to remain and be preserved.  Our friend, Jim, the expert, suggested a company from out of town capable of performing the work.  Building a foundation meant that the house had to be raised up.  That made perfect sense but I never imagined just how high it would be raised.

I had not been back to the Rockport site for quite some time during this busy time of year.  But yesterday I was going to attend a nearby Christmas party and knew it was the perfect time to take a look at the progress and take some pictures.  

There have been extremely strong winds blowing around here lately and several had mentioned to me that they feared for the house in its more than fragile state and worried about collapse.  

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words so without further adieu here are the photos taken December 17th. 

Here is Hannah Jumper's house high and dry with the blue waters of Rockport harbor plainly visible.

What a shocker.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  The house was all but blowing in the breeze!   The height to which it had been lifted was astonishing.

As is now plainly seen the right hand end of the house was clearly added to the original center chimney cape built circa 1738, only 20 years shy of being 300  years old.

It would seem as though there is not enough left to save.  Notice the old wood shingles on the roof that had been covered with asphalt shingles in modern times.

Looking at the addition from this angle it does appears that perhaps this added on building may have  been a barn.  It is also obvious that a door was crudely patched over when the other door on the left was added.

If you look to the right of the Hannah Jumper house you will see another old house that appears to be ripped apart.  This was the antique home of a prominent Rockport artist who passed away recently.  The Rockport Historical Commission called in the expert in time to head off mistakes that were about to be made in the restoration/remodeling of this antique house.

It does seem that we haven't seen the final chapter to this story.  And I hope not.  Fingers crossed  that the final chapter will not be of the house collapsing during a storm into the harbor.  I will keep you posted and let's hope it survives the northeast storms of the winter.  Rockport can't escape enduring some rough weather in the winter. 

After the blizzard
Quickly reproduced and back to normal  

Here is the sad picture of Motif # 1, Rockport's famous red fish shack as it slowly toppled overboard into the harbor during the famous blizzard of 1978.  It was quickly reproduced and folks have almost forgotten that the much painted shack is not the original built in 1840.

 The Hannah Jumper house looks pretty frail but maybe those huge framing beams from which it was built so long ago can withstand a little more abuse before the house is stabilized on its new foundation.

I wish I could hang a Christmas wreath on the front door to show that we care but that is impossible.  The door is now out of reach and being on the short side I would need a ladder.  And being well aware of the reputation of the Rockport police who don't miss a trick, I would never get away with it.  But I do hope the new year is a better one for Hannah's old house.

Merry Christmas to all readers of my blog, many of whom are doing their part toward saving our architectural heritage.  

To be continued!



  1. Hello Prudence, The Jumper house story is getting bizarre and surreal. It's hard to believe that it was habitable just a short time ago. Don't the people around there have any sense of responsibility, and don't they know how to take care of old houses? (Not that Ohio or Taipei is any better--the horror stories that could be told!)

    Hoping this turns out better than it looks.

  2. The raid by Hannah Jumper and 200 accomplices against the Rockport liquor establishments on July 8, 1856 led to Prohibition 63 years later. In case there's anyone who hasn't heard the incredible story, here it is: https://historicipswich.org/2015/07/06/hatchet-hannah/

  3. My name is James Padre I'm a subcontractor for Ken Macdowell ( the best contractor for this job requiring presevation) my phone # is 978-580-0969 and I'd be happy to speak with anyone to answer any questions. It is completely upsetting for to me to read all the comments that question the integrity of the owners or any contractors involved with the "Hannah Jumper House". First and most important, the owner has requested and paid 100's of thousands of dollars to preseve ANYTHING that could be salvaged. It is so hard to read the comment that nothing was saved. There are beams, sheathing, floor systems,roof timbers, etc. that are now still intact. All the comments on the chimneys and that a masonry restoration specialist should have been hired to save are absurd. The masonry was completely turned to dust and correctly condemned by the building inspector as there was a severe saftey issue of collapse ( new chimney replicas have been installed to match the old details). Would you rather have seen this historic chimney topple over and kill a family visiting our quaint town?
    The clapboards are coursed and mitred to match the existing, windows are wood to match the existing sizes, bulkhead and doors built to the previous conditions. All of you who comment negatively should get your facts straightened before posting such heinous comments, it is hurtful to all of us who have worked so hard and the owner who has gone through so much expense to save anything and everything that was possible to save. Ken Macdowell and myself risked injury and stayed at the house during the huge winter storms, bracing the home and preventing the home from collapse enabling the home to survive our worst Noreaster last winter. This is just another example of the enormouse efforts to "SAVE THE HANNAH JUMPER HOUSE" Feel free to see or call me and I'll explain all that has been saved and restored or the amazing efforts made by both contrcator, owner and town officials. All who have posted negatively you should seriously rethink your position and be happy for the new owner and the contractor - a different owner and different contractor would not have gone to the expense and effort that they have, that is a fact! THE HANNAH JUMPER HOUSE IS REBUILT USING ALL THAT WAS ABLE TO BE SAVED. THE HANNAH JUMPER HOUSE WITH THE CONTRUCTION EFFORTS MAY MOW LIVE ANOTHER 300 YEARS, PLEASE BE HAPPY WITH THIS.


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