A House Genealogy: 94 Main Street

94 main 2“Every house has a history to tell, including 94 Main Street, one of the grandest of the historic homes on-island. Known affectionately as one of the Two Greeks, this stately house was constructed in the Greek Revival style and completed in 1847. The building of the house must have been an optimistic sign to islanders at a time when the whaling economy was suffering and the Great Fire had just destroyed a large portion of the town.  The house was the last true mansion constructed by a prosperous whale-oil merchant. William Hadwen had built the other Greek house next door for himself and his wife, Eunice Starbuck, a year earlier, and appears to have refined the design to include domed spaces and more elaborate detailing. Local lore has it that the house was a gift for Mrs. Hadwen’s niece, Mary Swain, and George Washington Wright, a Boston merchant who had married Mary in May of 1844 at the Unitarian Church. Hadwen retained ownership, but the house became known as the Wright Mansion, and it was soon filled with children, including Eunice, born in 1847; George W. Jr., born in 1848; and William, born in 1849.

The Wrights’ tenure at the house was short-lived. Perhaps the rapid decline of Nantucket’s economy or the California gold rush lured George Wright to San Francisco in 1849.  He would become one of the leaders of the California territory, and when it became a state in 1850, he was among its first representatives in Congress.

Family members Eliza and Nathaniel Barney took up residence in 94 Main in the late 1850s and stayed on there into the 1860s.  Barney was Hadwen’s business partner and Eliza Barney and Eunice Hadwen were sisters.  Coincidentally, the two sisters lived across Main Street from their three brothers, Joseph, William, and Matthew Starbuck, who occupied the Three Bricks. The Barneys were outspoken advocates for the leading issues of the day, which included the abolition of slavery, woman suffrage, and the temperance movement.  They are probably best known, however, as the keepers of early family records. Their work still serves as the major source for genealogical research on-island.

It was not until William Hadwen’s death in 1861 that the house came into legal possession of the Wright branch of the family, but Hadwen included a stipulation in his will that Nathaniel and Eliza could remain there for as long as they chose.  Nathaniel died in 1869, and in the early 1870s Eunice would build her own architecturally imposing Main Street house—the large blue Victorian at 73 Main.

The Wright Mansion remained in the family until 1882 when it was sold to Isabella M. Coffin, wife of Allen Coffin, an avid newspaperman who later earned a law degree from Columbia and returned to the island to practice.  Coffin was also a prolific author and genealogist who published an extensive history of the Coffin family in 1881.  Coffin was long associated with the Prohibition Party, serving as its chairman and running as the party’s candidate for governor of Massachusetts in 1896. Locally he served four terms on the Board of Selectmen.

In 1907 Coffin sold the house, to Eben Moore Flagg, a dentist and world traveler who served as honorary consul of Paraguay.  Dr. Flagg was no stranger to Nantucket; his father was the well-known American artist George W. Flagg, who summered here, and his uncle, William Flagg, developed ‘Sconset’s north bluff and constructed the first cottage near the lighthouse, called Flaggship.  Eben set up his “modern” dental practice at 94 Main and resided there with his English-born wife, Henrietta, and daughter Louise.  Curiously, his advertisements for his practice in the Inquirer and Mirror in the early years of the twentieth century note his former residence as 61 Fifth Avenue, New York, and his fluency in German, Portuguese, French, and Spanish.  Henrietta held the house until her death in the 1920s, leaving it to three women she had befriended, including Anna Ward, formerly of the Ships Inn Grill Room, who served tea, lunch, and dinner in the “Old Wright Mansion” for a few years in the 1920s.  The house was in poor repair, however, and debt forced a mortgagee sale. In 1927, the property was sold to banker Leopold Chambliss and his wife, Anna Yerkes Chambliss, of New Jersey.  Anna retained the house after the Chamblisses divorced in the 1950s, and in 1962 it was sold by her children to John A. and Katherine (Tatina) Sherman Lodge of Brookline.  Like several preceding owners, John Lodge was an attorney who worked in Washington, D.C., and Boston, and Tatina was a well-educated woman who grew up in Venezuela as the daughter of a geologist and crude-oil explorer.   During the fifty-two-year Lodge ownership, their stewardship of the property and a love for the island’s history was evident. Due to this a NPT Preservation Award was created in their honor. To learn more about the John A. and Katherine S. Stewardship Award and the NPT Preservation Awards click here.

Today the house awaits a new owner, but the rich history and the Lodge legacy will live on.  The house is protected by a preservation easement (click here to learn about the NPT’s preservation easements) that Tatina Lodge placed on the house in 2009 to ensure that not only its exterior, but its significant interior features will be preserved for future generations.

Sadly, Katherine S. Lodge passed away earlier this year. A longtime friend Mark Hubbard gave his remarks during the 2014 Preservation Award Ceremony. Learn more about the true preservationist at heart click here.