Rundlet-May House

Account Books

In the depths of the archives at Historic New England, among the many papers of James Rundlet are account ledgers describing expenditures relating to the building of his Middle Street house, this one specifically labeled “Building House 1806-1809.”  James Rundlet’s log books offer a rare glimpse into how the house was built, who worked on it, and what was spent. In summary, the total cost to build the house was $12,604.47. Of that, labor and board made up for more than 50% of the expenses, or $6,567.17 of the total figure. Details can also be gleaned on the hours that were worked; whether or not it was a full day of work, tasks at hand. The primary work crew was on site six days a week, with Sunday as a day off. As many as eighteen men were on-site working on the house, the peak number achieved in July of 1807. James Rundlet paid seventeen men for what was described as joiner’s work in the account books, with no mention of carpentry or housewright.  Jacob Marston, was paid for 315 ½ days of work but notes in the margin of the ledger indicate that his pay included Nathaniel Marston and Hinsley Hall. Notable names also included Ebenezer Clifford. James Nutter is also mentioned; all three of these craftsmen had roles in building Portsmouth’s best-known landmarks today including St. John’s Church and the New Hampshire Fire and Marine Insurance building (now the Portsmouth Athenaeum.)