Rundlet-May House

A Striking Staircase

Nearby in Portsmouth, the home of Gov. John Langdon, who shared many of the same craftsmen as the Rundlet-May house, the sweeping staircase in the central hall is an anchoring element of careful design, right down to the carving of the balusters. William Deering carved the balusters at Langdon House in a turning pattern known specifically to Portsmouth houses; it is possible that Deering carved the balusters at Rundlets’ home too, though it is not clearly stated in the accounts ledgers. The mahogany handrail was furnished by Vose & Coates. Curvate carvings on the sides of the staircase were becoming fashionable in houses of the late Georgian to Federal period in Portsmouth (and many houses in New England) as a very functional stair needed to have a bit of ornament to make it more elegant and light in appearance. At Rundlet-May House, the stair tread carvings appear as S-curves, drawing from French Rococo influence, but in a New England interpretation, almost alluding to ocean waves.