Though it doesn’t sit on the water, Newburyport’s High Street is home to a number of symbols of the city’s rich maritime history: houses built and owned by sea captains, shipbuilders and merchants.
So it seems only fitting that the Custom House Maritime Museum would choose to highlight this history for the 20th anniversary of its Holiday House Tour.
“What we try to do each year is spotlight a neighborhood,” said Kristin Hunter, who has been organizing the tour with Nancy Griffin for the past four years. “I feel like I learn a little bit more about Newburyport every year.”
The 10 homes featured in Saturday’s annual event include a Georgian gambrel built in 1790 by prominent shipwright Jacob Coffin; a Federal-style house built in 1806 by merchant and Newburyport Bank co-founder Samuel Allyne Otis; and an Italianate Victorian built in 1865 for the Balch family, the first providers of coal to Newburyport.
The tour continues into Newbury and ends at the circa-1710 Toll House, where George Washington once paid the toll for his horse to cross the river. The one home not on High Street or High Road is a center-chimney Colonial built in 1780 by Capt. John Pearson at 338 Merrimac St. in Newburyport.
“It’s really a rare glimpse into some of the most prestigious homes in Newburyport,” Hunter said.
“We are thrilled to have the architectural jewels of Newburyport available,” Griffin said.
One of those jewels is Jeanne Petrillo’s residence at 182 High St. Built in 1792 by Abner Wood, a local merchant and shipowner, the Federal-style house includes nine fireplaces.
“The unique thing about this home is that all the mantels are from the school of (Samuel) McIntire,” Petrillo said. “Each room has different crown molding and a different mantel, but they coordinate with one another.”