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Around Campus: Webster Cottage Conundrum

Very few people walking up Main Street on a frigid New Hampshire night notice the small, quaint New England farmhouse that is Webster Cottage. Huddled between the Gamma Delta Chi fraternity and Cutter/Shabazz Hall rests this inconspicuous building, which is almost as old as Hanover itself.

Photo by Joseph Mehling '69

The Reverend Sylvanus Ripley built the cottage in 1780 on a 15-acre lot he received from Eleazar Wheelock as a dowry following his marriage to Wheelock's daughter Abigail. Webster Cottage's owners and functions have changed throughout the years, yet its connection to Hanover's rich past endures.

Legend has it that the cottage's south chamber housed one of Dartmouth's favorite sons, Daniel Webster, class of 1801, during his senior year at the College. The Webster mystique, however, has been the subject of dispute over the years.

Amidst conflicting theories and competing claims, available records can be characterized as incomplete at best. The cottage has been owned by Dartmouth since 1900 but maintained as a museum by the Hanover Historical Society since the group's formation in the early 1960s. Sylvia Nelson, the Society's current president, candidly points out that "there is no written evidence Daniel was ever in the house." Indeed, whether Webster ever resided in the cottage may be less significant than the recognition that it is an indispensable part of Hanover's story and evolution.

The Hanover Historical Society offers Webster Cottage visitor tours throughout the summer months. Anyone interested should contact Sylvia Nelson for more information at 603-643-6529.

By David Kerem '05

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Last Updated: 5/30/08