REUBEN WHITTEN HO– USE
THE REUBEN WHITTEN HO– USE
This small house was the home of Reuben (1771-1847) and Sally (1775-1859) Whitten. It originally stood on the Highland Street farm purchased by Reuben in 1797, and was probably built in the first years of the 19th century, perhaps as a workshop and storage building that was later converted into a house.
In 1816, “the year without a summer”, when crops failed throughout the area, because of periodic frosts throughout the growing season caused by the eruption of an Indonesian volcano, Whitten was able to raise 40 bushels of wheat on the higher south facing slopes of his farm. Although he could have sold the wheat at a high price, Whitten shared it with his neighbors at no charge, helping them through a difficult time. It is for this act of generosity that he is remembered today. In 1911, his grandson carved a monument for the family cemetery on the old farm that recalls this story of 1816 and is one of few physical reminders of the famous cold year.
The farm was sold after Reuben Whitten’s death. A new farmhouse was built, and the small house was used for farm workers or rented to tenants. In the 1870s, it was moved downhill into the village to a site on Main Street to serve as workers housing for the expanding mills.
In 1969, the land was sold to the Town for a parking lot, but the house owners, Ruth and Arthur Knapp, reserved the building and gave it to the newly formed Ashland Historical Society. In 1974, the Society moved the house to the Whipple House property, where it was placed on a granite foundation and repairs were made.
As the 200th anniversary of the cold year of 1816 approached, a fund raising campaign was begun to restore the building. In 2015-2016, the exterior was renovated, work that earned the Society a Preservation Achievement Award from the NH Preservation Alliance. The interior, basically two rooms and an unfinished attic, still remains to be restored. So, the house is not yet open to the public. Anyone interested in helping with the further restoration of this historic house, may send their donation to the Ashland Historical Society Whitten Fund at PO Box 175, Ashland NH 03217. For more information, visit our website www.reubenwhitten.org.
Location. The Reuben Whitten House is located directly behind the Whipple House Museum in Ashland village.
Hours. While the exterior of the Whitten House has recently undergone a much needed restoration, further work is needed to restore the building’s interior. Unfortunately, during this period of restoration, the House will be inaccessible to the public.