The Chase House was the home of Stephen Chase and his wife, Mary. Stephen and Mary were married in 1771, and they had six children: Joseph, William, Mary, Harriet, Theodore, and Sarah. Only Theodore and Sarah were born in the Chase House. The Chase family also had servants working and living in their home.
After graduating from Harvard, Mr. Chase became a merchant and an investor. Mrs. Chase oversaw the family home and helped raise the children. When Mr. Chase passed away in 1805, Mrs. Chase helped her sons, William and Theodore, run the family business. Years later, Theodore’s son, George, inherited the Chase House and donated it to the city to be used as a home for orphaned children.
Inside the Chase House, it is 1818. At this time, Portsmouth and its residents were enjoying the benefits of a booming maritime trade, with ships traveling between Puddle Dock, England, and the West Indies. In his lifetime, Mr. Chase was particularly successful as a trader and investor, and as a result he was able to provide his family with many expensive and fashionable items much like those that now fill the rooms in Chase House.
The Chase family were not the first to live in the house. The house was built in 1762 by a man named John Underwood, who sold it to the Dearings. Ebenezer Dearing was a ship carver, who we believe is responsible for the carved woodwork that decorates some of the rooms. The Chases did not move into the home until 1779.
The house itself is very large and much more elaborate than other houses of the same time period at Strawbery Banke. It has a central hallway, instead of a central chimney, and rooms designed for specialized functions, like dining, entertaining, and cooking. The more highly decorated a room, the more important it was. The more formal, decorated rooms would be found near the front of the house, while those which were for everyday use were towards the back of the house. Take a look at the pictures below. Can you guess what each room was used for? Which of the rooms were formal, and towards the front of the house, and which were informal, and towards the back?