Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The House

In this post I want to talk about the house itself and next week go inside. Just so everyone knows I took these photos with my phone so I apologize if they are not the best quality.

This is the house of John Richard Mather. And if we want to talk about the house we need to talk about the Mather's, it IS the Mather House. So who was John R. Mather and why this house? Well the short answers are because this is the only non-private historical house on the block and because Mather was one of the main shipbuilders in Port Jefferson and one of the men who put Port Jefferson on the map - it was called Drowned Meadow until 1836 when the name was changed. The name change was vital if one wants to build ships here, who would want to buy a ship built in Drowned Meadow? Sailors are only a touch superstitious. Back to Mather, incidentally the other major shipbuilder was Bayles. It may seem like Bayles was a lot more active but that is a bit of an illusion to a degree, there were simply more of them. There was the initial Bayles yard and then a brother opens another and a cousin another so there were several Bayles yards but different Bayles. They were also the last builders in Port Jefferson, when Mather sold they sold to a Bayles, so of course the last out buildings would be Bayles' buildings such as the Chandlery. NOW back to the Mather's! John R. was born to Richard and Irena Mather in 1814. Irena was the daughter of the first Port Jefferson shipbuilder, John Willse, so shipbuilding was very much in John R.'s blood. Richard died as a result of a fall from the Catherine Rogers in 1816. Irena then married Capt. William L. Jones and it was with his stepfather that John R. began as a shipbuilder. He was taught the craft by his uncle Titus Mather in Bridgeport CT and came back to work with his stepfather.

Back then the street that we now call Main Street was called Jones Street.
This was Jones street in the latter half of the 18th Century. One can see the Mather shipyard dead ahead but it was not always like that. The street ahead is West Broadway if one goes left and East Broadway if one goes right, I will just call it Broadway for our purposes. The water used to come right up to Broadway when Mather-Jones were first building and their original shipyard was around where that carriage is in the above picture. Where John R. is walking, maybe a little to the left, used to be water that ran out to the sound. They would build, put the boat in the water, float it down, there was a draw bridge that they raised and into the sound for the finishing touches. Water coming up to Broadway and water running parallel to Jones Street as well as the salt marshes one can start to see why it was called Drowned Meadow. If one goes out and about in Port today one can see the remnants of the marshes that made up most of lower Port. Stop by Town Hall and see a stream of water or by the Port Jefferson Brewery. That stream was only part of a larger network, in the Mather House we have a picture dated 1868 which shows the town from the perspective of West Broadway. Even at that late date one can see many wet, marshy places. Mather-Jones,  along with others, began a large project which resulted in a wharf, a pier (where the current Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company is) and a sea wall. This was a game changer which attracted blacksmiths, skilled workers, carpenters and a whole variety of workers. Ship yards actually employed a lot of various skilled and unskilled workers and a shipyard was a self-contained community in a lot of ways. A lot of ship yards had their own grocery stores, the Darling Grocery was, in its time, touted as being the largest grocery store outside of Brooklyn. This "fill-in" project which  created a viable waterfront sparked the golden age of Port Jefferson ship building. No longer was it considered crazy to build in Port Jefferson. Mather was one of the men responsible for this. Without Mather this could very well be a Drowned Meadow blog!

Mather married Sarah Jane Wells and they had three children: Sarah Jane (yes really) who was called "Sadie," Irene who was known as being an invalid but that is all we know, she never married and her brother, the third child, John Titus took care of her. John Titus also never married but we will talk about the kids and what they did in a future entry. So the Mather house, the original Mather house, was built in 1840. As Mather got married, his family grew, his business grew and so did his house which he doubled in size in 1860.
 This is the original 1840 front porch which is actually on the side of the house. That was a style for a while in houses. In fact if one goes to some of the older houses in the South one will find the same style. For us today this seems odd because we are so used to the front door facing the street. This was also attractive to Mather because he could see his shipyard from his front porch.
Here is a different perspective of the original 1840 house on the left and the addition of 1860 on the right. The addition changed the front door to face the street so this is a shot of the side of the house. On all my tours I take people this way. When one is inside the house one cannot tell because the room that is the original front room usually has displays blocking the front door and windows on the other side. The wrap around front porch, which is blocked in this picture by the boxwood, begins right where the addition starts.
 This is a picture of the Clock House taken from the porch. I took the above pictures of the house by the boxwood on the far right.

Moving to my left from the above picture is another view from the porch. This time taking in the amazing property and the beautiful house next door. Now we do not get a clear shot of Port but when Mather first built he had a nice view. This is also where we hold our annual Auction in October, I will let everyone know exactly when that is in the future, needless to say it is a good time!

And the amazing porch! Now matter how hot it is the porch always has a gorgeous breeze. This is a shot of the porch on the side of the house and going to the clock house.

Here is the shot of the front of the porch. Again, I love this porch. I always want to come here on days I am not working and just read.

 Finishing up our tour around the outside of the house is the front yard and . . . .

the driveway side of the house. This side has always piqued my curiosity. To the right of this picture is the back door which leads to the kitchen. And remember up to where the electric meter is located it is the 1840 house. So we have the kitchen door and the front door on the other side so what is this simple door here for? Is it a service entrance? A servants entrance? I have no blueprints to pour over and we have no knowledge one way or the other of any servants. Granted John T. was worth millions when he died in 1928 but this was part of the old house. This door would have led to the front room and been by the staircase for upstairs. It is also not a proper door either. Just a simple door. This has bugged me ever since my first day at the house!

So that is the house, well the outside at least. This is also not all of the property. Look again at the first picture. Are you surprised at the amount of property after seeing that? From that initial picture one would not expect a lot of land but wait until I do my post on the outer buildings and the gardens located in the back! Or come on down and see it for oneself! This house is one of Port Jefferson's greatest illusions. Much more than meets the eye! We live in a time when builders are trying to build over every tiny scrape of land and push house against house. It is nice to see some of the real Long Island. Also, if one is standing in the driveway facing Prospect Street, to the left is the Craft House/Consignment shop. This is another 1840 house that was originally located where the Gap is now and was moved in 1976. I will dedicate a separate entry for that house but it is a great contrast having the two houses side by side. A regular working mans house and the shipbuilders house. Next entry: Into the house and the Mather story continued!

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