Jethro Coffin House

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Jethro Coffin House
Jethro Coffin House, Sunset Hill, Nantucket (Nantucket County, Massachusetts).jpg
Jethro Coffin House
Jethro Coffin House is located in Massachusetts
Jethro Coffin House
Jethro Coffin House is located in the US
Jethro Coffin House
Location Sunset Hill Road, Nantucket, Massachusetts
Coordinates 41°17′15″N 70°6′25″W / 41.28750°N 70.10694°W / 41.28750; -70.10694Coordinates: 41°17′15″N 70°6′25″W / 41.28750°N 70.10694°W / 41.28750; -70.10694
Area 0.75 acres (0.30 ha)
Built 1686
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Other
Part of Nantucket Historic District (#66000772)
NRHP reference # 68000019
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 24, 1968[1]
Designated NHL November 24, 1968[2]
Designated NHLDCP November 13, 1966

The Jethro Coffin House, also known as the Oldest House, is a saltbox house on Sunset Hill Road in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Built in 1686, is the oldest house on Nantucket in its original location and is the only surviving structure from the island's 17th century English settlement. Because of the brick design on its chimney, it is also called the Horseshoe House.[3] The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968. It is now a historic house museum owned and operated by the Nantucket Historical Association.


House interior

The Coffin House is a 1-1/2 story wood frame structure, with a steeply-pitched roof and a large brick central chimney. The chimney is adorned with a projection in the shape of an inverted U; this has been variously interpreted as a horseshoe, or as a hex for warding off witches, or as a vernacular rendition of Jacobean brickwork styling. The house has only a relatively small number of casement windows, all of which feature diamond panes. There are two on either side of the main entrance, with others placed asymmetrically on the other walls. The house has a classic New England saltbox appearance, with a leanto (an addition in the early 18th century, rebuilt during restoration in the early 20th) extending to the rear of the house.[4]


The house was built in 1686 as a wedding gift for Jethro Coffin and his bride, Mary Gardner (granddaughter of Thomas Gardner). Jethro Coffin was a grandson of Tristram Coffin, one of the island's original proprietors. It was abandoned by a later owner during the American Civil War. The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) acquired the property in 1923,[5] and conducted a major restoration of the property, including a reconstruction of the leanto section based on photographs after it was extensively damaged by fire in the 1860s.[4] The house's chimney was struck by lightning in 1987, and the house sustained significant damage.[3] The property was carefully restored by the NHA under the guidance of John Milner Architects, Inc.[6]

The house was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.[2][7] It is also a contributing element of the Nantucket Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Jethro Coffin House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  3. ^ a b From NY Times Travel - see external link below
  4. ^ a b "NHL nomination for Jethro Coffin House". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-11-21. 
  5. ^ Oldest House of the Nantucket Historical Association
  6. ^ The Oldest House & the Historic Garden. Nantucket Historical Association.
  7. ^ Patricia Heintzelman and Charles Snell (January 23, 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Jethro Coffin House" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying five photos, exterior and interior, historic and from 1974 (32 KB)

External links[edit]