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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Colonials and Patriots
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Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark JEREMIAH LEE MANSION

Location: Washington Street opposite Mason Street, Marblehead.

Ownership and Administration (1961). Marblehead Historical Society, Marblehead.

Significance. This mansion, one of the best surviving examples of colonial architecture, demonstrates the wealth and position of the New England merchant princes whose ships plied the oceans in the 18th century. Col. Jeremiah Lee came to America in the early part of the 18th century. By 1760 he had become one of Marblehead's most prominent citizens and his home, built in 1768, was the center of the town's social life. Originally a loyalist, Lee took up the colonial cause early and, although he died shortly after the outbreak of the Revolution, he played a leading part in preparing Massachusetts for the war. After Lee's death his widow continued to live in the mansion, which remained a center of Marblehead social life. Among its distinguished visitors were the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson. The house later passed into other hands and, for a century after 1804, was used as a bank. The Marblehead Historical Society acquired the property in 1909.

Jeremiah Lee Mansion
The Jeremiah Lee Mansion, Marblehead, Mass., was the home of an 18th-century "merchant prince." (National Park Service)

Present Appearance (1961). Lee's three-story house was built of pine timbers and brick, over which were placed rusticated clapboards which, with the sand mixed into the final coat of limestone-gray paint, gave an appearance of masonry to the exterior. The line of the facade is somewhat plain, broken only by a simple portico of two fluted Ionic columns. Surmounting the hip roof are two massive chimneys and a cupola from which Lee could watch for incoming ships flying his private flag. The 16 rooms contain a wealth of intricate wood carving. Much of the original wallpaper remains, and careful restoration has preserved to a remarkable extent the features of construction and decoration that characterized the house when it was home to a wealthy merchant and civic leader of 18th-century New England. The mansion's historical collection includes original letters, diaries, account books, and genealogical records of old Marblehead. [22]

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005