Sand Hill Road, south side

Built on the south side of Sand Hill Road, the Seward-Atwell House is prominently sited atop Sand Hill. Malt Brook is located just to the south of the lot, which is landscaped
with large maples and evergreens. Some modern development has occurred in this neighborhood which developed around industrial activity along Malt Brook in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

  • Record ID: 166
  • Address: Sand Hill Road, south side
  • Current Owner: Davis, Howard and Betsy
  • Name of Building:
  • Historic Name: Seward-Atwell House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

The 2 1/2 story, five-bay facade which faces west away from the road features a Greek Revival-style door surround with modest side pilasters topped with a simple entablature projecting cornice. The gable ends feature large cornice returns and an eight-paned rectangular window. The single story eastern ell exhibits eyebrow windows characteristic of the Greek Revival style. Six-over-six sash are displayed throughout.
A number of wooden outbuildings are found on the property .

Historical or Architectural Importance

This building was originally constructed ca. 1750 as a 1 1/2 story colonial-period, Cape-style dwelling which was encased within the present Greek Revival-style structure
about 1830. The original frame found on the first floor of the building is post-andbeam, as is the later second-floor addition and eastern ell. Resting on a sandstone
foundation, the clapboarded frame is capped by a wood-shingled gable roof.
Ephraim Seward (1700-1780) built the small dwelling house that underlies the present structure about 1750. The son of Durham’s first settler, Caleb Seward, Ephraim was the “first white child” born in Durham. In 1752 Henry Crane bought the house along with “the cornmill standing on the brook with dam, tools, stocks, stones and implements that belong with mill” (DLR 5:164). Henry (1710-1768) sold the property to his brother-in-law Joseph Francis in May of 1752. Francis’s first wife, Sarah (Buck), died shortly after their marriage in 1753, and he remarried Martha (Porter) in 1758. The next owner was Jonas Bishop, who purchased the dwelling and barn in 1769. Bishop (b. 1734) had married Francis’s niece, Phebe Crane, in 1763 and was one of the men who listed for Nova Scotia in 1760. Upon moving to Guilford, Bishop sold the house to his son-in-law Jesse Atwell. Born to Jesse and Mary Atwell in 1769, Jesse Atwell, Jr. married Phebe Bishop (1772-1865; in 1790. Jesse, Jr. is recorded as being a farmer, tanner, and shoemaker. His tannery along Malt Brook was later owned by a Mr. Davenport, who manufactured axes. Jesse, Jr. served in the Revolutionary War on Long Island and in 1815 was commissioned a captain of the militia by Governor John Cotton Smith. In 1830 he served as a state representative and as a justice of the peace in 1823 and 1824. The Atwells had ten children, five of whom died of dysentery between October 4 and 10, 1802. Upon Jesse’s death in 1834 his two sons, George and Bishop, inherited the house. George quit claimed his share to Bishop, who was responsible for building the present structure around the small homestead. Bishop, like his father, was a farmer, tanner, and shoemaker. He was Durham’s first representative of the Know-Nothing Party and served as a state representative. In 1837 Bishop married Rachel Fowler, the daughter of Nathan and Chloe (Davis) Fowler. Bishop and Rachel had six children: Waldo F., Charles, John C, Emogene, Georgie, and Waldo R. In 1895 Bishop’s two daughters inherited the property and owned it until 1905 when they sold it out of the family. The transformation of the small Colonial-period Cape into a fine Greek Revival-style structure is “Yankee ingenuity” at its best. The Seward-Atwell House is historically significant for its association with many of Durham’s founding families and ‘the industrial development along Malt Brook.