New England lore has it that the kitchen is a social center, as well as a resource for food preparation.

The Newburyport Elementary PTO appears to have this notion in mind, because it plans social interaction when it launches its 16th annual Newburyport Kitchen Tour next Saturday, July 30.

The visitation runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will once again offer the theme of “Taste of the Port.”

Companies offering bites of their food include Chococoa Baking Co., Bob Lobster, Buttermilk Baking Co., Port Plums, Newburyport Olive Oil, Metzy’s Cantina and The Port Tavern.

A special wine tasting will take place on the patio of one of the 11 homes on the tour, with the beverages provided by Mill River Winery.

This tasting will be at the High Street residence of Jenny and Ted Nelson, creator of the advertising agency Mechanica. The firm is now located in a north building of the Tannery, but it started in the barn/office center in his backyard.

Like many High Street dwellings, this property has an

extensive garden behind the house that is spectacular — but would be difficult to visualize from the sidewalk adjacent to his house. 

“The owners loved gardening, and we’ve benefited from work done in the past,” Ted Nelson said.

The Nelsons have created a new contemporary kitchen that blends in the historical elements of their Federalist home.

“As you walk into the chef-grade kitchen, you discover kitchen space bursting with color and light,” said Allison Lehane, chairwoman of the tour planning committee. “The transitional feel of this space is beautifully enhanced by German-engineered tilt-slide windows that go from floor to ceiling. Details like this make the featured kitchen spaces unique and special to view.”

“Our kitchen can serve as the center of a meal or family gathering, and it also offers great views of the property,” Ted Nelson said.

The residence, built in 1803, was known as the “Court of St. James” back in the day because of the parties that were thrown there. The owner was the pastor of the Episcopal Church nearby at the corner of High and Winter streets.

The home has had only a half-dozen owners. The owner prior to the Nelsons was Lorna Learned, who had moved here from Brooklyn, New York, when she was a child. 

She lived there most of her life, then left the house to her alma mater, Vassar College, when she moved to an assisted-living house in her late 80s. The Nelsons bought it from Vassar in the mid-1990s.

Learned was instrumental in the preservation of the Inn Street section of town, at a time when the prevailing wisdom was to knock down the old city centers and put in low-rise office parks. 

She and her father were gardening enthusiasts, and when her father’s shoe factory in town burned down in the ’70s, he devoted his time in the summer to gardening with his daughter, according to family legend.

The circumstance under which it was built in the early 19th century coincides with a “golden era” of prosperity in Newburyport.

Between 1783 (the end of the Revolutionary War) and 1806 (the year before the Embargo of 1807), builders worked with owners to create some of the most notable structures in the city.

This house on High Street is one of them.

Along with dwellings in Newburyport, the tour includes stops in Newbury and Plum Island.

“We’ve had more participants each year,” said Dorene Olsen, another organizer. “This area has wonderful homes, and visitors can view the work of others while getting ideas for themselves. We’re very appreciative of the owners who permit us to view their residences.”

Proceeds from the tour benefit the Newburyport Elementary PTO, a nonprofit organization that raises money for school events such as Cultural Night, field trip transportation, after-school classes and science fairs.


If you go

What: 16th annual Newburyport Kitchen Tour

When: Saturday, July 30, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 on the day of the event. They are available online at and at B&G Cabinet, 253 Low St.; Chococoa Baking Co., 50 Water St.; Lynch Pharmacy, 173 High St.; Newburyport Lighting Co., 38 Merrimac St.; Plum Island Coffee Roasters, 54R Merrimac St.; Souffles, 14 Market Square; and Fowles Market, 341 High St.

More information:

On the tour


6 Henderson Circle

3 Bourbeau Terrace

53 Turkey Hill Road

5 Bridge Lane

280 Merrimac St.

10 Broad St.

190 High St.

9 Bromfield St.

18 Ocean Ave.

Plum Island

89 Northern Blvd.


185 Middle Road

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