The Leavitt Family Clock Finds a Home at the Tuck Museum
Visitors to the Tuck Museum are always impressed with our eclectic collection of period furniture. For example: a 1740 Hampton-made chair that was used by the James family in their meeting house pew and was one of the first donations to the museum at its opening in 1925; two 18th-century six board chests from the Hampton summer home of artist Charles Henry Turner; a c.1850 velvet armchair from the now-defunct Farragut Hotel; and a recently acquired 18th-century turned crest rail armchair attributed to southeastern New Hampshire. One of our most interesting acquisitions, however, is a beautiful 18th-century tall case clock, a 2013 gift from the Leavitt family whose roots go deep into the bedrock of Hampton history. At the 2014 annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society, Betty Moore presented the following program on the clock.
I chose the grandfather clock as my item [to present at the annual meeting]. It is special to me because we have a documented history, the building it is associated with is still in existence, and the connections I have made with the donor.
The Leavitt family was among the original settlers in Exeter in 1638. They were listed in Hampton by 1644. Moses Leavitt, great-great-great grandson of Thomas, the original settler, was a tailor. Records show that he lived in central part of Hampton for a few years and in 1802, at the age of 28, he with his wife Sarah, according to Joseph Dow, “bought of John Elkins his new house on Nut Island, near the fish houses at the beach… moved thither and kept a house of entertainment to service the fishmongers who would travel down from Vermont and Canada among other places”. Moses’ father and grandfather had been tavern keepers, too.
Across the road from the tavern were the local fish houses; which at that point numbered around sixteen. Local families owned these small buildings where they kept their dories, sails, bait and equipment. Leavitt carried on fishing and farming, as well as owning and operating a nearby gristmill. Moses and Sarah had twelve children. Their son Amos carried on the operation of the building as a summer boarding house welcoming overnight guests in 1865, and after Amos, two of his sons, Jacob and Moses continued into the next generation.
During 2010 I was involved with the Leavitt Family reunion when they gathered in Hampton. It was then I met Laurence Leavitt and his family who ended up giving us the Leavitt Family cradle and later several other family items. Mr. Leavitt and I kept in contact and in 2013 he called and asked if we would like the grandfather clock that had stood in the Leavitt Homestead for generations. There was a catch….we needed to come to Maine to pick it up. No problem – from the photo you can see the clock had inches to spare in the back of the SUV.
And now this beautiful tall case (or grandfather) clock is back in Hampton. The clock is estimated to be from the late 1700s. The case of the clock is made out of maple which has been refinished over the years. The original clock face is enamel with a hand-painted floral design in the four corners and a group of three birds above the dial. The hour numerals also have regular numbers over the top. As would be expected with an item of this age, there is some wear and crazing of the enamel on the face.
The bonnet of the clock has carved and scrolled moldings accented with a center and two side brass finials. The glass in the door over the face of the clock is original showing lines and imperfections consistent with age. The weights, pendulum and skeleton key are all present. The waist of the clock has a rectangular door and the clock rests on ogee bracket feet. It is simple and graceful and best of all, in working condition.
I wonder how many people have stopped and looked at this clock to check the time over the years?
Moving through history – the original 1709 Tuck’s Grist Mill was replaced by Moses Leavitt in 1815 with the current building. The homestead barn where horses were stabled became the Barn Theater in the 1930s, a restaurant and then Randy’s Gay 90s. In the 1970s, the barn was torn down for condominiums. The homestead has been known as the Aqua Rama Motel, Bailey’s Motel and today is called the Windjammer Hotel. It is located at 935 Ocean Blvd.
– presented by Betty Moore, Tuck Museum Executive Director, at the 2014 annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society.