The History of 8 Westminster Street
This history of our Nantucket home was researched through the historic archives at the Nantucket Historical Association.
|1807||Robert Gardner Jr, a Nantucket whaling captain, purchases the land at 8 Westminster Street from his father, a cooper and a direct descendant of Richard Gardner, the early Nantucket settler who was granted land on Beacon (Academy) Hill by the original proprietors of Nantucket Island. The main section of 8 Westminster is built in 1807 and 1808. Robert Gardner marries Elizabeth Bunker and they have two children, Charles and Lydia.|
|1809||An additional purchase of land is made in 1809 along the south boundary of the property (where the kitchen is) giving the lot its odd shape.|
|1813||In a now famous incident during the War of 1812, in April 1813, Captain Robert Gardner’s ship, the Chili, is captured along with 11 other Nantucket whaling ships by the Peruvians (who were aligned with the British) at Talcahuano, Chile. The Peruvians plan to confiscate the Nantucketers’ ships and force march them on a grueling march by land to Lima.
In May, Joel Poinsett, the American consul in Buenos Aires, discovers this and mounts a daring rescue plan. He commandeers 400 hand-picks Chileans to march over the Andes with 3 pieces of artillery and stages an “invasion” scaring the 1,500 Peruvians and causing them to abandon their 200 Nantucket captives, all within the space of 3 hours.
Robert Gardner reclaims the Chili in September and sails back to Nantucket, one of only 4 of the original 11, to make it back home safely. Nantucket loses 19 out of her original fleet of 37 in the war to capture. Captain Gardner’s ship is unfortunately recaptured at Tarpaulin Cove in December 1813 by the British brig Nimrod.
Captain Gardner returns to Nantucket to discover that his wife, Elizabeth Bunker Gardner, has unfortunately died.
|1814||Captain Gardner remarries immediately, sells 8 Westminster Street to his brother in law, Obediah Fitch, another even more famous Nantucket Sea Captain and leaves the island for the mainland (Ohio).
Captain Fitch owned the house until his death in 1848 but let his son, George Fitch, a cooper live in the house along with his family. George Fitch’s son, Robert Joy Fitch, burns his initials into a beam in the attic at 8 Westminster. Robert Gardner dies in 1848.
Academy Hill High School (next door brick) is built in 1856.
|1880||George Fitch dies and his widow, Eliza, sells the house beginning a long succession of Nantucket owners (Lovells, Barney, Khori, Fegan, Chatfield-Taylor, Hoyt).|
|1976||The Ellicott’s purchase 8 Westminster Street from Edwin Hoyt, an architect and author of Nantucket – The Life of an Island.|