SellRentC&C Blog
Is Jethro Coffin’s House Nantucket’s Oldest?
September 27, 2022
Featured image

Many of Nantucket’s residents regard Jethro Coffin House as the oldest building in Nantucket. However, this is not true – several other houses that still stand had been constructed before it. The only difference is that the houses built before Jethro Coffin are not on their original sites.

As a result, Jethro Coffin has kept the title of “oldest house in Nantucket” because it didn’t change its locality even after demolition.

In this article, we will look at other old houses built before the “oldest house in Nantucket.”

Older Houses

Rose Cottage

On the west side of Broadway in Sconset, stood Rose Cottage, a “squatty” tiny house with four rooms. It had shown up at this location after several relocations. There was a myth that it was once a Wampanoag wetu.

However, this has been debunked over time because it was a framed structure, despite its modest appearance. According to the boards, it could have been used to side a wetu at first.

Underhill interviewed octogenarian Captain Edward C. Joy in 1888 about the history of “Sconset’s old houses.” Rose Cottage had stood on Broadway since 1814, he affirmed and had transferred from one owner to the next until Captain Charles H.

Rule demolished Rose Cottage in 1881, and thrifty islanders proceeded to salvage what they could. Another old Sconset building historian, Henry Chandler Foreman, tracked down Rose Cottage’s leftovers on Morey Lane, where Rose Cottage had been converted into another house.

The building materials for Rose Cottage might have come from a Wampanoag dwelling before the 1680s, but there is no way to know for sure.

John Swain House

It was built in 1672. This house is said to be Nantucket’s oldest. It was a good photo spot back in the days, and people took so many sentimental pictures here. Also, people lived in it for the longest time, until the late 1880s, when it could no longer house anyone. Consequently, it was abandoned and left to rot. It fell apart in 1902.

Auld Lang Syne

This house can be found on the west side of Broadway in Sconset. It was built by Michael Coffin in 1675, which means it was built one decade earlier than the Jethro Coffin House.

The house was initially rectangular but later converted into two small chambers. It was constructed in a T-plan in the 18th century. It was later expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries, where it had a shed and, to the north, a kitchen.

After some time, the homeowner at the time abandoned it. Max Johnson took over and decided to renovate and maintain it. In 2002, Sam Daniel bought the house. As of now, it is a functional dwelling house.

Parliament House, 10 Pine Street.

It was built in 1676 for Nathan and Mary Starbuck. The house was previously located at Hummock Pond before being relocated to 10 Pine Street.

During the first half of the 1700s, Parliament House was demolished, transferred eastward, reconstructed, and enlarged at its current location.


It is located on Broadway in Soconset. Shanunga is thought to have been built in 1682, just a few years before the Jethro Coffin House. According to older people, it was founded at Sesachacha and then relocated to Sconset.

Shanunga has remained essentially unchanged since a sequence of expansions in the 1700s and 1800s.

The House at 139 Main Street

It is thought to have been built for Richard Gardner before 1688. On the contrary, Betsy Tyler’s meticulous house and family background confirm that the building was constructed shortly after 1715.

It was passed down through the Gardner family until it was eventually used as a storage cottage for George C. Gardner.

The old building was relocated and rebuilt as a residential house in 1927 by architect Alfred Shurrocks. He was also involved in the rebuild of the Jethro Coffin House.

Elihu Coleman

This house is similar to Jethro Coffin House in that they are both on their original sites. The Elihu Coleman House was put up between 1721 and 1722.

The building was publicized as the island’s second-oldest house during the first half of the 20th century. In the same year, Elihu Coleman was accessible to everyone.

As you can see, several houses claim to be older than the Elihu Coleman House. Still, it is considered the 2nd oldest because it is the only dwelling-house left where it was originally built and is kept in immaculate condition.

In the 1800s, the Elihu Coleman House was abandoned and was on the point of being demolished. However, unlike the John Swain House, both the Jethro Coffin House and Elihu Coleman House were salvaged and maintained.

Jethro Coffin House

It was constructed in 1686 and still stands on its original site. This house was given to Jethro Coffin and his wife, Mary Gardner, as a wedding present. Mary Gardner and Jethro Coffin were from different islands. It served as a symbol of unity between the two islands’ inhabitants.

In 1923, The Nantucket Historical Association purchased the house. The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), currently referred to as Historic New England, began a comprehensive re-build to restore it to its previous state.

In 1968, the Jethro Coffin House was named a National Historic Landmark. It was later struck by lightning in 1987, resulting in colossal damage that necessitated major renovations and partial rebuilding of the roof and chimney.

The house now serves as a memorial to the island’s first English settlers, providing visitors with a sneak peek into the everyday life on Nantucket in the seventeenth century.

The Nantucket Historical Association owns and runs it as a historic house museum. It’s also a part of the Nantucket Historic District, nominated as a National Historic Landmark District.

Jethro’ Coffin House’ Kitchen

Attempts have been made to revive the “oldest house” terrain to a more historically appropriate state. The kitchen garden, situated behind the house, is a re-creation of a circa-1700 herb and garden area that is kept free of advanced fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.

Plants are grown in a raised-bed scheme, as it was customary, and comprise everyday vegetable staples. They include carrots, cabbages, onions, parsnips, and approximately 30 different types of culinary, medicinal, and household herbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How old is the oldest house on Nantucket?

Although Jethro Coffin is not the oldest house on Nantucket, it is regarded as the oldest house on Nantucket. It is the only house that has not been moved from its original position and has been standing since 1686, making it more than 330 years old.

Which are some of the top sights near the “Oldest House in Nantucket?”

The top sites include the Whaling Museum, Jetties Beach, Brad-point Lighthouse, Cisco Brewers, Nantucket Historical Association, and Maria Mitchell Association.

When is the oldest house in Nantucket usually open?

It is usually open from Wednesday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (mid June – September 3)