Manning’s Folly But Which House? You Decide.

Manning’s Folly But Whose? Which House?  What is the History?

Which house is Manning’s Folly?  Brother Richard Manning’s house is called the Manning House, or brother Robert’s house, which  is called the Hawthorne House?  You decide.   

This article is wonderfully written by and graciously submitted by Norma Jepson. 

Richard’s House    Robert’s House    

Depending on what you read, it appears both houses built by brothers, Richard, and Robert Manning in the early 19th century in Raymond, have been given the title of ‘Manning’s Folly’ for different reasons and by different groups of people. Let us see if, considering the following information, we are able to determine which of these two houses should be given this title.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to call the houses, Richard’s house, and Robert’s house rather than the ‘Manning House’ (Richard’s) and the ‘Hawthorne House’ (Robert’s).

To help us decide, we may need to decipher what a ‘Folly’ is. Although there are more ‘Folly’ definitions, here are four and the sources of the information:

  1. ‘Follies are garden buildings and structures designed to enhance and enliven the surrounding landscapes’ from UK dictionary.
  2. ‘A building usually constructed strictly for aesthetic pleasure, primarily for decoration’ from Wikipedia.
  3. ‘A building made primarily to be seen but in most cases not habitable,’ from The Folly Fellowship.
  4. ‘Architecture that is whimsical or extravagant’ from ‘Follies in America: A History of Garden and Park Architecture’ by Kerry Dean Carso.

However, while determining the reason what may constitute a ‘Folly,’ we also need to consider who initiated the ‘Folly’ title to these houses and their reasons for doing so. Two groups of people are identified in documentation, each with their own reasons:

  1. For Richard’s house, written evidence suggests the neighbours/residents of Raymond, the reason being the elaborate and costly decoration, glass from Belgium, expensive wallpaper; this would link with definition number four above.
  2. For Robert’s house, the evidence suggests it was family members, the reason being the property remaining empty after Nathaniel’s mother and his sisters had moved out.

I thought it may be useful to see what three of Nathaniel’s biographers have to say about the Manning houses in Raymond: 

All three sources give us valuable information on all aspects of Nathaniel’s life.  Let’s see what they tell us about these two houses and whether they offer any clues.

Brenda Wineapple gives us a picture of each house with the following subtitles: Richard’s house, “Manning’s Folly, Raymond, Maine;” Robert’s house, “Hathorne house, Raymond, Maine.” On the subject of Richard, Brenda’s writes, “having married Susan Dingley, daughter of one of Raymond’s first white settlers, he was building a mansion of his own, thirty-six feet long and thirty feet wide, with four rooms to a floor, so big by Raymond’s standards that it earned the sobriquet ‘Manning’s Folly’ from startled neighbours, who claimed the glass for its windows came all the way from Belgium.”

We know Nathaniel, then recovered from his infirmities, his mother, and sisters along with Aunt Mary and Grandmother Manning spent the summer of 1816 in Raymond, staying either with Richard or on a tenanted farm. However, with winter approaching, and Nathaniel’s mother not too well, the decision was made that they would move back to Salem, with a “promise to return as soon as possible.” On this point, Brenda writes, “in anticipation, Richard built another house across the brook from his. Plain, symmetrical, and large, it cost an immense sum, twenty-three hundred dollars, barn and outbuildings included, no expense spared for the Hathornes.” This offers Richard as the builder of the second house.

James R. Mellow agrees with Brenda Wineapple by way of the family moving back to Salem in 1816, however he then writes, “a year later Robert Manning began plans to build, near Sebago Lake outside Raymond, a home large enough to accommodate himself and his spinster sister Mary, while his mother and sisters remained behind for an extended stay.” We know however, they all moved back to Salem in October 1816. There was no extended stay for any family members at that time.

Mellow then adds, “the house though was not completed until 1818 and was thereafter known in the family as ‘Manning’s Folly,’ not because of its costly or extravagant construction, but because it was seldom lived in. In late October 1818, however, Betsey Hawthorne and the children moved to Maine, presumably to take up permanent residence in Uncle Robert’s folly.” Mellow therefore is pointing to Robert being the builder of the second house but offers a different reason for it being known as ’Manning’s Folly.’

Vernon Loggins writes, “In 1814, Richard had married into a Maine family and was living on the Manning Estate in Raymond. In Salem, Uncle Richard’s house would have appeared a modest cottage, but it was so superior to the other houses in Raymond that the settlers called it ‘Manning’s Folly;’ among the outbuildings were his store and mill.” This then takes us back to Richard’s house being the rightful owner of the ‘Folly’ title.

Loggins then adds, “Uncle Robert put up a dwelling, a two-story (sic) farmhouse of the simplest type,” no mention of its opulence where Loggins is concerned.

Whilst Brenda Wineapple and Vernon Loggins agree it was Richard’s house to have the ‘Folly’ title, James Mellow, says it was Robert’s and whilst Mellow and Loggins agree Robert had built the second house, Brenda points towards Richard. There is also an apparent difference of opinion on the cost of the second house.

To try and establish further clarification and maybe to put some of the biographers’ comments into context, I have extended the information to include other dates and movement of family members for each house.

Richard’s House

The most common assumption appears to be that it was Richard’s house that people associate with the ‘Folly’ title and although Robert was also a Manning, Richard’s house was known as the ’Manning House’ and therefore, already having the Manning name, ‘Manning’s Folly’ title appears to fit nicely.

There are also differences specified on dates for Richard moving to Raymond. Vernon Loggins had already alluded to it, see above and Herbert G Jones then offers this account in his publication, ‘Sebago Lake Land in History, Legend and Romance,’ “Richard Manning had arrived in Raymond about 1802, where he had opened a blacksmith’s shop and a store near the outlet of Dingley Brook on the Old Stage Road.” We need however to consider this date of 1802.

It is recorded in the ‘Genealogical and Biographical History of the Manning Families of New England and Descendants, From Settlement in America To present Time,’ by William Henry Manning that “Richard resided in New Hampshire a number of years on account of ill-health, and then removed to Raymond, Me and became manager of the family estate near Sebago Lake.” No specific dates or places are given so a check of the census for the New Hampshire areas would be required to substantiate as to whether he was recorded anywhere as a resident at any time.

However, when Nathaniel’s mother moved with her children to Herbert Street in 1808, it is recorded that both Richard and Robert were living at that property, along with the two other brothers, William, and Samuel and their sisters, Priscilla Miriam, Maria Miriam, and Mary as well as the Manning Grandparents. So, if Richard had already become involved in the Manning’s land holdings in the Raymond area, he was probably commuting back and forth between the two places and staying there on the Manning Estate.

It is also said that Richard moved to Raymond immediately after his father’s death in order to be the proprietor of the land and properties on the Manning Estate. Grandfather Richard Manning who was the original driver of buying the land had travelled to Raymond from his house in Herbert Street when required, in his private chaise; it was during one of these journeys in April 1813 when he unfortunately suddenly passed away. This means Richard would probably have moved to Raymond after April 1813, and lived on the Manning Estate, which by that time had accumulated to an extremely large acreage.

Loggins states Richard had married into a Maine family in 1814. However, we know from the records that Richard married Susan Dingley in 1816; the house was likely to have been built prior to that date but was it as early as 1813. It was obviously built and fully decorated by the time the Hathorne family got there for the summer in 1816.

We also know that Richard had been appointed a Justice of the Peace in the Raymond area as Nathaniel recorded it in edition number 6 of his ‘Spectator’ magazine dated September 25th, 1820, (a magazine devised by Nathaniel and Maria Louisa that ran for 6 editions and was circulated amongst family members) and he carried a certain ‘presence’ due to that title.

Robert’s House

Robert took on the main guardianship role for Elizabeth Hathorne and her children, when they moved back to Herbert Street, so his building the house in Raymond for his sister’s family can come under that feeling of responsibility.

Evidence in exchanges of letters between family members show Robert’s house was fully completed in the Fall of 1818. We do know Robert’s house was built with a similar interior layout and exterior, apart from the roof design, to Richard’s, but was it as opulent; according to Loggins, it wasn’t, his phrase being “a farmhouse of the simplest type” and as Brenda says it was plain, symmetrical. Do we know if Robert’s house had a barn and outbuildings and, as Brenda says was at a cost of “twenty-three hundred dollars?” It is noted that the glass for Robert’s house came from Salem, but the exact provider appears to be unknown.

It has been stated that Robert Manning oversaw the building of what was to become the ‘Hawthorne House.’ Presumably Richard’s role in the building of his house was the same, if so, who were the actual builders?

There are a number of records showing the Manning’s family business accounts which contain names, but no specifics held in the Phillips Library in Rowley, these may throw light on who the builders were and the cost of Robert’s house. Brenda in writing about Robert’s house, mentions a letter from Richard to Robert dated February 25th, 1818, where he refers to ‘plain and symmetrical’ and a letter from a Jeremiah Briggs to Robert dated March 21st, 1818. Jeremiah Briggs was Captain Jeremiah Briggs, a friend of Robert and William Manning.

Further investigation is required with the Phillips Library. The Maine Historical Society in Portland hold documentation on Raymond properties and a delve into their archives is also required.

Loggins records that in 1818, when the family moved to Raymond, there were only Grandmother Manning, Mary, Robert, who was often away and had orchards across North River, and Samuel remaining at the house in Herbert Street. Maria Miriam had died suddenly in 1814, Priscilla had married John Dike in 1817 and William, who Loggins describes as “quite a dandy” had moved into the Essex Hotel in Salem.

Considering the family’s comments regarding the house remaining empty, a letter dated February 1st, 1871, from Nathaniel’s sister, Elizabeth to her cousin Rebecca Manning, where they discuss the excerpts of ‘Nathaniel’s First Diary’ appearing in  the Portland papers and its discovery, Elizabeth wrote, “Mother left Raymond in 1822, her furniture remained in the house until 1824; and as she came away in a hurry, and as I suppose Nathaniel had been spending the vacation there, it is very likely the book was left lying about.” These dates must coincide with a vacation from Bowdoin, but as we are unable to view the whole Diary we cannot assume as to how far the dates extend to.

A letter from Richard to Robert places Nathaniel in Raymond around June of 1825; Nathaniel confirms this visit was to Richard’s house in a letter he wrote to Elizabeth on July 14th, 1825, from Brunswick, he may well have taken the opportunity to visit Robert’s house at this time, perhaps to reminisce.

Due to relevant legal requirements etc, the family members would have been aware of its future usage as a stage stop and tavern by Scribner; according to the records he was granted a licence to retail strong liquors for 6-months on April 30th, 1829, presumably it would have been extended following that initial 6-months period. They would also have been aware that Richard had bequeathed Robert’s house to be a meeting house. A deed was purchased for the Radoux Meeting House in 1877. So, considering the reported reasons from the family for calling it a ‘Folly,’ this may need a rethink.

Considering the time Robert may have spent in Raymond. From letters we do know that Robert did spend time there perhaps in his capacity of overseeing the building of his house and that he planted fruit trees in its garden. Nathaniel’s letter of 31st October 1820 to Elizabeth refers to Robert’s trees, which at that time were replacements as the originals had been lost during the drought that hit Raymond in the summer of 1820.

We also know from Nathaniel’s letter dated March 13th, 1821, sent from Salem to his mother in Raymond that he had to share a bed with his Uncle Robert in the room in Herbert Street. He referred to it in an earlier letter dated May 2nd, 1820, writing, “I sleep very comfortably alone,” relating to a time when Robert and Aunt Mary were on a month’s visit to Raymond.

It seems unlikely Robert ever intended to move to Raymond permanently. Robert was forced to take over the running of the family’s stagecoach business in early 1815 from Samuel and William due to a threat of bankruptcy, which also required him to stay in Salem.

He married Rebecca (Dodge) Burnham in 1824 and his house, 33 Dearborn Street in Salem, was built in 1824/25. Robert built another house for Nathaniel’s mother and her family, where they lived between December 1828 and 1832, at which time they moved back again to Herbert Street to help Mary in caring for Samuel who was in ill-health.

The National Register of Historic Places

I wanted to draw your attention to the records on these two houses from the National Register of Historic Places.

The record for Richard’s house with the name’ given as ‘Manning, Richard, House’ and dated 1993 states Richard’s “residency in Raymond did not begin until after his father’s death in 1813.” “His absence from the 1810 U.S. Maine census certainly seems to “confirm that he had not permanently settled in Raymond by then.” It is not specific as to who built the second house.

The record for Robert’s house with the name given as ‘Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Boyhood Home’ dated 1969 states, “The Hawthorne House was built by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle, a Richard Manning.” “The Hawthorne House was once known as ‘Manning’s Folly’ because of such structural extravances (sic) as period wallpaper, eight huge fireplaces and Belgium glass windows. The build date is between 1818 and 1821. Consideration needs to be given that perhaps there was confusion with Richard’s house.

Possible Conclusion

So, from this account do we have sufficient evidence to draw an agreement on whether Richard’s house, or Robert’s house should have the title ‘Manning’s Folly?’


Norma Jepson,  June 15th, 2023