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Nantucket's First Whale: Joseph Starbuck

Nantucket, once the whaling capital of the world, is now the wealthiest county in United States, best known for another sort of whale, the high roller. Alas, the whaling era did create many a whale (although they probably wouldn't have appreciated the term) who left their mark on the island. Enter, Joseph Starbuck (1774-1861), "quite possibly the island's most successful businessman." Starbuck was a whaling merchant, factory owner and, for our purposes, real estate high roller. He not only built himself a mansion, but a few for his sons and daughters as well. The eight Starbuck homes, particularly the Three Bricks, have become "architectural icons that would gradually become visual symbols of the prosperity of Nantucket's whaling era."

↑ Let's begin with Joseph Starbuck's own crib at 4 New Dollar Lane, just around the corner from where he would later have the Three Bricks built on Main Street. It was a live/work situation, with his candle factory located out back. As for the main residence, Starbuck's home was, "a typical Nantucket mansion of the early nineteenth century when the houses began to be more spacious."

↑ In 1836, Starbuck hired Nantucket's master mason, Christopher Capen, to build three identical brick houses for his sons at 93,95 and 97 Main Street. Why brick? It was a century too early for him to be a fan of the Commodores, which leaves us with the only other possibility, a classic attack of the green-eyed monster: "From his home on New Dollar Lane, Starbuck could walk out and see the large brick house being built by Jared Coffin on Pleasant Street. Directing Capen to begin the foundations in early 1837, Starbuck refused to be outdone by his competitors in the Coffin clan." According to Starbuck's meticulous accounting records, by 1839, the three houses had been completed at a cost of $27,324.67, with the land parcels coming in at an addition $12,800. Two years, three mansions and forty grand later, Starbuck was no doubt momentarily pleased with himself. (Color & interior photos, here.)

↑ Not to be outdone by his father-in-law, William Hadwen, husband of Starbuck's daughter Eunice, had his own mansion at 100 Main Street. Yet, it's at 94 and 96 Main Street, where Hawden really gave it a full son-in-law, "Take that, old man!" Here's the Historic American Buildings Survey on the Hadwen-Wright house at 94 Main Street:

↑ On to 73 Main Street where Joseph Starbuck's daughter Eliza would make her mark in 1871, after the death of her husband, Nathaniel Barney. Eliza and her son Joseph built the Victorian house in what is termed the H style, featuring "wide front steps lead to large decorative double doors that were carved by James Walter Folger. The doors open into a hall and a full stairway that leads to bedchambers (front and rear) on both sides of the second story." The Eliza Starbuck Barney House sold in February 2012 for $2,750,000.

· The East Brick Nantucket [Antiques & Fine Art Magazine]
· Joseph Starbuck House, 4 New Dollar Lane, Nantucket [Library of Congress]
· Nantucket's Master Mason: Christopher Capen [Nantucket Historical Association]
· Joseph Starbuck Houses, 93, 95, & 97 Main Street, Nantucket [Library of Congress]
· Hadwen-Wright House, 94 Main Street, Nantucket [Library of Congress]
· 73 Main Street: The Eliza Starbuck Barney House [Nantucket Historical Association]
· Listing: 73 Main Street, Nantucket [Maury People Sotheby's International Realty via Zillow]