There is an intersection in Rye, New Hampshire where the corner of Route 1A meets Elwyn and Sagamore Roads commonly known as Foyes Corner. At this corner there are 3 stop signs. Cars traveling south down route 1A have the right of way and do not have to stop. People who drive through this intersection on a daily basis know how dangerous it can be. Summertime tourists on their way to the beaches or the newly renovated Wentworth by the Sea have a nightmarish time traversing this awkward corner. On any given day there are many near misses and a substantial number of car accidents annually at Foyes Corner. Plans to redesign this intersection by the State of New Hampshire have been in the works for years. Changes to the intersection are about to become a reality. Now what does all this have to do with a house history you ask? On Sagamore Road, where Elwyn Road ends, stands a house that has been there for 200 years or more. It is known as the Nathaniel Foye house. The antique home sits directly in front of Route 1A. The front of the property is shaped in a triangular fashion with roads on three sides. In order for Elwyn Road to be rerouted to meet Route 1A, as the state has planned, the house has got to go. Recently, a front-page headline from the Portsmouth Herald read, “Historic home to be torn down for intersection”. The article reveals that the home’s previous owner feels the house is historic and should not be destroyed. Back on March 26th of this year there was another article in the Portsmouth Herald that said the state was trying to auction the house with the stipulation that the house be moved to another site to be preserved. When that effort failed the state tried again by removing the requirement that the house be moved, and still the house remained unsold. Curiosity took over and I decided to do a little research on this home before it became a memory. Decades of additions resulted in a huge house, with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a total of 11 rooms. Interior features include pine floors, plastered walls, and working fireplaces.
Assessment records show that the house was built in 1750; however there is a sign on the house that says 1822. Why is there a discrepancy between these dates? Utilizing some of my favorite local sources I found quite a bit of information on the house and its original owners.
Here is an abstract from Old Houses of Rye, NH:
Sagamore Road #33, corner Elwyn. The Nathaniel Foye House built 1822. A date of 1821 for this house was found in a manuscript notebook…however checking land records the date should be adjusted to 1822. The land had been part of the farm of SamuelRand. The Widow Rand is shown on Elwyn Road in 1805. In April 1822, John Foye bought the land for his son Nathaniel. It was not until 1829, that the property was deeded to Nathaniel, including the house “where he is now living”. This is in line with customs of the times that thefather furnishes land for his sons . It is possible that there had been a building on the property when it was Samuel Rand’s farm. The foundation that the Foye house sits on may be from the 1750s. This may account for the discrepancy in the records, but without more research, it is only a theory.
Who was Nathaniel Foye?
The History of RyeNew Hampshire 1623-1903 by L.B. Parsons offers the following information.
Nathaniel Graves Foye, son of John Foye was born September 10, 1798. During the war of 1812 Nathaniel was listed in 1813 as being part of Capt. Ephraim Philbrick’s company even though he was only 15 years old at the time. On August 10, 1820 he married Martha Locke Dow. Nathaniel and Martha Foye had 3 children, Mary Elizabeth born Feb. 25, 1821, Orion Leavitt born Aug. 9, 1824, and James Nathaniel born April 27, 1833. Nathaniel died on January 27, 1873 and is buried in Rye’s Central Cemetery. His wife Martha survived him by 12 years. She died on September 18, 1885. Let’s check the available maps for the area. One early map of the area shows that in 1805 Sagamore Road was a cart track.
The History of Rye NH 1623-1903 tells us that in 1848 the town “Voted that the selectmen shall open a road on a suitable number of petitioners to them for that purpose near Nathaniel G. Foyes house to the town line, to be extended to Portsmouth.” This refers to the piece of Sagamore Road from Foye’s corner (the junction of Sagamore and Elwyn Roads) to the Portsmouth line. In the following year the following items were voted that the selectmen Shall advertise and let the building of the road from N. G. Foye’s to Portsmouth line to meet a road over Sagamore Creek to be done to theacceptance of the Selectmen – to the lowest proposal. Shall lay out the road from Mr. Foye’s to Portsmouth line and assess the damages. Shall receive proposals for building said road fifteen days from date and the road shall be completed by the first of July next. The road was laid out February 15, 1850, the building of it was let out at auction, the lowest bid being $495, and the road was ready for travel on the date named.
The intersection around the Nathaniel Foye house has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 1850, but for the past 153 years people have built homes and businesses in the area. The road in front of the Nathaniel Foye property has gone from a horse and buggy track to a major thoroughfare for seacoast attractions. From the motoring public’s perspective the improvements to be made at this intersection are badly needed and long overdue. According to the state, the benefits of safety have outweighed the significance of this historic home. Once the house has been demolished there will no longer be a reminder of the past here. Its existence will be marked only by a page in a book or a tiny spot on an old map.