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Bartlett Historical Society Presents…Dick Goff and the Lady Blanche House

Norman Head of the Bartlett Historical Society and Dick Goff, present owner of the Lady Blanche House, stand in the newly renovated kitchen, but still in keeping with the originality of the house (click for larger version)
February 03, 2011
The Lady Blanche House has captured the attention of many for over 200 years.

So much so, in front of the house, there is a New Hampshire historical marker commemorating its namesake Lady Blanche Elizabeth Mary Annunciata Noel and the English commoner Thomas Murphy whom she married. Lady Blanche bought the home in 1890. Since then there have been another 21 owners. The present owner is Fryeburg native and local business owner, Dick Goff.

Norman Head of the Bartlett Historical Society ran into Goff at Patch's Market in Glen one day and asked if he'd be interested in telling the history of the house and the Lady Blanche story. Goff agreed and here's what he had to say.

"This is my home that I share with Glen Heath. She and I had been talking about this house for four years before purchasing," says Goff. Goff purchased the house in the spring of 2006. The home sits on 32 acres on West Side Road at the foot of Humphrey's Ledge with an open field and the Saco River as its backyard. The view is so spectacular that a photo viewing the house from the river through the trees looking at Humphrey's Ledge won the photo contest in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, says Goff.

It's not only the view that attracted Goff and Heath, it is the rich history, the story of who built the house, owned the house and the young couple who only lived there for a short time. "Glen and I would look at each other and say; 'Though Lady Blanche only lived here for 11 months her tentacles reached to Boston, Providence and New York,'" says Goff.

Lady Blanche was born to the Earl and Countess of Gainsborough in 1845; English nobility. Living in the lap of luxury at the time, her father built a chapel on their estate and hired a young Irishmen, Thomas Murphy, to serve as the organist. As the story goes, the pretty, talented, woman of her convictions, Lady Blanche, fell in love with the handsome commoner. The two eloped and set sail for America, Lady Blanche never to see her family again.

"Lady Blanche came to this country traveling in the steerage compartment of a ship. She had a lot of grit. She and Murphy bummed around New York. They had no money and hadn't eaten for 24 hours. She sold her earrings for a loaf of bread and said it was the best meal she ever had," explains Goff.

The couple found themselves to North Conway through a clergyman they knew.

Murphy was hired to teach music and French at the Kearsarge Schools for Boys.

Goff says the school was located near where TD Bank is in North Conway.

"She (Lady Blanche) loved it here. She would walk to Artist Falls. Even though she was disinherited from her family, her mother's sister left her some money and with that she purchased what is now the Lady Blanche House," says Goff. The home was originally called the Ledge Farm. "She was a good writer and fell in love with the country," says Goff.

Their time here was short-lived. Lady Blanche only lived in the house less than one year until her death at 36 years of age. Murphy continued to stay here after she died. He kept the farm but he went to a boarding house in North Conway. He then found his way to Boston where he died and is buried at Calvary Cemetery.

When Lady Blanche bought the farm, the house was already 90 years old," says Goff. Goff continues; "Samuel Willey built the house in 1790." Willey moved somewhere in Bartlett in 1825. It was Wiley's family that was caught in the landslide that occurred at the site of the Willey House in Crawford Notch in 1826.

Goff says the Lady Blanche House then went to a Mr. Thompson and then others with mostly English sounding names. The Wyatt (of the Wyatt House in North Conway) family was the 18th owner. Goff purchased the house from the last owner Gaylord R. Briley.

Days of researching divulged deeds and ownership information. "Glen spent three or four days at the library and the registry in Ossipee. She actually got stuck in the year 1840," says Goff. In 1839, Carroll County was part of Grafton County. Grafton was later tri-sected including Coos and Carroll. At times it was difficult to research because the language back then was different, says Goff. Heath had to spend time in Lancaster to learn about the early history. "We didn't leave any stone unturned. You really have to know what you are talking about or you'll get caught," says Goff.

Goff and Heath aren't leaving any stone unturned when it comes to renovating their home. "The house was in disrepair and tired when we moved in," says Goff. He tells about the orange shag carpet and the lilac tub and flush. "I couldn't give those away," he says laughing.

After two and a half to three years of renovation, the downstairs is just about finished. All 45 windows in the house were replaced. There is a new roof. The floors were badly slanted, they put up a steal beam to lift the house, says Goff. A new foundation was poured for the side porch. The orange shag carpet is gone and hardwood floors have been brought back to life. Of course the lilac tub and flush are history replaced with colors of the times. The kitchen was gutted and a cook stove added that helps heat the area.

Goff and Heath have worked to keep the house original. "When we renovated we tried not too alter," says Heath.

Goff tells about the paneling in the great room. The light colored wood had turned a dirty dark brown from years of neglect. "We put on face masks and gloves. We took each and every panel down, marking them all and stripped in a lye mixture to bring them back to life," says Goff. The panels are now a rich tawny color and back to their original state.

Goff and Heath love the house. "I love living here," says Goff. "I have always loved old houses and knew about the mystique a surrounding this house. It is really nice that someone local can buy this and keep it in the family," he adds.

For more information visit Bartlett Historical website: www.bartletthistory.org

Varney Smith
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